The way Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd reacted, putting his hands on top of his head, you would’ve thought his team had just lost.
The Nets were on the verge of blowing a 15-point lead Tuesday night, and as Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson let a wide-open 3-pointer fly from the corner in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, all Kidd could think about was Washington Wizards center Nene’s game-tying tip-in at the end of regulation on Nov. 8.
The Nets ended up losing that game in overtime. They didn’t lose this one.
Johnson missed, forward Steve Novak's tip-in at the buzzer didn’t go either, and the Nets survived, snapping a five-game skid with a 102-100 victory over the Raptors at Air Canada Centre.
And yet, if you missed all that and just saw Kidd, you wouldn’t have known that was the outcome.
“It was more I thought Amir had a great look,” Kidd told reporters in Toronto after the game. “I thought that was the one that was gonna hurt us.”
The Nets played terrific basketball for the first 44 minutes and 47 seconds. They won the game in the third quarter, when they outscored the Raptors 26-25. Then they nearly gave it away.
With the Nets ahead 101-86 and 3:13 remaining, Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor fouled Novak as he was hoisting a 3-pointer. Novak drained all three ensuing free throws, and the Raptors outscored the Nets 14-1 the rest of the way.
“The last three minutes were almost a disaster,” Nets forward Paul Pierce said. “Against good teams, we have to be better. But at the end of the day, we needed to get some confidence and get in the win column, and this was big for us.”
With point guard Deron Williams (ankle), center Brook Lopez (ankle), forward Andrei Kirilenko (back) and guard Jason Terry (knee) all out again due to injury, center Andray Blatche and shooting guard Joe Johnson stepped up. Blatche led the way with 24 points, while Johnson added 21.
Pierce, who had gone 12-for-47 from the field in his previous four games, chipped in 16, and power forward Kevin Garnett finished in double-digit scoring for just the second time this season (12). The Nets outscored the Wizards 48-28 in the paint and shot 50.6 percent from the field.
Despite all the adversity it has faced so early in the season, Brooklyn (4-10, 2-7 away) now trails Toronto (6-8) by just two games in the Atlantic Division.
“Winning cures everything, and hopefully it can be the start of something,” Johnson said.
The Nets led 55-51 at the half. But anyone who’s watched this team play all season knows that what happens in the third quarter decides the game. The Nets came in 0-10 when losing the third. They were outscored in the quarter by 19 on Sunday afternoon.
Not this time.
“Those guys in the locker room said they had enough,” Kidd said.
“At halftime we didn’t say anything about the third quarter,” Johnson added. “We shouldn’t even talk about it [from now on].”
The Nets were desperate for a win -- and that’s exactly what they got.