The Nets allowed the Raptors to shoot 61.9 percent in the first quarter and trailed by as many as 17 in the second.
But they came back in the third, had a 77-73 lead with 6:11 left in the fourth, and it appeared as though Brooklyn was going to take a 3-1 stranglehold of the series.
Instead, for the second straight game, the veteran, playoff-experienced Nets collapsed in crunch time.
The Raptors closed Game 4 on a 14-2 run and reclaimed home-court advantage with an 87-79 victory.
The Raptors jumped on the Nets to start Game 4, and Brooklyn never fully recovered.
“We didn’t do a good job of executing,” Kevin Garnett said. “I thought that was the difference in the game. They came down, put some good plays together, executed and we didn’t.”
“The last four minutes is normally when we feel very comfortable and we just got out of character,” Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said.
The Nets missed their final six shots from the field -- four of those 3-pointers -- and had a stretch of four consecutive possessions that ended with a turnover -- three of those coming on offensive fouls. Overall, Brooklyn shot 3-for-17 in the final period and turned the ball over six times.
“It shouldn’t happen, but I thought we rushed a lot,” Paul Pierce said. “Turnovers, combination of those two things, pressing, you get in a playoff situation, one guy or two, three guys want to do it on their own instead of running our offense, executing. I think we got caught up into that.
“Running our plays when we got movement, we seem to score most of the time. I just thought we got out of our offense, that can’t happen in the playoffs, it has got to come down to execution. You can’t have turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter.”
According to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information, the Nets missed all nine of their jump shots and went 0-for-10 outside the paint in the fourth. The Raptors constantly double-teamed Joe Johnson (seven points overall), who did not attempt a shot in the final period. Brooklyn got stagnant on offense and started settling instead of getting to the rim.
“We didn’t score. We didn’t execute. We turned the ball over,” said Deron Williams, who went 0-for-4 with two turnovers in the fourth.
“It’s tough to win when you do that.”
Sunday morning, Pierce was confident that the Nets would finally have a breakout performance. He was wrong.
Brooklyn allowed Toronto to score at will from the jump. The Raptors scored 35 points in the opening period, getting a combined 20 from guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan had 20 of his 24 points in the first half, while Lowry (22 points overall) made some key plays -- including a steal and a floater -- down the stretch.
“Our rotations were really bad the first quarter,” Williams said. “Our rotations weren’t there. They were getting layups, we were getting there late. It just wasn’t Nets basketball."
The Nets gave up an 18-4 run late in Game 3 and almost lost. They weren’t as fortunate this time around.
And now they face another swing game -- this one, Game 5 at Air Canada Centre -- much bigger than the last.
“It’s very disappointing,” Williams said. “Going in there and stealing the first one, then coming back and protecting home court in Game 3, we kinda held the ball in our hands, and we dropped it.”