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Friday, April 25, 2014
Starting Five: Keys to victory in Game 3

By Mike Mazzeo

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let’s take a look at some of the biggest keys to a Brooklyn Nets’ win in Game 3 against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night at Barclays Center:

1. Rebounding: The Nets are getting outrebounded 97-67 in the series. In Game 2, the Raptors had 19 offensive rebounds. The Nets had 19 defensive rebounds. The 52-30 overall margin on the glass was simply unacceptable. Paul Pierce certainly thought so when he called out his team after the game and said they were “soft” inside.

“We’re definitely concerned,” Pierce said Thursday. “In the playoffs you got to be able to rebound, especially when the pace slows. You can understand when there are teams running, there’s transition,you get lost on your man, they throw quick shots, long rebounds -- but in the playoffs there’s a lot of halfcourt possessions so we have to do a better job of putting bodies on our man getting the rebound, guards coming into rebound, it has to be a group effort. We haven’t been a strong rebounding team all year long. We realize that but things can change in the playoffs but we have to do it as a team.”

2. Shooting: The Nets have had their looks. They just haven’t gone in. Brooklyn is shooting 43.3 percent in the series -- 11-for-48 from 3-point range (22.9 percent). The Nets love shooting at home -- as most teams do.

“Hopefully [we shoot better]. We had good looks. Personally, I felt like I had four or five that were in,” said Deron Williams, who is shooting just 37.1 percent. “We just have to stay confident, and shoot the shots that we have.”

3. Defense: The Nets can’t afford to allow the Raptors to shoot 75 percent from the field in the fourth quarter again -- like they did in Game 2, going 12-for-16.

“[Our defense] was pretty bad in Game 2,” Williams said. “I’m not gonna sugarcoat it. We can’t allow our fourth quarter to be our worst defensive quarter. It’s definitely something we want to address.”

4. Joe Johnson vs. DeMar DeRozan: Johnson got the best of DeRozan in Game 1, but the Raptors swingman went off in Game 2, scoring 17 of his 30 points in the fourth. Johnson had just two of his 18 in the final period. Johnson felt like he played good defense on DeRozan.

“I think it’s been pretty good from everybody, especially as a team, we’ve made him take a lot of tough shots,” Johnson said. “He’s made some tough shots and that’s how the game is going to go. We’ll live with him taking tough shots.”

The key for Johnson on offense? Making the Raptors pay for double-teaming him.

“They’ve done everything that you could do,” Johnson said. “So it’s not necessarily about me. I’m trying to make the right play if I do get double-teamed, just to help us win a game.”

Question: What do you think will be Brooklyn’s biggest key to winning Game 3? Let us know in the comments section below.

In case you missed it: Kevin Garnett’s minutes won’t be increasing as much as you want them too; Jason Collins was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World”; and the Nets are looking forward to being back home.

Stat to know: The Raptors have lost 12 straight playoff road games. It’s just history. And none of the players that lost the last one will play in this one. Still, it’s something for the optimists.

Up next: Nets vs. Raptors in Game 3 on Friday night at Barclays Center.