Nets, Raptors Scuffling For Advantage

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were bottled up in Game 4. They'll need to do better on Wednesday night.

Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were bottled up in Game 4. They’ll need to do better on Wednesday.

With the series tied at two games apiece, the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors return to the Queen City Wednesday for a crucial Game 5.

Tip-off at Air Canada Centre is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET.

Toronto managed to pull even in the series on Sunday, defeating Brooklyn 87-79 at Barclays Center. The game wasn’t pretty by any means, but at this time of the year it’s about winning by hook or by crook.

The Raptors jumped out to a 35-22 lead at the end of the first and built a 17-point advantage early in the second. But a total of just 32 points in the second and third quarters opened the door for the Nets to take advantage. The Raptors put in a gritty fourth quarter performance though, limiting the Nets to just 12 points and taking home the victory.

DeMar DeRozan led a banged up and bruised Raptors side with 24 points, while a hobbled Kyle Lowry added 22 and Amir Johnson tallied 17. Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson both logged big minutes from the bench, each scoring nine points. Vasquez also notched nine assists while Patterson pulled down nine rebounds.

The Nets, who played consistently through three quarters, got a surprisingly sparse performance from the backcourt pairing of Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, who had been on top form for the three games previous. The two superstars combined for 17 points, 27 below the 44 points the tandem averaged over the first three games of the series.

Paul Pierce was the standout performer for the home team, scoring 22 points, while Kevin Garnett (10pts) and Mirza Teletovic (12pts) also scored in double figures.

But it was Toronto’s defense late, and particularly its focus on neutralizing Johnson, that proved to be the difference. The Raptors will need more of the same if they’re to pick up a victory on Wednesday night.

With the series returning to Toronto, both teams will be well aware of the importance of winning in Game 5.

For the Raptors, a team that won 22 of its last 28 regular season games at home, a win will assure at least home-court advantage should the series go to a decisive seventh game.

For the Nets, a win sets up Friday’s Game 6 in Brooklyn as a potential advancement game. Despite Sunday’s loss under the Barclays Center lights, the Nets have been dominant in the building since January, and will like their chances on Friday. A loss means beating the Raptors twice in a row, something no team has done in more than a month.

The Nets will hope for a better performance from Williams and Johnson, or at least a dominant performance from one coupled with solid outings for the role players. With experience still on the team’s side, and with the Raptors beginning to resemble the walking wounded, head coach Jason Kidd will like his side’s chances, providing they put the work in for a solid 48 minutes.

For Dwayne Casey, he’ll have no problem motivating his side. While the bookmakers’ lines may not agree, the Raptors have become the underdog in this series and are simply looking to persevere their way through to the second round. Gritty and determined, the Raptors could go a long way to doing that with a win on Wednesday.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors odds for 04/30/2014

Toronto (-165) opened as the favorite over Brooklyn (+145) on the moneyline, although most sportsbooks are showing a narrower gap between the two right now.

Brooklyn is just 3-6 in its last nine road games while Toronto is 7-2 in its last nine games at home. The Nets managed to break the Raptors’ home-court advantage in the series opener. Can they do the same on Wednesday?

The spread opened at 4 but has slid as low as 3 in the meantime.

The two sides each covered the spread twice during the regular season head-to-head series, while Toronto currently owns a 2-1-1 ATS advantage in this postseason series. However, Brooklyn is 2-1-1 ATS when playing at Air Canada Centre this season.

The total opened at 191.

So far this series, the total has gone over twice and under twice. The over paid out in three of the four regular season meetings between the two sides.

The under has paid out in five of Brooklyn’s last seven trips north of the border.

Game 6 is scheduled for Friday (tip-off time: TBC) when the Nets will welcome the Raptors to Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

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