Raptors nearly blow big lead
TORONTO—Kyle Lowry scored on an awkward, lurching 31-foot buzzer-beater just before halftime last night—a circus shot that left him sprawled, grinning on his stomach on the Air Canada Centre floor.
The Raptors very nearly spoiled what was the point guard’s finest performance—in a playoff series full of them—while holding on for a 115-113 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
“He is great, he did a great job,” Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey said.
“But this game tonight, we have got to learn from it because there are so many learning experiences from tonight’s game.
“Having the lead, [handling] prosperity, embracing the pressure,” he noted.
DeMar DeRozan netted 23 points while Jonas Valanciunas finished with 16 and Greivis Vasquez added 15.
Amir Johnson chipped in with 11 points for the Raptors, who coughed up a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter—making for some tense moments at the ACC—but held on for the victory.
When asked to describe the emotions of a fourth quarter that saw the Nets score 44 points, Casey replied: “You wouldn’t want to hear it.”
The series heads back to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for Game 6 tomorrow, and a victory there would send the Raptors to a second-round series against the Miami Heat.
A Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday in Toronto.
The Raptors controlled the game through the second and third quarters, when it seemed they could do no wrong, and led by 26 points twice late in the third.
They headed into the fourth up 91-69 and appeared poised to cruise to an easy victory.
But the Nets had plenty of fight left—tying the game at 101 on a three-pointer by Joe Johnson with 3:16 to go, stunning the crowd.
Lowry drained the go-ahead three and then scored on a driving hook shot to put Toronto up by three points with 27 seconds left.
A three and foul shot by Anderson pulled the Nets to within a point, but Andray Blatche—with Lowry running right at him—turned the ball over on a backcourt violation sealing the Raptors’ victory.
Lowry, playing with his right knee in a protective sleeve after injuring it in Game 3 in Brooklyn, has been solid all series.
But he took it to another level last night—providing all kinds of highlight-reel plays.
There was the diving three at the halftime buzzer. There was the 85-foot outlet pass that found an unmarked Terrence Ross under the basket.
But the point guard was particularly big down the stretch, taking charges and slicing through the Nets’ defence for tough buckets.
“When we needed a big shot, No. 7 came through. Kyle was unbelievable,” said Raptors’ forward Chuck Hayes.
“There’s nothing more you can say.”
It was the kind of game the Raptors would have coughed up down the stretch last season, and Casey said the team does take something from holding on for a win.
“But we can’t live that way,” he stressed.
“Our history has been pretty good in the fourth quarter, but tonight, for whatever reason, they flipped the switch and flipped the script.”
Elsewhere, San Antonio beat Dallas 109-103 to lead that series 3-2 while Houston down Portland 108-98 to avoid elimination.