Nets hold off the Raptors to take a 2-1 series lead

Joe Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets took a 2-1 series lead over the Toronto Raptors. AP Photo

Joe Johnson and the Brooklyn Nets took a 2-1 series lead over the Toronto Raptors. AP Photo

The Brooklyn Nets nearly blew a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, but held on to beat the Toronto Raptors 102-98 to take a 2-1 series lead at the Barclays Center on Friday night.

“The fourth quarter was our worst quarter,” Deron Williams said. “We have to extend teams and put people away. Especially in this building, we have the crowd behind us and have to put our foot on their throats and we didn’t.”

Joe Johnson led the team with 29 points, Deron Williams had 22 points and eight assists and Paul Pierce had 18 points and five rebounds. DeMar DeRozan had 30 for the Raptors, but he didn’t get enough help to overcome Nets in the first game in Brooklyn this series.

The Nets held a 49-45 lead at halftime, and it was the third quarter when the Nets put up big numbers to establish an 11-point lead. Johnson exploded for 10 points that quarter and D-Will got involved with six points and four assists. The big swing occured about midway in the third when Johnson hit a three to take a 58-52 lead with 7:34 that started a 8-0 run.

The Nets nearly blew it, though, after they built up a 15-point lead with 5:44 left to play. Kyle Lowry hit a layup to start a 21-6 run that cut the lead to just one point with 34.3 seconds left. Shaun Livingston hit a free throw, Pierce hit two and Johnson hit two more to hold off the Raptors.

“You can’t relax in this league,” Johnson said afterward. “This is the most important time of the year, the postseason and that’s uncharacteristic of us. YOu have to be better than that in those spots. ”

The Nets barely out shot the Raptors 49.3 percent to 46.3 percent. They were out rebounded, but not by much at 35-29 and they won the battle in the paint 42-32. The Nets also kept up the heat on defense as they forced 17 turnovers and only committed 11 themselves.

Kevin Garnett got the crowd riled up at the end of the first half when he laid out on the ground to grab a loose ball. KG eventually fouled out and only played 16 minutes on the night and Mason Plumlee continued to struggle in the playoffs, but Andray Blatche emerged and had a big second half. In just 12 minutes, Blatche had eight points and three boards.