I would have to agree with Masai Ujiri on that one. F*** the Brooklyn Nets.
In the low scoring, high intensity contest, the Toronto Raptors couldn’t close the deal, losing to the Nets 94-87. It’s tough to swallow the loss, however if I’m totally honest, I was expecting this. It was unreasonable to believe the inexperienced Raps would be able to come out firing on all cylinders right off the bat. They played a reasonably good game, however will certainly need to be better to even up the series on Tuesday.
There were a couple of game changers in this one. The shot clock went broke in the third quarter, forcing the ACC crew to manually read it out for the rest of the game. That had to affect the already jittery inexperienced team a little bit more than the experienced vets. It also didn’t help that the refs were absolutely garbage. Get this: Brooklyn did not get one foul called on them in the 4th quarter. Not one.
This is going to be an epic series. Heck, even Drake was firing shots.
Let’s get to the report card.
Offense – C+
There simply wasn’t flow in the offense tonight. DeMar DeRozan clearly had some playoff jitters, as the Raps leading scorer shot 3 for 13. As we touched on, Shaun Livingston is going to be a tough match-up, and this was apparent tonight. However, DeRozan will be better next game – bank on that.
The 19 turnovers certainly didn’t help. The nervousness from the whole team was evident, particularly at the start of the game.
Kyle Lowry was sensational tonight. His 22-8-7 effort kept the Raps alive, however he didn’t have too much help. Greivis Vasquez was also great today, providing a big 18 points and 8 assists off the bench.
Terrence Ross getting into early foul trouble really took away from his game. He finished with 3 points, however the Raps really could have used him on defense tonight. Amir Johnson also failed to really engage himself in this one. The Raps desperately need Amir at his best, ASAP.
Some more bench production would be nice as well. Aside from Greivis, the bench added a mere 11 points. Tyler Hansbrough needs to bring some intensity, Salmons has to be better, and considering Amir’s lackluster play, Patrick Patterson stepping up for more than 9 would have helped as well.
Defense – B+
Not a bad effort overall defensively. However, there were certainly some match-ups I didn’t like. Vasquez guarded Deron Williams for a significant portion of the game. Salmons had a crack at him as well, same with Ross. The only one that really guarded him well was Lowry, and that’s the way it should be from here on out. D-Will looked like his old self, finishing with 24 points.
Joe Johnson also poured in 24. Again, the match-ups weren’t the best here. Casey has to throw Ross on him, end of story. He’s your best perimeter defender; put him on their best perimeter scorer. Johnson absolutely torched the Raps off iso sets; it almost felt like he was waltzing into the lane in slow motion and throwing up an easy lay-in.
Paul Pierce was pretty disengaged throughout the game, however closed this one out for the Nets. He finished the Raps off down the stretch, and Patterson really didn’t do a great job contesting him. He certainly creates a match-up problem for the Raptors that will need to be resolved. I would honestly say Salmons or Fields would be the best players to throw on him, but Amir should have been given a chance as well.
Rebounding – A-
The boards kept the Raps in this one. In particular, Jonas Valanciunas’ 18 were an unbelievable boost. The Raps outrebounded the Nets 45-37, and will need to continue that trend. One thing I didn’t like was when Chuck Hayes came into the game, the Raps lost that rebounding edge. I normally like Chuck, but against a small team like Brooklyn I don’t know how useful he will be.
Game Ball – Jonas Valanciunas
No way in hell am I giving the game ball to a Net. In JV’s first playoff game ever, he drops 17 points and 18 rebounds on a future HOFer Kevin Garnett. This is the x-factor in the series, and JV didn’t have any fear going into this one against KG. He has the ability to dominate him with his length, and hopefully this is a series-long occurrence. Garnett only had 5 points, by the way. The 18 rebounds is also a playoff record for the Raptors.
Tough one to swallow, but splitting at home will be fine. The first one is out of the way – the offense should be a lot smoother from here. This was a pace that both team’s like to play at – expect that to continue. Split at home, and head to Brooklyn on a high. Don’t worry folks, the Raps got this.