TORONTO - Although no one cared to admit it, on either side, at the outset of the evening, Mondays divisional grudge match in Brooklyn meant more to the Raptors than the game that preceded it or the one to follow. Corey Dillon Jersey . The stakes were higher, the competition more fierce and the atmosphere was that of a playoff game - something the young, upstart Raptors have five weeks to better prepare themselves for or the result will be eerily similar. If they looked out of place in that environment, its probably because they were. Torontos starting five features a fifth-year star that has yet to make a playoff appearance. Theyre the only team currently in a playoff position that starts two sophomores and its been five years since either their point guard or power forward has experienced postseason basketball. Combined that lineup accounts for 24 games of postseason experience. Staring them down in the final minute of a one-possession, high stakes game was a Nets unit that has collectively participated in 268 playoff contests. Paul Pierce alone is responsible for 136 of them while Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko - both out with injuries - would have added another 176. The Nets took a five-point advantage into the fourth quarter and, for all their hardships this season, they had only lost one of 30 games in which they held the lead after 36 minutes. Thats the difference experience makes. The Raptors, despite a valiant effort, showed up to a knife fight armed with plastic forks. "This team here in Brooklyn is a championship-caliber team," Dwane Casey said following his teams 101-97 loss. "They know the plays to make to win games. Weve still got to learn that. Were on our way but we still have some learning to do." Although the Raptors remain the NBAs best fourth-quarter team, outscoring opponents by 158 points in the final frame this season, their late-game execution continues to be a work in progress. When ahead or behind by five points or less in the final three minutes, Toronto shoots 37 per cent, the ninth-lowest mark in the league. Theyre 15-18 in games that come down to that scenario. On Monday, Pierce hit what may have been the biggest shot of the night - a cold-blooded three to break a tie with just over a minute left and the shot clock ticking down - while the Raptors wilted in the moment. Down one, 30 seconds later, Toronto got the stop it needed, leading to a five-on-four break the other way. In the midst of a brilliant second half, Kyle Lowry found DeMar DeRozan in transition, believing he would continue to go hard to the bucket. Met by Pierce in the lane, DeRozan lateraled back to Lowry, who wasnt expecting the pass and turned down the shot. John Salmons, receiving the ball from Lowry, also hesitated on an open look from the elbow, which ultimately led to Terrence Ross fumbling the ball as he looked to salvage the broken play. It was a possession mired in indecision and it sealed Torontos fate. The Nets - 10-for-14 from three-point range after the first quarter - hit big shots and made winning plays. They looked like the desperate team, and rightfully so. Had they won, the Raptors would be sitting pretty in the Atlantic Division, five games up on Brooklyn with the season-series tiebreaker in hand. Instead, Brooklyn has pulled within three games of the division lead. "[The atmosphere] was definitely a notch higher because of what was at stake," DeRozan admitted after the game. "Theyre chasing us and were leading in the division. It was just a big game overall. Theyve been playing well, trying to make a playoff push and were trying to sustain our position so it definitely was a big game." While the loss stings, the Raptors are still in the drivers seat, controlling their own destiny with 20 games to go. "It was a disappointing loss in the fact that theyre a team thats battling us for the division," Casey said. "Theres still a lot of basketball left to play. Weve got to stay positive. Its not the end of the world. We werent going to go undefeated the rest of the way. We knew that." Should Toronto and Brooklyn share the same record atop the Atlantic when its all said and done, with the season series now even, the tiebreaker would go to the team with the most wins within the division. The Raptors are currently 8-3 with five games left to be played against Atlantic opponents while the Nets are 7-5 with four remaining. Each of those games could be crucial - including two meetings with New York in the final week of the season - for the Raptors who are hoping to win their second division title in franchise history. Sink or swim, that will be determined by what theyre able to take out of Mondays squandered opportunity. "Its a learning experience," DeRozan said. "It was a heck of a game that we can learn from and possibly could be a team we could see in the playoffs." J. T. OSullivan Jersey .Patterson marked his anniversary by proving his worth — once again.Lou Williams poured in 26 points, and Patterson drained two huge three-pointers late in the fourth quarter, as the Raptors topped the Denver Nuggets 112-107 in overtime Monday. R. C. Owens Jersey . Now, the hottest team on the ATP are pointing their sights on qualifying for the eight-team season finals in London next November. Pospisil has now established the year-end World Tour Finals as the benchmark for a breakthrough season, with Pospisil and Sock provisionally standing ninth.Lisbon, Portugal (SportsNetwork.com) - Benfica extended its winning streak in the Portuguese Liga to eight games by notching a 3-0 home win over Guimaraes to keep the club six points clear at the top of the table. It took Benfica only 13 minutes to open the scoring as Jonas got on the other end of a free kick from Nicolas Gaitan to tally his third goal in the past three games. The hosts then doubled their advantage nine minutes after the break through Ola John when his initial shot was blocked, allowing him to fire home at the second time of asking. Gaitan capped the scoring in the closing moments of the contest by scoring from close range, while Benfica kept a clean sheet for the sixth consecutive contest. FC Porto kept pace by securing a 3-0 win of its own against Belenenses as Jackson Martinez headed his team in front after 10 minutes before second-half goals froom Oliver Torres and Goebel Evandro sealed the win. Paul Hofer Jersey. . Belenenses has now failed to score in any of its last six games, leaving the club in the middle of the league table. Sporting Lisbon moved into third place after getting a late goal from Junya Tanaka for a narrow 1-0 win at Braga that keeps Sporting within four points of Porto. Lucas Joao scored a goal in each half to help Nacional to a 2-1 win over Boavista, which took a 1-0 lead inside of three minutes through Leozinho, while Simmy scored in the 73rd minute for Gil Vicente to lift the side to a 2-1 win over Penafiel. Rio Ave and Maritimo battled to a 0-0 draw, Pacos Ferreira snatched a 2-2 draw at Academica thanks to a stoppage-time equalizer from Vasco Rocha, Estoril and Moreirense finished 1-1 and Nuno Coelhos goal in the 86th minute was the difference as Arouca edged Setubal, 1-0. ' ' '
Although no one cared to
Although no one cared to