Nets locked in as fourth seed after loss to Raptors
TORONTO — Deron Williams crumpled up his stat sheet and threw it away in disgust. A loss to the lottery-bound Toronto Raptors meant his Brooklyn Nets had lost their chance at earning the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
DeMar DeRozan scored 36 points, Rudy Gay had 26 points and 10 rebounds and the Raptors won their third straight game, never trailing in a 93-87 victory over the Nets on Sunday.
Brooklyn is still going to the playoffs, but could have closed to within one game of Indiana after the Pacers lost 90-80 to the New York Knicks.
“You said it,” he replied.
Brooklyn can still tie Indiana, but the Pacers would win the tiebreaker because they’re guaranteed to win the Central Division. Brooklyn is assured of second place in the Atlantic.
“We don’t know whether we’re playing Chicago or Atlanta but there’s finality for the fourth spot,” Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo said. “That’s a good thing going forward.”
Carlesimo, who acknowledged keeping tabs on the Pacers as the game in Toronto wound down, said his staff will have “serious conversations” about resting players for the final two games of the season. Brooklyn is home to Washington on Monday and hosts Detroit in Wednesday’s finale.
“We don’t need to get anybody hurt,” Carlesimo said. “We’re not playing for anything. Going forward now we’ve certainly got to rest some people.”
Williams is among those who could use some down time before the playoffs begin.
“I got kneed twice today in two different spots,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes (Monday).”
Amir Johnson had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who hadn’t won three straight since a five-game winning streak from Feb. 8 to 19.
“Obviously it means nothing for the standings or our record next year,” Gay said. “It’s just the mentality that we’re trying to start having, not giving up, working hard. This is a jump-start for next year.”
DeRozan scored 14 in the fourth quarter and finished 9-for-9 at the free throw line, converting a vital pair in the final 15 seconds. He finished one point shy of his career high, set last Nov. 12 against Utah.
Carlesimo, a Raptors assistant in the 2010-11 season, said DeRozan has come a long way in two years.
“I really think he went from good, promising young player to a very solid guard,” Carlesimo said.
Williams scored 30 points, Brook Lopez had 16 and Andray Blatche 15 for the Nets, whose four-game winning streak was snapped.
Brooklyn trailed 70-59 to begin the fourth, but a jump shot by Joe Johnson cut the gap to 74-70 with 6:08 left.
DeRozan answered with a three-point play, giving Toronto a 77-70 lead.
Williams made a pair of free throws and Blatche hit one of two at the line, cutting it to 77-75, but Gay stole an errant pass by Williams and completed a three-point play, putting Toronto up 80-75 with 4:42 to go.
Raptors guard Kyle Lowry made one of two from the line after a clear path foul and Gay hit a pull-up jumper on the following possession, making it 83-75 with 3:37 left and forcing the Nets to call a timeout.
Lopez hit a free throw and Williams followed with a jumper, but DeRozan made a 3 from the wing with 2:42 remaining, giving the Raptors an 86-78 lead.
Williams forced a steal and made a 3, cutting it to 86-82 with 1:39 on the clock, but DeRozan answered with a pair of free throws.
Joe Johnson’s 3 with 24 seconds left trimmed the deficit to 91-87 and Lowry missed two free throws. Johnson tried another 3 but missed the rim, and DeRozan sealed it with two free throws.
Toronto will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year, the longest streak of futility in franchise history, but DeRozan already has high hopes for next year, when he and Gay will line up together for a full season. Toronto acquired Gay from Memphis in a three-team trade on Jan. 30.
“I don’t see any team being able to stop us, especially if we’re playing like we played tonight,” DeRozan said.
DeRozan scored 11 in the first and Gay banked in a 3 at the buzzer as the Raptors led 24-20 after one.
Gay scored seven points in the second, two of them on an alley-oop dunk from Kyle Lowry with 3:16 left that put the Raptors up 46-26. Toronto led 51-32 at the half.
“They were knocking down shots from every which way,” Joe Johnson said. “Give them credit. They were pretty hot tonight.”
Williams scored 15 points in the third and Lopez had 12 but the Nets still trailed by 11 heading into the fourth.
“We just dug too big a hole,” Carlesimo said.
NOTES: Toronto outrebounded Brooklyn 48-38. … Former Raptor Reggie Evans had 16 rebounds for the Nets but didn’t take a single shot. … Keith Bogans started for Brooklyn in place of F Gerald Wallace, who missed his second straight game with a sore left heel. … Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas (neck) missed his second straight game. … Toronto G Terrence Ross and F Landry Fields dressed but did not play. Ross missed Friday’s home win over Chicago with a sore left ankle, while Fields sat out due to illness. … Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald attended the game.
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