NEW YORK, N.Y. – Kyle Lowry was nursing a sore knee and a bloody lip, with coach Dwane Casey saying his point guard looked like he’d been through a “15-round bout.”
The Toronto Raptors dropped a 102-98 decision to Brooklyn on Friday giving the Nets a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven playoff series. And in the dressing room after the loss, and moments before he headed back to the team hotel with “a whole lot” of ice, Lowry called on his teammates to bring more fight as well.
“We’ve got to be more physical, they’re bringing their physical nature, we’ve got to bring our physical nature,” Lowry said. “I think we’ve got to figure it out sooner, how we’re going to play from the jump to the finish. . . I figured out we’ve got to play physical from top to bottom.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points and Patrick Patterson added 17 points for the Raptors, who rallied from a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to nearly steal a victory in Brooklyn. Jonas Valanciunas added 10 points and 10 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double of the series.
Toronto was looking for its first playoff road win since Game 1 of their second-round series against Philadelphia in 2001, but trailed 77-66 with one quarter left against the Nets in the unfriendly confines of Barclays Arena.
The Raptors dug themselves a 15-point hole in the fourth quarter before finally showing some fight, rallying to within a point with 34 seconds left in a final scrappy 12 minutes that saw 22 fouls called.
“We’ve got to be aggressive through the whole game, we can’t wait until they pick up their aggressiveness and then we pick it up too,” DeRozan said. “We’ve got to be aggressive throughout the whole game.
“Once they had their big lead, we tried to fight back and we can’t put ourselves in that situation.”
Toronto forward Terrence Ross continued to struggle in the series, scoring five points in 21:36 of work. He also had two rebounds and three turnovers.
The Nets led by 15 a couple of times in the fourth before the Raptors finally came to life, with Patterson draining a three-pointer to spark an 8-0 Raptors run that pulled Toronto within seven points with 2:31 on the clock.
They continued to eat away at the point difference, pulling to within a point on a free throw by DeRozan with 20 seconds left. Patterson then missed two shots from the foul line with 19 seconds left that would have tied the game.
“I missed them,” Patterson said. “My first big free throws that I have ever missed in my life like that. Unfortunately, it sucks but all I can do is look forward to the next opportunity.”
A key moment down the stretch came with 47.3 seconds left when Toronto’s Greivis Vasquez was called for a foul on Deron Williams — a call that outraged the Raptors bench, and Vasquez, who was subsequently slapped with a technical.
“I was just trying to contain D-Will. He was trying to push me off a little bit but it was a basketball play,” Vasquez said.
When asked if he expected to receive the foul, Vasquez wouldn’t say.
“I don’t want to talk about the referees. I don’t want to lose any money at all, so next question,” he said. “The referees are going to go to sleep fine, I’m not going to go to sleep because we lost.”
Patterson was a little more vocal.
“Is that something new?” he said on the officiating. “In regards to calls not going our way or us feeling a certain way about referees, it has been taking place all year long. For us to think it’s going to change in the playoffs, we are fooling ourselves.”
Joe Johnson topped the Nets with 29 points, while Williams had 22 and Paul Pierce finished with 18.
Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday in Brooklyn, then the series heads back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday.
The Raptors shot 46 per cent on the night while the Nets made good on 49 per cent of their shots. Toronto outrebounded Brooklyn 35-29. Turnovers again proved costly — the Raptors gave away 16 points on 19 turnovers.
“I thought 19 turnovers, a lot of those was getting backed off our mark,” said Casey, his voice hoarse from hollering all night. “We just have to be stronger with the ball or, accordingly, turn around and play they way they’re playing, bumping and hitting in those situations.
“I love the fight from my team,” the coach added. “This team tried to throw haymakers at us and go at us and we did a good job of battling back and staying in the game and competing.”
Lowry went to the dressing room briefly after banging knees, but insisted he would be fine.
Asked if he could play Sunday, he laughed and said “Is that a trick question?”
When asked how much ice he’d be leaving the arena with, Lowry replied: “A lot. A whole lot right now. It’s part of the playoffs, man. I’m happy, I’m excited to be icing up around this time.”
The Raptors hadn’t been concerned about playing on the road, going 22-19 in the regular season for a franchise record for wins, tied for the most among East teams.
“We were a helluva good road team in the regular season,” Lowry said. “It’s the playoffs. We came in here tonight thinking we were going to win this game, and Sunday we’ll come in and think we’re going to win on Sunday too.”
The Barclays Center though has been particularly kind to the Nets this season. They were unbeatable here for two months during the regular season, winning a franchise record 15 straight games on their home court.
The Raptors knew a hostile crowd awaited them at Barclays Center in this playoff series that turned nasty before the first ball had even been tossed up. Prior to Game 1, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri dropped his now famous F-bomb while referring to Brooklyn.
According to social media, fans in Toronto resurrected Ujiri’s F-bomb in a chant Friday night at Maple Leaf Square, where hundreds of people braved the rain and wind to watch the game on the big screen outside the Air Canada Centre.
The Nets went on to win the opener 94-87 and New York’s tabloid newspapers had fun with their headlines the next day. The headline on the New York Daily News front page: “Don’t’ F*** With Brooklyn! Nets give foul-mouthed Raptors a spanking to take Game 1.”
The New York Post’s front page was a picture of a grinning Paul Pierce with the headline: “After Toronto GM insults B’klyn, Nets shut up Raptors. F#@K YEAH!“
The Raptors evened the series with a 105-100 victory on Tuesday.
Ujiri was fined $25,000 for the profanity, and Garnett said he was curious how fans in Brooklyn would react to the Toronto GM.
“Very, very eager to see how they respond to the ‘F Brooklyn,'” Garnett told reporters earlier in the week. “Very, very eager to see how they respond to this kid.”
Friday’s crowd in Brooklyn, though, felt more festive than hostile. Outside the sleek US$1 billion Barclays Center, a steel drum band entertained people waiting in lines.
Inside, a small pocket of fans chanted “U-S-A!” when Ross went to the free-throw line, but it was otherwise just the usual refrain of “Ref you suck!”
The capacity crowd of 17,732 fans at the Barclays Center included pockets of red-clad Raptors fans, including one man that stood and used a lint roller on his red shirt in celebration of Toronto baskets — a reference to Drake’s use of a lint roller to clean his pants during Game 2 at the Air Canada Centre.
Rihanna, Michael K. Williams, who played Omar in “The Wire,” and Nate Ruess, the lead singer of Fun, were all seated courtside.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted a good luck message to the team, posting: “Here’s hoping the @raptors take the series lead tonight in Brooklyn. #wethenorth”
The optics at the Barclays Center added to the drama. The black-accented court is brightly lit like a theatre stage while the crowd sits under dimmed lights, blending into the black walls of the arena. The ThunderStix given out to fans glow.
DeRozan led the way with eight points in an opening quarter that saw neither team lead by more than a couple of baskets. The Raptors ended the frame with a 12-6 run to take a 23-19 lead into the second.
A Ross three-pointer stretched Toronto’s lead to five points early in the second, but the Nets went on a 12-1 run to take an eight-point lead with just under a minute to play before halftime. Brooklyn went into the dressing room at the break up 49-45.
The Nets continued to put distance on Toronto in the third, taking an 11-point lead on a floating jumper by Johnson with 6:22 left in the quarter. The Raptors chipped away to pull within four on a three by Greivis Vasquez, but the Nets ended the quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 77-66 lead into the fourth.