The stern warnings coming out of Paul Pierce’s mouth Friday were loud and clear for anyone who wanted to listen or read them in the papers on Saturday.
For a spell, the Nets had their act together but they couldn’t sustain it as the Raptors took Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals with a 87-79 victory Sunday night.
“It’s very disappointing,” Kevin Garnett said. “We wanted to take advantage of home. Obviously we want to take advantage of winning up there, but I guess both sides did what they were supposed to do. We got one up there, they got one in here, so it’s a dogfight. That’s what it is.”
The Nets blamed a lack of energy and mistakes in offensive execution, especially down the stretch.
“I think a lot of it was on us — our execution, our turnovers,” Pierce said. “I remember in the third quarter when we were up by three or four points and we just started taking bad shots instead of continuing to execute, move the ball and really try to punish them at the end of that third and that’s where they were able to get back in it.”
The first 18 minutes minutes were about as awful as the Nets have played at home in awhile.The Nets allowed the Raptors to lead by 17 while making 19 of their first 32 shots.
They were a near copy of the final five minutes from Game 3 when the Nets were lackadaisical on both ends of the floor in allowing a 15-point lead to dwindle to one before averting disaster.
Despite some big shots in a 22-point night from Pierce, the Nets couldn’t finish off the comeback. The loss means Brooklyn will have to win at least once on the road.
The ending was a disappointment considering how the Nets dug themselves out a 17-point hole with 5:40 left in the first half. Pierce put them up 77-73 on a layup with 6:11 remaining.
Then the Raptors pulled off a 14-2 run, getting key offensive foul calls against Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The Nets missed five shots and committed four turnovers in the final 6:11 and were 3-for-17 from the field over the final 12 minutes.
“The last four minutes is normally when we feel very comfortable and we just got out of character,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “We didn’t score and that’s something we always thought in the last four minutes of the game where we can execute on both ends, offensively and defensively, and we didn’t.”
Kyle Lowry highlighted a 22-point performance with a running baseline hook with 1:13 remaining that made it 85-79. The shot was over Garnett, who has an 11-inch size advantage, and Lowry pulled it off despite nagging injuries. Lowry estimated he had attempted the shot only once in practice.
“We were right there,” Shaun Livingston said. “A one-point lead, five minutes left, that’s winning time.”
“It’s very disappointing,” Deron Williams said. “We had the ball in our hands and we dropped it.”
The Nets were unable to gather momentum for a big run and never inched the lead above five points.
“I think our energy level was low,” Mirza Teletovic said. “I think everybody was more relaxed than we should be and in the second half when we came out, everybody realized we have to have our energy. We have to defend, don’t think about anything else, just defensively fight and once we start [to] do that, we try to get into the game.”
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Toronto.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.