Nets beat Raptors to close gap
NEW YORK—Plagued by foul trouble in the first three quarters, Paul Pierce came up big down the stretch for the Brooklyn Nets.
Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston each scored 18 points, and an ailing Pierce hit a key late three-pointer, to lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 101-97 victory over the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors last night.
Brooklyn moved to three games behind Toronto in the division.
The 35-year-old Pierce, who had been battling through a “stinger” in his right shoulder, felt fine during the morning after receiving treatment and admitted he wasn’t expecting to play.
But he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity Brooklyn had to close the gap in the division standings.
“I knew the implications of this game,” Pierce said. “Maybe if it was a different type of game, [I sit out].
“But this was one of our biggest games of the year.
“Division rival, a lot on the line tonight, so you can always pen me in with those type of games,” he noted.
Pierce was all over the floor in the final 12 minutes of the game—hitting a pair of shots beyond the arc, making four free throws, and stealing the ball twice.
The victory was critical for the Nets, who lost to Toronto last time they played on Jan. 27 after Williams turned the ball over on an in-bounds play with 12 seconds left.
“This was a big game. It give us the split,” Williams noted. “We didn’t want them to get three up on us in case of tie-breakers.
“We gained a full game on them,” he added. “That much closer to catching them.”
The Nets’ next big test comes on the road as they go for a season-series sweep over the two-time defending world champion Miami Heat tomorrow night.
Kyle Lowry scored 21 points to lead Toronto, which had won three-straight and nine of their previous 11.
Tyler Hansbrough and Amir Johnson added 16 points each.
The Nets played their sixth-straight game without Kevin Garnett, who was in the starting lineup but was scratched minutes before tip-off.
Nets’ coach Jason Kidd said the 38-year-old veteran, who has been bother by back spasms, “tightened up, so we pulled the plug on him.”
Brooklyn also missed Andrei Kirilenko, who was out because of a sprained right ankle.
The match-up between Toronto and Brooklyn, who are in third and sixth place, respectively, in the Eastern Conference, had a playoff atmosphere to it with the home crowd at the Barclays Center on its feet once Pierce hit that three-pointer.
In the long run, it definitely would help Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey’s inexperienced post-season squad.
“Again, it was playoff type of basketball with physicality,” he remarked.
“I’ve said it forever that we have to get ready to play that style of basketball.
“We had three big time turnovers because they got into us at the end of the game,” Casey said.