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Saturday, April 19, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Nets 94, Raptors 87

By Mike Mazzeo

Paul Pierce was The Truth in Game 1 of the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Raptors in Toronto.

Pierce scored nine straight points late in the fourth quarter, enabling the Nets to emerge with a 94-87 victory Saturday afternoon at Air Canada Center.

Pierce was making his playoff debut with the Nets after spending the first 136 postseason games of his career with the Boston Celtics.

What it means: The Nets stole home-court advantage from the Raptors as their experience showed in crunch time. Teams that win Game 1 of best-of-seven NBA playoff series go on to win the series 77.3 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Truth and Ticket: Kevin Garnett and Pierce, who brought 267 combined games of playoff experience, both struggled mightily through the first three quarters. But when it was money time, they delivered.

Garnett’s first basket gave the Nets a 79-76 lead with 3:41 left, and Pierce snapped the team’s consecutive 3-point drought at 19, drilling one with 2:58 remaining to give the Nets an 82-76 lead. Pierce made it 84-78 when he converted on a driving layup with 2:21 left after appearing to commit a traveling violation. Pierce followed that with a 19-footer and another jumper.

Pierce had 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists; Garnett added 5 points and 8 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Battle of the point guards: Deron Williams and Kyle Lowry got after it. What a wonderful matchup. Williams scored 11 of his 24 points in the first quarter and was 8-for-20 from the field in 39 minutes. Williams, who averaged 14.3 points on 11.2 shots per game during the regular season, had 18 points on 17 shots -- at the half.

Lowry, who averaged 22 points on 50 percent shooting in four regular-season meetings against the Nets, ended with 22 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds.

Why Brooklyn won: Joe Johnson had 22 points, and the Nets overcame a 4-for-24 performance from 3-point range. Brooklyn had just eight turnovers, got nine steals and held Toronto to 39.4 percent shooting from the field. DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors’ leading scorer during the regular season, shot just 3-for-13.

Major malfunctions: During the third quarter, the shot clocks on the backboards stopped working. A delay ensued. The Raptors' PA announcer had to call out “24,” “10,” and then count down “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Horn” so the players would know how much time was left. Time was kept on stopwatches and on the Jumbotron. The teams combined for just 33 points in the third. Lowry hit a huge 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 67-62 Brooklyn heading into the fourth.

Tensions escalate: Garnett was hit with a technical foul in the second quarter for swiping at the ball as he was defending Lowry after the whistle. Nets center Andray Blatche was hit with a technical later in the second after getting tangled up with Lowry. Nets-Raptors feels like much more of a rivalry than Nets-Knicks. The fans in Toronto were raucous in this one, their chants of “KG Sucks!” in the first quarter loud and strong.

Comeback kids: Toronto came back from a double-digit deficit by outplaying Brooklyn’s bench. The Nets led at the half 50-46 despite missing their last 11 3-pointers (3-for-15) and getting outrebounded by 10 (27-17). Garnett was held scoreless in a first half for the first time in his playoff career (132 games).

Hot start: Fueled by Williams and Johnson, the Nets ripped off an 18-2 extended run to take a 25-13 lead in the first quarter. Jonas Valanciunas had eight points and eight rebounds in the opening period.

DNP-CD? Andrei Kirilenko did not play, which was a surprise. All three centers -- Garnett, Blatche and Mason Plumlee -- did. Plumlee was in foul trouble all game, which meant more minutes for Blatche.

Sorry I’m not Sorry: Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, in attempt to fire up Toronto supporters during a fan rally outside the arena before the game, shouted “F--- Brooklyn!” He issued a non-apology at halftime.

Clean-shaven: Nets coach Jason Kidd shaved off his beard. His beard went 34-17 before leaving his face.

Up next: Game 2 on Tuesday night in Toronto.