Raptors find stopping Nets' Paul Pierce is key to victory

The Brooklyn Nets seem unbothered that the Toronto Raptors have managed to minimize Paul Pierce's impact heading into Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.

'Toronto is going to win this series:' TNT analyst Charles Barkley

Paul Pierce (34) of Brooklyn is averaging 11.0 points on 33 per cent shooting from the field against Toronto so far in the series. (Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Jason Kidd never appears worries about anything, certainly not about someone like Paul Pierce. Even if Pierce's matchup was completely one-sided in Toronto's favour in Game 2.

Pierce nearly had as many fouls as points. He couldn't get his shot to fall, couldn't keep his man off the boards and the Raptors targeted the Pierce matchup as one they could exploit.

Yet Kidd is not concerned as his Brooklyn Nets prepare to host the Raptors in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round series on Friday night.

"Paul's doing every right," Kidd said Wednesday on a conference call.

"The game of basketball is about making shots and sometimes you make them and sometimes you don't. So Paul, I think, has had two good games."

Pierce was sharp down the stretch in helping the Nets win the opener, but couldn't get it going Tuesday night in Toronto's 100-95 victory. He shot 2 for 11 and finished with seven points and six rebounds.

Worse for the Nets, the Raptors took of advantage of their size against a Nets team that plays Pierce as an undersized power forward. Toronto outrebounded Brooklyn (52-30) with power forwards Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson combining for 28 points and 18 rebounds while making 13 of 19 shots.

Johnson said after the game that, with Pierce playing the No. 4 spot, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey told him to go to the glass every time on offence and defence.

"We understand we're a more athletic team than them," Patterson said Wednesday.

"For us to get to the glass every single opportunity, we have that presents itself is what we need to do. There shouldn't be a game in this series where we get outrebounded by them."

The Nets went to the small-ball lineup after centre Brook Lopez was lost for the season with a broken foot in December and it helped them turn around their season. With Pierce's outside shooting ability, it creates a matchup problem for bigger defenders, who usually prefer to play closer to the basket.

But it creates a different set of problems for the Nets against aggressive bigs like Toronto's, who quickly put Pierce into foul trouble that prevented him from ever getting into a rhythm Tuesday.

Yet if he made either of the two three-point attempts that bounced out in the final 25 seconds, the Nets might have come home with a 2-0 lead and Kidd preferred to focus on that.

"No matter what he shot in the last game, he had great looks and they just went in and out and so there's nothing in the sense of changing what Paul's going to do," Kidd said of Pierce, named the most valuable player in the 2008 NBA Finals.

"He's a very smart player. He understands time and situation and ... there's no concern."

Pierce said after the game the Nets were soft when it came to their rebounding and teammates agreed they had to do a better job as a team of helping out on the boards.

But that was far from Brooklyn's only problem in Game 2. All-star guard DeMar DeRozan bounced back from his shaky opener with 30 points and carried Toronto down the stretch, while centre Jonas Valanciunas came up with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

It gave the impression that the younger Raptors, who won the Atlantic Division, might have too many answers for the Nets.

"Toronto is going to win this series," TNT analyst Charles Barkley said afterward. "I have not seen anything these first two games that makes me see anything different."

The Raptors will still need to win at least one in Brooklyn. They are a good road team, with a 22-19 record that matched Miami and Washington for best in the East.

"It's a new beginning, a new frontier, a new experience," Casey said of going on the road now.

"The only way you're going to get it is to go through it. I have faith in our guys and confidence in our guys that we're going to go in there, as a group, bonded together and to fight together."


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