Nets look to put Raptors on ropes, take 3-1 lead
NEW YORK (AP) — Kyle Lowry had a banged knee, busted lip and a knot on his elbow, and Dwane Casey sounded more like a corner man than the coach of the Toronto Raptors.
“He’s been in a 15-round bout,” Casey said after Game 3.
Now the Brooklyn Nets can land the punch that would really put the Raptors on the ropes.
Brooklyn takes a 2-1 lead into Game 4 on Sunday night, when it can deliver the biggest blow yet.
“I think the series is really in the fight. It’s a dogfight out there,” Nets guard Shaun Livingston said Saturday. “Everybody is banged up and bruised up, but you know, it’s not really time to feel sorry for anybody, you know what I mean? We’re trying to win a series, so we’re going to do what we’ve got to do.”
The Nets knocked the 6-foot Lowry around on their way to a 102-98 victory on Friday night. He got up only nine shots before fouling out with 15 points and four assists in 38 minutes.
The point guard was sore on Saturday but said he had no doubt he was going to play Sunday and deal with whatever punishment the Nets try to inflict. After averaging a career-best 17.9 points along with 7.4 assists during the regular season, he knows he needs to be more effective against a Brooklyn team that seems determined to take away one of Toronto’s few offensive threats.
“They’re paying so much attention to me, sometimes they’re playing 4-on-4,” Lowry said. “And honestly, it’s one of those things where we as a team make an adjustment, but personally I’ve got to find a way to get the ball and get more aggressive.”
All-Star DeMar DeRozan had his second straight 30-point game on Friday, and reserve Patrick Patterson scored 17 points before missing two free throws with the Raptors trailing by two and 19 seconds left. But there wasn’t much else to Toronto’s offense, with Terrence Ross — who had a 50-point game during the regular season — remaining ineffective and fellow starting forward Amir Johnson unable to back up his strong performance from the Raptors’ Game 2 victory.
The Raptors will need at least one of those guys, or perhaps center Jonas Valanciunas, who was in foul trouble and took only four shots, to contribute something to discourage the Nets from focusing so much on Lowry.
“They’re blitzing him,” Casey said. “When he comes off pick-and-rolls, he’s got two guys there. We have to give him some outlets. He may have to sacrifice and create some shots for someone else and get his in transition and other ways. They’re trying to take he and DeMar out. We’re ready for that and we have to make sure we make ’em pay for that and not let them get away with it.”
Brooklyn nearly didn’t get away with it in Game 3, as Toronto almost came all the way back from a 15-point deficit with 5½ minutes left. The Nets know they will have to play better for longer to put away what figures to be a desperate team.
“We know they’re going to come out and play hard. They fought until the end last night,” Nets guard Deron Williams said. “We’re up 15 with five minutes left and we’ve got to do a better job of closing out games. But we know they’re going to come back and be ready to play and it’s kind of a must-win for them.”
It’s been a remarkably even matchup so far, with Toronto outscoring Brooklyn 678-677 in seven games this season. The Raptors are behind in the only place that matters right now, the score of this first-round series, though they know how close they came to changing that.
“Yeah, but we know we can beat this team,” DeRozan said. “We was down 15 and once we see we were down 15 we started playing and cut the game down. We’ve got to play like that for a full 48 minutes.”
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