Raptors must forget ugly Game 6
NEW YORK -- If there was one thing Raptors coach Dwane Casey wanted his young players to do prior to Game 6, it was to let what happened late in Game 5 go.
If you'll remember, Toronto gave up an eye-popping 44 points to the Nets in the fourth quarter of its Game 5 win.
So, a couple hours before tipoff of Game 6 on Friday night, Casey was talking about the importance of getting his team to "stay in the moment."
"Let the last play go," Casey said, "and get the next one."
Unfortunately for Casey and the Raptors, the coach's worst fears came true early Friday night.
Toronto allowed the Nets to shoot a blistering 68 percent in the first quarter and fell behind as many as 16 in the opening 12 minutes. Things mostly got worse from there in a 97-83 loss to the Nets.
Afterward, Casey bemoaned the fact that his Raptors came out flat on defense -- just as they had in the fourth quarter of Game 5.
"We started the game out in an opposite disposition that we wanted to," the coach said. "They came out in a desperate mode and we didn't. They did what they were supposed to do and we didn't."
Game 7 is Sunday in Toronto. And if the Raptors want to reach the second round for just the second time in franchise history, they'll have to find a way to slow down Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and the Nets.
"We've got to find a way to match their intensity," Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said.
Here's a bad stat for those who hope the Raptors can earn a second-round date with Miami: Between the fourth quarter of Game 5 and the end of the third on Friday night, Brooklyn outscored the Raptors 104-83.
Williams led the way for the Nets, pouring in 20 of his 23 points in the first three quarters to help the Nets build a 20-point lead.
For the first time in the series, Brooklyn's franchise player outplayed Lowry.
One game after putting up 36 points in an electrifying performance, Lowry struggled to find ways to impact the game while working through the Nets' constant double teams.
He finished with 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting. Lowry had four assists and four turnovers in 38 minutes. He also had just two points on drives on Friday. He entered the game averaging an NBA playoff-high 8.4 points on drives.
Entering Friday's game, Lowry had outscored Williams 109-84 in the series.
"I missed a lot of shots that I usually make," Lowry said. "[Brooklyn] did a good job."
To pin Friday's loss solely on Lowry would be shortsighted, though.
Aside from DeMar DeRozan (28 points), the Raptors failed to take advantage of the attention paid to Lowry.
Toronto got a combined 19 points from Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross. The Raptors were also out rebounded for the first time in the series. Ross continued to struggle on both ends of the floor, finishing with six points on 3-for-9 shooting.
Casey suggested that some of the younger Raptors were affected by the scope of the moment.
"Any Game 6, a team is going to come out with a desperate mindset. This team [the Nets], they're built to win the championship this year and they're going to come out and give you their best shot," Casey said. "I knew that coming in and tried to warn our team, but [we have] guys who haven't been in Game 6.
"It's one of the toughest things to do."
The stage only gets bigger for the Raptors. Toronto has three players in its starting five playing in their first postseason. The Nets, on the other hand, boast veterans with championship mettle in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The Raptors franchise hasn't won a playoff series since 2001 and has never won a seven-game series.
So how will the young Raptors handle the enormity of the moment on Sunday?
"It's Game 7," Lowry said. "We all grew up watching Game 7s and wanting to be a part of Game 7s. We've got to go out there and not be too overanxious. We know what's at stake. We've just got to take care of it at home on Sunday."
It will help if they can let what happened on Friday night go before they take the floor.