Starting Five: Where were the veterans?

TORONTO -- Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were brought in to lead the Nets to a championship.

But in the team's most important game to date, the two veterans with all that playoff experience were mere bystanders at the end.

Down by 22 to start the fourth, Jason Kidd rode a group of five that did not include his two biggest names for the entire quarter. The move nearly worked, as the Nets tied the game late and had an opportunity to win or tie at the end before falling 115-113 to the Raptors in Game 5.

“I thought the guys on the floor were fighting and they got us back in the game,” Kidd said. “I asked [if] they were tired and those guys weren’t tired, so they wanted to continue to keep playing. So it was more of a rhythm. The guys were knocking down shots.”

Kidd rode a five that included Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Mirza Teletovic, Alan Anderson and Andray Blatche for pretty much the entire fourth. The only other Nets to play in the last frame were Shaun Livingston and Andrei Kirilenko, who came in for the final 8 seconds each.

Pierce and Garnett said they had no problems with Kidd’s decision.

“I really wasn’t thinking about it,” Pierce said of not playing in the fourth. “I was on the sideline cheering on my teammates, they did a lovely job of getting back in the game and giving us a chance and that was the unit that was out there.

“They deserved to be out there to give us a chance, a shot at winning it,” Pierce added. “While we are on the sideline, we have full confidence in them.”

Pierce scored 10 points in 24 minutes while Garnett had four points in 12 minutes.

“I thought that group in there was going,” Garnett said. “I think it’s the best team and best group to play, they had the best momentum ... I like the way we fought back.”

Kidd’s plan nearly worked, but Blatche ended up throwing the ball away with under four seconds left in an attempt to get it to Williams for a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the top of the key.

“When you have guys playing the way they did and fighting, you’ve got to leave those guys out there,” Kidd said.

Up now: Having thrown away Game 5, the Nets now try to avoid becoming one very expensive first-round bust.

Net fact: The Nets allowed Toronto to score 34 points in the second quarter. It was the fourth time the Raptors have scored 30 or more in a quarter in this series.

What’s next: The Nets try to stay alive in Game 6 in Brooklyn on Friday night.

Net question: Would you have stayed with the same five during the fourth or brought Garnett and Pierce back in?