The Brooklyn Nets took a lead into the fourth quarter and took the Toronto Raptors to the final seconds before dropping Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, 104-99, Wednesday on the NBA Campus in Orlando.
With the Nets down by eight, Joe Harris hit a 3-pointer to make it a 101-96 game with 2:07 to go. Toronto was up 102-96 after a Pascal Siakam free throw when Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot knocked down a 3-pointer with 39.8 seconds to go. Brooklyn forced a 24-second violation at the other end and inbounded with 15.0 seconds to go. But with Kyle Lowry pressing Harris after the inbound catch, the ball got away on a handoff between Harris and Temple, with Toronto’s Norman Powell breaking away with the loose ball for the game-sealing basket.
“I take blame on that, if you ask Joe he'll say he takes blame,” said Temple. “On a handoff it takes two. We just have to complete it. There was nothing else that should have been done.”
It was a far different performance from Game 1, when the Nets fell behind early and never came all the way back against the defending champions. This time, Brooklyn held Toronto to 25.7 percent shooting from 3-point range, after getting burned from deep in Game 1.
It was the Nets with the fast start and a 14-point early lead, and eventually a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
“We guarded without fouling, especially in the first half,” said Temple. “We did a good job. We went to the 1-through-5 switching. We think that took them out of their offense a little bit. They played a little more 1-on-1. I think that was the biggest thing: We defended without fouling. We rebounded the ball better, and it came down to a last possession. We gave ourselves a chance, put ourselves in a position to win, and in the playoffs, that’s what you want to be able to do. So it’s tough to take, but we understand we can play with these guys and we’ll try to go get the next one.”
Temple led the Nets with a playoff career-high 21 points, including 15 in the third quarter. He shot 5-of-11 from 3-point range.
“Just ball going in,” said Temple. “I felt confident, shot my shot. I would say I was a little more focused, but it's the playoffs, I'm already focused so it's just being comfortable and letting it ride. Same thing I'm going to do for the third game.”
Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and Harris all posted double-doubles for Brooklyn. LeVert had 16 points and 11 assists, while Allen and Harris each had 14 points and 15 rebounds. Harris shot 4-of-7 from 3-point range, and the rebounds were a career high.
Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 17 points and Tyler Johnson had 12.
“I like the adjustments that we made,” said Vaughn. “I think it put us in the ballgame as a group. You look at the stats, they shot a low percentage. They shot a low percentage from three. So we made the adjustments that way. We outrebounded them, had more assists than them. So the adjustments we did make put us in a position to even be in the final minutes and seconds of a game against the defending champs.”
The Nets held on to a 53-50 lead at halftime after jumping out to a 14-point lead midway through the first quarter.
Early threes from Temple, Harris, and Luwawu-Cabarrot had the Nets rolling early. Leading 18-12, Allen and LeVert split up an 8-0 run as Brooklyn went up 26-12 as Allen threw down a lob from LeVert. But Toronto followed up with a 13-0 run to get within a point before the Nets took a 33-29 lead into the second quarter.
“I definitely think we were much more concentrated in the transition defensive area,” said Vaughn of Brooklyn’s fast start. “But remember in Game 1, we missed some shots early which allowed them to get out in transition. Then we turned the basketball over in Game 1 early, also. So a combination of things that didn’t go our way in Game 1. I think we were more settled as a group overall, ready for Game 2 and then tactically we were locked in.”
Down 48-47, the Nets closed the first half by scoring six of the last eight points to take that three-point lead at the break.
After Toronto opened the second half with a game-tying 3-pointer, the Nets reeled off 10 straight points. Temple made two free throws, then followed a Harris 3-pointer with one of his own. Luwawu-Cabarrot banked in a falling-down finish off a drive, and Brooklyn was up 63-53 three minutes into the half.
Brooklyn was up 71-70 when Temple stretched the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Nets went into the fourth quarter leading 80-74.
But they stalled there, outscored 19-5 to start the half as Toronto went up 93-85 before Harris knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:07 to go in the game.
“I think overall, they had some drives, some penetration that got into our paint,” said Vaughn of that game-changing stretch. “They were able to finish, so then we had to take the ball out, which slowed our pace down a little bit. We did have a few shots, good looks that didn’t go in for us. So that combination was not in our favor in that stretch.”
Brooklyn put a pair of defensive stops around Luwawu-Cabarrot’s final three to give themselves a shot at overtime that they couldn’t convert, falling behind 2-0 in the series with Game 3 on Friday.
“I think anyone watching these past two games felt our team, the energy, the effort, their hard play, their togetherness, never doubting each other, being extremely resilient,” said Vaughn. “Definitely proud of that from the group. We put ourselves in a position to win a ball game, so that’s all you can ask, the effort on a nightly basis.”