BROOKLYN – Memo to the Toronto Raptors: Those first two playoff games were just the warm-up act.
The Brooklyn Nets served notice Friday night in a roiling Barclays Center of what playoff basketball is all about:
It’s physical. It’s relentless. It’s unforgiving.
Led by point guard Deron Williams, who prior to the start of the series heard way too much about his Toronto counterpart Kyle Lowry, the Nets captured Game 3 102-98 to grab a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven, suddenly take-no-prisoners series.
Game 4 is Sunday night (7:00 p.m.; YES) in Barclays Center and the Raptors better send for their big-boy pants. This will get nastier as it goes along.
The Nets had opened a 93-78 lead with 4:01 left but the Raptors made a late push, closing to within 97-96 with 34 seconds remaining. Joe Johnson made two clutch free throws with three seconds left to seal the win.
Williams has gone chest-to-chest with Lowry since the opening tap. He was motivated to do so last Friday night at a dinner with Paul Pierce, among others.
Pierce’s message to Williams: Show Lowry who’s the man.
Williams certainly played man-ball in Game 3. He finished with 22 points, eight assists, two steals and terrific defense on Lowry, who fouled out with 2:31 left, 15 points and a bloody lip.
Coming into this series Williams and Johnson faced a barrage of questions. How were they going to handle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan? Just fine.
Johnson finished with 29 points and Pierce, who called the Nets soft after their 100-95 loss in Game 2, had 18. His monster dunk with 1:29 left in the first half ignited the crowd and the Nets.