TORONTO - The same guy who waxed poetic earlier in the day about what it takes to be clutch, explaining how you "can't buy it at Costco or Walgreen's" and it's strictly in someone's DNA, had the Raptors' fate in his hands once again.
A nervous din reverberated around Air Canada Centre as Paul Pierce let it fly with 24.9 seconds left and the Nets staring at a two-point deficit. But unlike in Game 1, when Pierce hit the big shots late and then let the Raptors fans know about it, he couldn't come through in the clutch Tuesday night. His potential go-ahead three-pointer clanked off the rim and the sixth-seeded Nets couldn't hold the third-seeded Raptors in check in the waning moments, falling 100-95 in Game 2.
Game 3 is Friday, in Brooklyn, with the series tied at 1.
"I got some good looks. Sometimes they fall, sometimes they don't," said Pierce, who was 2-for-11 and had seven points. "But I think tonight, it really wasn't about the offensive end putting ourselves in that position. We have to be better in the fourth quarter defensively. When you go on the road and try to steal two on the other team's home court, you have to be better in the fourth quarter.
"Tonight was our worst fourth-quarter defense in a long time . . . when you allow 36 points, so many offensive rebounds, we have to do a better job of competing on the rebounds and giving ourselves a chance."
It probably didn't help that Jason Kidd waited until there was 6:18 left to reinsert three of their starters. The bench, which played much better than it did in the series opener and racked up 30 total points, couldn't hold a five-point edge early in the fourth.
The Nets got outscored 36-29 in the fourth. DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 30 points, hit clutch shots late to seal the win. Toronto was 12-for-16 overall in the fourth.
"We can't have fourth quarters like that," Kevin Garnett said. "Thirty-six points, that's too many points for anybody. Preschool. Little League, YMC, Raptors. Too many. Fourth quarters are supposed to be our best quarter defensively. But I don't think we played our best basketball.
"Certainly, not when they let the Raptors boast six players in double figures. The Nets, who got 18 points from Joe Johnson, just simply never consistently dug in on that side of the floor.
"I thought we concentrated on our own man too much," Pierce said. "The help wasn't there most of the night. And one guy gets beat, you depend on the next guy to step up and help the next guy and so on and I thought guys stuck to their man individually for the most part and didn't help one another and that is the big part of our defense. . . . We gave them everything they wanted, 40-50 points in the paint, and 20 offensive rebounds. We were a soft team tonight."
That's probably what stings the most. "We don't feel like we played our best basketball by any means," Williams said. "We stole one here, which is what we hoped for. We wanted to be greedy and get tonight as well, but it didn't happen. We're tied at 1-1, so we have to go back and protect home court now."