Raptors hold off Nets to even series

Toronto, ON ( - DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points and made two big baskets down the stretch, helping the Toronto Raptors draw even in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Brooklyn Nets with a hard- earned 100-95 decision at Air Canada Centre.

DeRozan shook off a 3-of-13 shooting performance in Toronto's Game 1 loss to the Nets on Saturday by burying a pair of clutch jumpers late, with the first breaking an 85-85 tie with 2:45 left and the next extending the lead to four on the ensuing possession.

The Raptors held off the Nets the rest of the way to send this best-of-seven set deadlocked at 1-1 to the Barclays Center for Friday's Game 3.

"Brooklyn did a heck of a job on Demar in Game 1, but we made adjustments to get him open looks," said Raptors head coach Dwyane Casey.

Amir Johnson aided Toronto's cause with 16 points and nine rebounds, with Jonas Valanciunas posting 15 points and 14 boards in the Raptors' first playoff win since 2008.

Joe Johnson paced the Nets with 18 points and Deron Williams netted 15 in the loss. Paul Pierce, who scored nine points in the final three minutes in Brooklyn's 94-87 Game 1 triumph, managed just seven while going 2-of-11 from the field.

As was the case in the opener, neither team was able to pull away from the other until a star player took over during crunch time. On Saturday, it was Pierce. This time, it was DeRozan, who poured in 17 fourth-quarter points despite picking up his fifth foul with 7:13 remaining.

The All-Star guard drained a pull-up 20-footer to put the Raptors up 87-85 with under three minutes to go, then sank a tough fall-away shot moments later after Pierce misfired on the other end for a four-point edge.

Brooklyn hung tough and got within two on three occasions, most notably when Pierce converted a 3-point play with 59.7 seconds left to cut the lead to 92-90.

DeRozan then lost the ball out of bounds for Toronto's 21st turnover of the night, but Pierce missed a good look from beyond the arc on the Nets' next trip. The Raptors grabbed the rebound and DeRozan was fouled with 20.6 seconds to go, hitting both to make it a 94-90 game.

"Demar was refocused," said Casey. "He had five fouls, but he kept making free throws."

After the teams traded baskets, Pierce missed another 3-point try before DeRozan sealed it with two more free throws with 11.9 seconds showing.

"Paul had a chance to make a shot, it didn't go in," Nets head coach Jason Kidd remarked. "Toronto made stops, but Saturday we made the stops. Whoever gets the stops will win the game."

The Nets overcame an eight-point deficit early in the second half by putting together a strong third quarter, holding Toronto to 33 percent shooting for the frame and outscoring the Raptors by a 27-19 count. Williams' driving layup with 2:40 remaining in the period had Brooklyn up 65-60, but buckets by Amir Johnson and Greivis Vasquez around a free throw from the Nets' Mirza Teletovic had Toronto down just 66-64 entering the fourth.

The Raptors started off shaky, missing their first four shots as the Nets raced out to a quick 8-1 lead, but then seized control via a 15-3 run in which Valanciunas dropped in seven points and never trailed for the remainder of the opening half.

Brooklyn, which went 1-of-11 from the floor during Toronto's big first-quarter surge, battled back to pull within 21-19 at the period's end. The Nets' offense hit another cold spell later on, however, and a 12-4 spurt put the Raptors up 35-24 midway through the second.

The Nets did manage to trim the margin to 45-39 at halftime on Williams' runner in the final seconds, then strung together eight straight points early in the third quarter to tie the game at 47-47 following back-to-back layups from Shaun Livingston.

Game Notes

In the six meetings between the teams between the regular season and playoffs, neither had led by more than five points entering the fourth quarter ... The Raptors have dropped back-to-back games at Air Canada Centre just once since Jan. 1, to Phoenix and Oklahoma City on Mar. 16 and 21 ... Toronto went just 2-of-16 from 3-point range, but outrebounded the Nets by a 52-30 margin ... Teletovic had 14 points off the bench for Brooklyn, with Patrick Patterson scoring 12 for the Raptors and fellow reserve Vasquez recording 11.