- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets nearly blew a 15-point lead with five minutes left on Friday night.
So even though they narrowly defeated the Toronto Raptors 102-98 in Game 3 at Barclays Center, in many ways it felt like they lost.
“By no means should everybody be satisfied with the way we won, because we know we’re a better team,” Paul Pierce said. “We know we can play better. I’m just looking at the long run, fellas. We can’t be playing with fire. We have to be a better team down the stretch.
The Nets built a 93-78 lead with 5:01 remaining, and it looked as though they were going to cruise to victory. But they didn’t.
With 34 seconds left, Brooklyn led Toronto only 97-96.
The Nets went 5-for-6 from the free throw line to seal the deal.
But back to that 4½-minute stretch in between.
Let the record show that during that stretch, the Nets were outscored 18-4. They allowed the Raptors to go 5-for-6 from the field while going 1-for-5 themselves. Deron Williams went 2-for-5 from the charity stripe in the final minute.
Imagine if Greivis Vasquez hadn’t lost his cool late.
They might still be playing. And it could’ve ended up being one of the biggest collapses in franchise history -- as if Nets fans want to think about that 14-point collapse in Game 4 against Chicago last season.
“We’re up 15, and we’ve got to work on extending that and putting teams away, especially in our building,” Williams said. “We’ve got the crowd behind us, and we’ve got to put our foot on people.”
Nets coach Jason Kidd was upset when questioned about the Raptors making their run with Kevin Garnett in the game.
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t play him?” Kidd responded.
“We won the game with him. With KG on the floor. He’s one of our leaders. The big thing is he was out there and fouled out. He gave everything he had, so there is no concern.”
Pierce summed it up best.
“We’ve got to understand that everything’s on the line now,” Pierce said. “We can’t have these silly turnovers. We can’t have these silly fouls late in the game. If you go to the next round, you can’t afford those mistakes. It’s best to take care of them now.”
7dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann