After studying game film, the Toronto Raptors used words like “disgusting”, “irresponsible” and “undisciplined” to describe the epic fourth-quarter collapse that turned their 26-point lead in Game 5 into a 115-113 win they salvaged by a hair.
The victory – no matter how ugly – has the Raptors up 3-2 versus the Brooklyn Nets, with a chance to win their first playoff series since the 2000-01 season, and just the second in franchise history. It would earn the Raptors a second-round meeting with the Miami Heat, back-to-back NBA Champions.
But in order to prepare, the Raptors are first exorcising the demons from their epic breakdown in Game 5. It was a contest in which Toronto allowed a mind-blowing 44 points in the final stanza thanks to a potpourri of dreadful mental mistakes. Remarkably, the Raptors still hung on for the win and vow those gaffes are all correctable.
11:37 – Toronto 91, Brooklyn 69
Veteran Raptor Amir Johnson makes an uncharacteristic blunder, taking his fourth foul of the night while trying to stop Mirza Teletovic’s three-point attempt. The Nets big man misses his free throw, but it foreshadows an epidemic ahead. “Defensively, you’ve got to understand who you’re closing out to and not run through them,” Casey said.
10:46 – Toronto 94, Brooklyn 72
Deron Williams steals the ball from Greivis Vasquez, which leads to a breezy layup for the hot-handed Teletovic and starts a 7-0 run for Brooklyn.
8:48 – Toronto 96, Brooklyn 79
For the second time in the quarter, the Raptors break a cardinal rule of late-game basketball. Vasquez fouls former Raptor Alan Anderson as he’s launching a three-point attempt, which falls. The four-point play turns a 17-point lead into a less intimidating 13-point one. “I call that mental mistakes,” Vasquez said. “You can’t foul shooters. And I was one of them. That’s just no excuse … You can’t give four-point plays. It can’t happen any more.”
8:00 – Toronto 96, Brooklyn 83
Johnson has his fourth turnover on the night, as Brroklyn’s Andray Blatche steals, leading to an easy layup for point guard Deron Williams. It seems to deflate Toronto, who will only make one field goal over the next five and half minutes of play, while the Nets chip away at the deficit with big-time scoring from Williams, Anderson and Joe Johnson.
3:27 – Toronto 101, Brooklyn 98
During an otherwise stellar game, Kyle Lowry turns the ball over – another steal for Blatche – which soon turns into the tying three-point shot for Joe Johnson, making it 101-101. “They were really good, and we were really bad at the same time,” Lowry said. “We just didn’t focus the way we should have focused in the fourth quarter.”
00:09 – Toronto 113, Brooklyn 108
Toronto’s Amir Johnson barrels into Anderson as he’s attempting a three-point shot. Seeing a theme here? It’s Johnson’s sixth and disqualifying foul, and Anderson’s four-point exchange shrinks Toronto’s five-point lead to a one-point nail-biter. “It was one of those bonehead plays that you just can’t do,” Johnson said. “When you’re playing defence hard and out there scrambling, you just want to get to the shooter.”
00:04 – Toronto 115, Brooklyn 112
Up three, the Raptors opt for a philosophy they’ve used all year, fouling in situations when they lead by three and the opponent has no remaining timeouts. It awards Blatche two free throws, but he misses the second and gets his own rebound, which creates an unexpected trying chance for Brooklyn. “I was concerned about the rebounding and my concerns came true,” Raptors coach Casey said. “You’ve got to be a tough hombre in a playoff game in that situation and make sure my guy doesn’t get the rebound. We’ve got to get better in that area, boxing out.” The Raptors got lucky that Blatche then sailed a pass way over Williams’s head instead of shooting himself.
00:01 – Toronto 115, Brooklyn 113
With the clock about to expire, Williams launches up an unlikely shot from past half court. Yet, Toronto seven-footer Jonas Valanciunas leaps up and tries to block the ball as it’s on its way down, narrowly dodging a goaltending call that risked giving Brooklyn life, if not for a Brooklyn backcourt violation. He’s a young kid,” said Casey, laughing yet shaking his head with exasperation. “I love him to death, but you don’t put yourself in that situation. You learn from that and don’t make that mistake again.”