The two teams split their regular season series at two games a piece. In the last couple of games, the idea was thrown around that maybe the Nets were tanking just so they could see the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe the Raptors did not openly say they thought the Nets tanked their final two games just so they could see Toronto in the first round, but it does not hurt to use that as motivation.
Then came a final rally in Toronto on Friday, the day before the first game of the series. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri dropped the first true shot of the series by directing an expletive at the Nets and their city. Ujiri's f-bomb ended up being an extremely expensive saying as it cost him $25,000 when the NBA fined him.
Later, during an interview session at halftime of Game 1, Ujiri explained, "Wrong choice of words there." He then added, "I don't like them. I apologize."
Game 1 was intense and close throughout. The Nets pulled out a tough one as they won 94-87 in Toronto. The largest lead of the game was 12 points for the Nets. The Raptors led by four points. Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche were each handed one technical foul for the game. Joe Johnson and Deron Williams led the Nets with 24 points each. The young Raptors were led by 22 points from Kyle Lowry and 17 points and 18 rebounds from Jonas Valanciunas.
Nets forward Paul Pierce came through with a clutch fourth quarter performance as he scored nine of his 15 points in the final minutes of the game. After hitting a key basket late, Pierce yelled, "That's why they got me here. That's why I'm in here."
Following the game on Saturday, Nets coach Jason Kidd was asked about Ujiri's comments. Kidd responded with "you got to tell me who the GM is."
When Pierce was asked about the comments on Sunday, he responded with "really? I'm shocked that Bryan Colangelo would say that." Colangelo is the Raptors former GM who was replaced by Ujiri last May.
As this series continues on Tuesday with Game 2 in Toronto, things are sure to be even more intense. At the moment, the Nets' Williams does not believe that this is a rivalry. However, if things continue to escalate at the rate at which they already are, that saying could be very different in a few days. The play may get even more physical on court and stuff will certainly be said off the court.
After all, this is the playoffs. This is when the real rivalries begin.
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