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Nets Take Game 1, Raptors Look To Draw Level

Joe Johnson's 24 points led the Nets past the Raptors in Saturday's playoff opener.

Joe Johnson’s 24 points helped lead the Nets past the Raptors in Saturday’s playoff opener.

If you believe everything you read, the Brooklyn Nets tanked down the final stretch of the regular season to secure a first round matchup with the Toronto Raptors.

While the variables involved meant that there was no way the Nets could have guaranteed a series against the Raptors – or avoided a series with the Chicago Bulls if you want to look at it the other way – if Jason Kidd and Co. did go all in for a trip north of the border, it’s looking like the smart move after Saturday’s opening game of the series.

The Nets defeated the Raptors 97-87 at Air Canada Centre to take an early 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

As he has done so often this season, Joe Johnson played a big part in the Nets success on Saturday afternoon, tallying a game-high 24 points to go alongside eight rebounds, four assists and two steals. Deron Williams also scored 24, 18 of which came in the first half of play.

Brooklyn’s veteran pairing of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett came up big down the stretch. Pierce had 15 points on the game, nine in the fourth quarter, while Garnett tallied five points, eight boards, two steals and a block in just 20 minutes of action.

The Raptors were far from overwhelmed in the game though. Kyle Lowry produced an impressive stat line (22pts, 7rebs, 8asts, 2stls) to go alongside a massively imposing playoff debut for Jonas Valanciunas, who tallied 17 points and 18 rebounds (5 offensive). Meanwhile, Greivis Vasquez added 18 points and eight assists off the bench.

But, in a matchup billed as “Raptors vs. Dinosaurs” by the Toronto Sun, it was the experience of the Nets that held up and saw the team to victory.

While competitive and intriguing enough to suggest this will be a good, close series, the game itself was overshadowed by the headlines around it.

First there was all the talk of tanking and Brooklyn’s lack of respect for the Raptors.

Then there was Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri pumping up the Toronto faithful with his “F— Brooklyn” proclamation, something the New York Post, as you might expect, lapped up.

And then there was the debacle that was the timer and shot clock, or lack of it. The going consensus is that an ESPN employee plugged a chord into the wrong socket, blacking out the electronic clock system for the final 18 minutes of the game.

But distractions and accusations aside, the Raptors now go into Game 2 knowing that a loss could seriously derail any hopes the side has of making a splash in its first postseason since 2008.

The Nets meanwhile will know a second straight win north of the border will give the team serious momentum heading back to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors odds for 04/22/2014

The Raptors will again host the Nets at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET).

Toronto (-185) once more opened as the favorite on the moneyline, with Brooklyn (+166) being relegated to underdog role. That’s exactly how things looked heading into Saturday’s opener though, and things didn’t go well for bettors backing the home team.

The Nets covered the spread (+3.5) in the upset win on Saturday, and are now 5-2 all-time against the Raptors in the postseason.

The two sides previously met in the first round of the playoffs back in 2007. The then-New Jersey Nets took the opening game in Toronto in that series before emerging as a winner in six games. If you believe in history repeating itself, the Raptors took Game 2 in that series.

The spread for Game 2 opened at 4 in favor of the Raptors and has subsequently risen to 4.5.

Brooklyn is now 3-2-0 ATS against Toronto this season, including 2-1-0 ATS at Air Canada Centre.

The total opened at 187 and has so far climbed to 188.

The under paid out in Saturday’s opener, in which the line sat at 193. During the regular season, the over cashed in on three (out of four) occasions.

For a full list of today’s NBA Playoffs odds, click here.

For the latest NBA futures odds, click here.

For the latest NBA team prop bets, click here.

For the latest NBA player prop bets, click here.

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