Despite blowing a 26-point lead in Game 5, the Raptors managed to hold off the Nets 115-113 on Wednesday to take a 3-2 lead in their first round series. Game 6 is scheduled for Friday in Brooklyn.
• Kyle Lowry for Mayor. On a night the city of Toronto lost its mayor, it gained a playoff hero. Kyle Lowry was unstoppable at times in Game 5 and turned in one of the best performances of the postseason so far, finishing with a career playoff-high 36 points while hitting g 6-of-9 from three-point range. The Raptors guard went on a 21-point bender in the first half and fueled a 26-4 run to close the second quarter. He was particularly hot in the final three minutes of the half, scoring 11 points and punctuating the incredible performance with an off-balance, banked-in three-pointer at the buzzer.
But Brooklyn would bounce back after allowing Toronto to score its most points ever (62) in a playoff half. The Nets failed to make up any ground in the third, but rallied all the way back from 26-down to tie the game (more on that later). Their efforts were soon extinguished by Lowry, who hit a deep three-pointer with 1:04 remaining to steal the momentum. After a Nets basket on the other end, Lowry came back down the floor and hit a floater with 27 seconds left to keep Brooklyn at bay once again and help seal Toronto's win.
Lowry's contributions, as always, weren't limited to his shooting. He dished out six assists. He hounded Brooklyn's guards, forcing both Deron Williams (13 points on 4-of-8 shooting) and Shaun Livingston (nine points on 4-of-11) into off nights. And his clutch play in the fourth quarter gave Brooklyn a 3-2 lead in a series that's been decided by the slimmest of margins. Through the first four games, Toronto outscored Brooklyn 372-370.
For much different reasons than Toronto's mayor, Lowry has been known to rub people the wrong way. His physical style and fiery personality can either lift a team or tear it apart. On Wednesday, Lowry's aggressiveness paid off. His hot hand sparked Toronto in the first half and his gutsy play saved them in the second. It would have been a shame if Toronto suffered two public collapses in one day.
• The Nets got Blatched. As dominant as Toronto was in the second quarter, Brooklyn was even sharper in the fourth. The Nets outscored the Raptors 44-24 in the final period and went on a 32-8 run at one point, only to drop Game 5. Joe Johnson, who finished with a team-high 30 points, even ripped off a personal 10-0 run of his own. But Brooklyn's finest work in the fourth quarter would be outdone by its most fickle forward.
Andray Blatche, the sometimes-brilliant, sometimes-terrible, always exciting Brooklyn Net reverted to his worst form at the worst time Wednesday. Overall, Blatche was solid in Game 5, totaling seven points (5-of-6 from the line!) and four rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench. But his only turnover of the game cost Brooklyn just that, as he regrettably launched the ball over Deron Williams' head in the final seconds of the game and leading to a backcourt violation.
• Raptors bench provides some muscle. Toronto's bench doesn't offer much in style or finesse, but the hard-nosed bunch has made the Raptors the tougher team in the series. While the team posses several young, promising talents in the starting lineup, its bench is made up of older players willing to do the dirty work to get the job done.
Toronto's second-unit combined for just 21 of its 115 points in Game 5, but the contributions were evident beyond the box score. Patrick Patterson (eight rebounds in 28 minutes) outmuscled the Nets' bigs and helped them win the battle on the glass. Greivis Vasquez (15 points of 6-of-12 shooting, six rebounds) forced the issue against Brooklyn's defense and guided the reserves. And veteran bruisers Chuck Hayes and John Salmons played solid, albeit unspectacular defense, keeping Toronto's defense stingy even when its starters weren't on the floor.
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