- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets have a chance to go up 3-1 in their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night (7 ET) in Game 4 at Barclays Center. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
Still waiting: Paul Pierce said the Nets have yet to play their best game, and he’s right. Brooklyn has not shot well from 3-point range (26.5 percent) and has been outrebounded by 36 in the series. In Game 3, the Nets nearly blew a 15-point lead with just five minutes remaining. Brooklyn is going to have to clean up its act. Getting off to a good start on Sunday night would be huge.
Crowd response: Kevin Garnett and Pierce both said the home crowd could do better. How will the fans respond? Will they be louder and provide the team with more energy? At the same time, it’s a two-way street. The Nets need to give their fans a reason to get rowdy. And that means knocking down shots and getting stops from the opening tip on.
Joe Jesus: Joe Johnson has been Brooklyn’s best player so far in the series, averaging 23.7 points on 60.5 percent shooting. The Nets have been able to exploit mismatches against smaller defenders with Johnson in the post. He had a team-high 29 points in Game 3. Can the Raptors contain him?
D-Will: Deron Williams had his best shooting game of the series in Game 3, going 7-for-14 from the field and scoring 22 points. The only blemish on his night was that 2-for-5 performance from the free throw line in the final minute, which partially enabled the Raptors to come back. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry is coming off an underwhelming 15-point effort in which he shot just 1 for 6 from 3-point territory.
We wonder: Will DeMar DeRozan hit the 30-point mark for the third straight game? Will Andray Blatche give the Nets another spark off the bench following his 12-point performance in Game 3? How will Garnett perform after being plagued by foul trouble, which limited him to just 16 minutes, in Game 3? Can the Nets continue to force turnovers at such a high rate? Will the Raptors be able to snap their 13-game postseason road losing streak?
6dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo