Nets rally but go cold down stretch as Raptors even series

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett react after Pierce

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett react after Pierce is called for an offensive foul against the Toronto Raptors late in the second half during Game 4 of their first-round playoff series at Barclays Center on Sunday, April 27, 2014. (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

They seemed ready, amped up from the start this time rather than waiting for some highlight-reel plays by their team to juice up the atmosphere.

It's as if Nets fans accepted Kevin Garnett's challenge to bring more of the noise and turn Barclays Center into a madhouse, bettering an environment that many deemed disappointing two nights earlier after the slight by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri before the series opener.

Even with more than a few white towels dotting the backs of chairs, signaling some late-arrivers, they still were into it, making their presence felt even though the Nets dropped into a 17-point hole.

But those vocal cords got a lengthy breather in the fourth quarter, all because the Nets gave the fans little reason to roar.

After storming all the way back and grabbing the lead, the Nets went belly up in the game's final six minutes, coming up small in crunch time.

They connected on three of their final 17 shots, mustered only 12 points and suffered an 87-79 loss to Toronto in Game 4 Sunday night that evened the first-round series at 2-2.

Game 5 is Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.

"It's a tough loss, a game that we definitely should've won," Joe Johnson said. "I thought we had the fight and exerted a lot of energy getting back into the game. We managed to fight back, but we didn't come up with the big plays down the stretch."

In fact, the Nets didn't do much of anything in the fourth quarter -- other than volley home-court advantage back to Toronto, which got 24 points from DeMar DeRozan and 22 from Kyle Lowry.

The Nets misfired on their last six shots and didn't have a field goal in the final 6:12.

Their last bucket was a layup by Paul Pierce that produced a 77-76 lead, but things spiraled down immediately after that.

The Nets missed their final six shots and turned the ball over four times on consecutive possessions, closing out the game in maddening fashion for the second straight contest. They yielded 32 points in the fourth quarter of Friday night's win.

"I think a lot of it was on us, our execution, our turnovers," Pierce said. "A combination of our turnovers and our lack of execution really did us in."

Understanding they had to corral Johnson in much better fashion, the Raptors sped up their trapping of the Nets' go-to guy, not allowing him to get going near the paint. He had only seven points and shot 2-for-7.

"They weren't going to let him play tonight," Nets coach Jason Kidd said. "Any time he got the ball, he was seeing double- or triple-teams . . . I thought he made all the right plays, but we couldn't knock down a shot for him."

The Nets' tandem of Johnson and Deron Williams had been playing well together in the series, but Williams had a rough game, finishing with 10 points, going 4-for-12 from the field and turning the ball over five times.

"I know I have to be more aggressive," Williams said. "I think Joe is probably thinking the same thing. The last three quarters, I wasn't really a factor. That's a big part of it."

But don't expect the Nets to wallow in misery during these next couple of days for essentially turning this into a best-of-three series.

"Can't dwell on that," Pierce said. "You get caught up into the emotions, you look back and say what you could've done. We've just got to move on.

"I've been through too many playoffs, so many highs and lows go throughout the playoffs, and you've got to understand that. So we've just got to move forward and say, 'Hey, we've got to get the next one, we've got to win on their floor again,' and that's it.

"You can't sit here and pout and moan and say, 'We should've did this, should've did that, could've did this, could've did that.' It's time. We've just got to move on."

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