Sincerest apologies for the delayed post-game, but here we go.
The Brooklyn Nets rolled into Toronto and were able to snap their five-game losing streak in a game that came down to the wire. The Toronto Raptors were stuck 101-86 with five minutes to play, and managed to bring the game within one possession. The Nets pulled their best Raptors impression by completely imploding for remainder of the game, and squeezing out a 102-100 win on the road. DeMar DeRozan led the team in scoring with an efficient 27 points on 9-15 shooting. This was actually quite a competitive game, the Nets actually had some semblance as a team however their lack of execution that they’ve demonstrated thus far this season hasn’t escaped them just yet. Although this came down to a late frantic scramble, this was a game where the team with the most poise prevailed in the end. The Raptors still sit atop the division with 6-8 record, while the Nets now 4-10 sit a half game ahead of the last place New York Knicks.
Please excuse me because I may have to vent.
The Raptors shot 43.6% over the course of the game, meh. DeRozan carried the offensive load for most of the night. He came out strong connecting on some early three’s which did wonders for his confidence the rest of the night (I still hold my breath every time he takes a contested shot). Kyle Lowry looked great tonight, you can really see the change in his game when he’s healthy and aggressive. Overall the Raptors offence lacked consistency, as the team’s most efficient options were essentially nullified. The Raptors looked intimidated early on against a veteran Nets team. Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson weren’t able to get into a groove from the painted area, which forced the Raptors into heaving a lot of three pointers, which worked in their benefit early on.
The line-up of DJ Augustin, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Steve Novak and Tyler Hansborough used to start the fourth quarter really surprised me. But then again this is Dwane Casey we’re dealing with. The Raptors were only down 5 points, so what’s the justification for putting this combination of players into the game at this time? So many things were going well to end the third, so why mess it up? Kyle Lowry was removed with a couple minutes left in the third, why not start him for the fourth? Rudy Gay was playing poorly, however he still draws attention from the defence, why not put him out there instead of Landry Fields where he could be the go-to option for the line-up? Why ignore DeRozan for the final 12 minutes when he’s putting the team on his back doe? Why is the new and improved Amir Johnson three-pointer our game winning play? Why not put pressure on the refs to make the call at home? Why Dwane Casey, why?
Defence was not the strong suit for the Raptors tonight. The Nets came in and used their size from every position to their advantage on offence. Man to man coverage was sloppy at best, as the Nets’ perimeter players had no problem in penetrating the first line of Raptors defenders. The team’s zone still needs work as they still lack the required levels of communication to execute properly. At any point in time when your bigs have their back to the ball on defence, there’s a huge problem at hand. The Raptors weren’t able to counter the Nets pick and roll game, leaving mismatches on every switched man. Having size from all positions allowed the likes of Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce to get into their sweet spots and operate early from the post. Their half court game exposed the Raptors defence early on. Once the Raptors realized this they resorted to quick double teams, which were quickly exploited by Brooklyn’s ball movement causing rotations to break down. Julyan Stone could’ve been used in spot situations as a defender tonight, but his name was never called.
The Raptors effort on the glass wasn’t enough to match the Nets tonight. They were out rebounded 39-34, missing some crucial defensive rebounds that could’ve translated into a few more offensive possessions. The Raptors looked like a team of boys compared this seasoned Brooklyn squad as they were unable to make an impact anywhere inside the paint.
Game Ball: Andray Blatche
Game ball in this matchup goes to Nets forward Andray Blatche. Blatche had his way with the Raptors bigs tonight finishing with 24 points and 5 rebounds. He imposed his will with his size and used skill around the basket creating a very tough cover for the undersized Raptors. He was unstoppable early in the game, dominating the paint with high percentage attempts. Blatche’s play put the Raptors in an early hole, giving his team confidence to ride out the win and snap their losing streak.
Other things of note:
Kyle Lowry had a great game (24pts, 6ast). It was wonderful seeing him on the court operating like a true floor general. He no longer looks like the selfish chucker he made himself to be last season. His decision-making has improved as he’s getting others involved before he picks his spots. This was a very complete game from Lowry, the first I’ve in a long time, and is it ever refreshing.
Rudy Gay had his worst game of the season; he shot 3-12 from the field and didn’t contribute in many ways to help his team. Rudy wasn’t able to control the ball to save his life resulting in 7 turnovers and a Toronto Raptors loss. This whole banning box scores in the locker room is starting to make a lot more sense.
Dwane Casey ran a successful inbound play resulting in a Terrence Ross midrange jumpshot off a couple screens. That is called progress ladies and gentleman.