BROOKLYN - By Lenn Robbins - Toronto might not be at the top of your list when you think of NBA rivalries.
The Raptors edged the Nets 104-103 Monday night in Barclays Center in a technical foul-filled, trash-talking, physical game. The loss was just the second of 2014 for the Nets and prevented them from closing to within one-half a game of the Raptors in the Atlantic Division to one-half a game.
Perhaps it was the presence of Seattle Seahawks loquacious defensive back Richard Sherman sitting on the baseline (many of the other NFC champs were seated in a luxury box) that got the Nets and Raptors in a chatty mood.
Perhaps it was the fight for the division lead.
Perhaps it was just Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who is so competitive and nasty that he can get under the skin of a Buddhist monk, that made this game as ornery as, well, Seahawks-49ers.
Whatever the case, the Nets and Raptors went at each other like a couple of NBA franchises that have a history. The history between these two consists of the Nets 102-100 win in Toronto in late November and a 96-80 road loss on Jan.11, the team's only defeat in 2014 until Monday night.
Now it consists of this bitter loss.
The Nets (20-23) had won five straight since then. They had won seven straight home games. And they led 103-102 with 10 seconds left and had possession of the ball.
But Deron Williams' inbounds pass was intercepted by Patrick Patterson, who drained a 12-footer from the wing with six seconds left. Paul Pierce's 29-footer at the buzzer was short, stunning the crowd in Barclays Center.
The Raptors (23-21) have seen the Nets coming in their side view mirror, an object closer than it appears.
Toronto didn't have DeMar DeRozan (sprained left foot) but they had Lowry. He scored a team-high 31 points and induced Pierce and Kevin Garnett into receiving technical fouls.
Pierce returned the favor, getting Lowry to get T'd up. And Pierce scored a game-high 33 points, his most in a Brooklyn jersey to lead the Nets. He drained back-to-back 3's in the final 3:10 to cap a rally from nine points down with just under eight minutes left.