Clear 39° Good Afternoon
Clear 39° Good Afternoon

Nets out-rebounded 97-67 in series by big, young Raptors

Toronto Raptors forward Jonas Valanciunas, right, vies for

Toronto Raptors forward Jonas Valanciunas, right, vies for the ball with Nets' Mason Plumlee, center, and Mirza Teletovic during the first half of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at the Air Canada Centre on April 22, 2014 in Toronto. Photo Credit: AP / Frank Gunn

It's not as if he was whistling the catchy Mister Softee tune that fills neighborhood streets on those warm summer evenings, trying to drive home his point.

But when Paul Pierce essentially called the Nets something akin to two-ply toilet paper after Tuesday's 100-95 loss to the Raptors in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series, he was pointing to two alarming areas: defense and rebounding. The former wasn't necessarily a huge problem in their series-opening win.

Wiping the glass clean? Now, that's a whole different issue.

In trying to corral rebounds, the Nets have looked like slow-footed grandparents chasing around a quintet of 2-year-olds who have eaten a boxful of sugary cereal. At times, just when it appears as if they've got a missed shot by the spry Raptors lined up, they often watch the ball land in the mitts of someone wearing a purple and white uniform.

Toronto, led by its burly pair of big men Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson, has owned the Nets on the interior so far in the series, which resumes at the Barclays Center tomorrow night. With their overwhelming 52-30 rebounding edge two nights ago, including their 19 offensive rebounds, the Raptors have clawed their way to a 97-67 advantage on the glass in the series.

"We got to be better, fundamentally sound," Paul Pierce said after the game. "They are a great athletic team. So, on most nights, our perimeter, our bigs aren't going to outjump them. We've got to put bodies on people and drive them back. They got lift with the young guy, they got athleticism with the other guy, it is tough.

"You got to be put bodies, and be fundamentally sound and we got to gang rebound with all five guys."

Sealing Valanciunas out of the lane surely also would help. At 6-11, 231 pounds, he's been a load to keep off the glass, vacuuming in 32 rebounds in the series that's led to some of his 32 points. Valanciunas' relentless nature has resulted in 10 offensive rebounds, providing a jolt of energy to a team that's been credited with 26 second-chance attempts through the first two games.

"Second-chance points [Tuesday] killed us," Kevin Garnett said. "But we have strategy and we have Ponzi [schemes] to where we're stopping obviously drivers. They are doing a good job of getting second chances and tipping the ball in."

Even before their 7-foot center Brook Lopez was lost for the season in December, the Nets weren't a rebounding behemoth. The switch that's helped spark their strong run since Jan. 1, meaning Pierce's move from small forward to power forward and Joe Johnson's shifting to shooting guard from small forward, usually has them at a size disadvantage.

This, after all, is a team that ranked 29th in the league in total rebounds during the regular season.

"This is not a new development," Nets coach Jason Kidd said Wednesday. "This is an area that we have been addressing all year, so one game is not a surprise. We have to rebound as a group, and it's something we have to get better at."

Otherwise, that rebounding disparity might not be the only deficit the Nets find themselves facing. They could be looking up at the Raptors from a series point of view, too.

New York Sports