The 17-44 Raptors and the 17-43 Nets took their “talents” across the pond to play the first NBA regular season game in Europe, and through the first few minutes, the coolest thing I saw was not basketball-related, but rather an overhead view of the o2 Arena, which is the largest dome in the world.
Alright, enough ripping on two woeful teams, let’s get to the action.
The crowd seemed to be in the game from the opening tip, as they were very responsive to various plays and even sounded slightly pro-Raptors through a television.
DeMar DeRozan continued his recent trend of starting ball games with a hot hand, as he led the way with 10 points after one quarter. James Johnson provided some solid defence early, but took a couple of suspect shots in that first quarter and was 0-for-4.
The real story of the first frame was that it lacked much excitement and that the Raptors could not contain the Nets inside, leading to a 27-23 New Jersey lead after one.
But the second quarter was a different story, as Ed Davis provided an early spark off of the bench, the Nets got sloppy and the Raptors’ offence started clicking. By the time Toronto’s run and the first half came to an end, the Raptors had erased the small deficit and actually jumped out to a four-point lead of their own at the half.
Whatever Avery Johnson (and maybe Sam Mitchell) said to his team during halftime, it worked.
The Nets came out firing in the third quarter, jumping back into the lead with a 17-6 run. But before the Nets could really start separating themselves from the Raptors, Toronto responded with a run of its own, led by Andrea Bargnani’s eight third quarter points.
The Raps took a three point lead into the fourth, looking for the first regular season win in Europe in NBA history.
Unfortunately for the Raps, their worst quarter of the night was to come. New Jersey started the fourth the same way they started the third, on a big run (20-6) to take the lead. Only this time, there would be no letup for the Nets, as the lead just kept growing. DeRozan and Bargnani tried to make things happen and start a late rally, but it was too little, too late, as the Nets picked up their first victory with Deron Williams in the lineup.
New Jersey outscored Toronto 38-22 in that final quarter and 69-52 in the second half.
There weren’t many positives for the Raptors in this ugly collapse, but DeRozan’s 30 points on 19 shots and perfect free throw shooting shone bright. DeMar hasn’t just been improving his numbers by chucking more shots, he’s become a much more efficient scorer over the last little while. And about those perfect free throws: DeRozan’s 6-for-6 night from the stripe makes him a perfect 28-for-28 over his last seven games.
Another positive was the Raptors’ bench, which dominated the Nets’ bench. Ed Davis, in particular, was solid off of the pine, racking up 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes. Jerryd Bayless, who has been struggling lately, didn’t break out of his funk with surreal (or even good) numbers, but he played great defence at the point of attack and stayed within himself, which is really all he has to do to stay on the floor.
It was interesting to see the Raptor mascot getting some love from the Brits during a break in the third quarter, for a comical dance routine that has become so common at the ACC that fans are numb to it. I guess when you have an NBA team in your backyard as long as Toronto has now, you forget what it was like to not have pro basketball around. Everything about it is probably cherished and celebrated, including mascot dance routines. And if you needed an indication of how boring today’s game was, I believe me wasting a paragraph on “The Raptor’s” dancing sums it up.
Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan -34 Min, 30 Pts, 12-19 FG, 6-6 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast
Nets Player of the Game: Kris Humphries – 36 Min, 18 Pts, 8-14 FG, 17 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk
Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 20 Min, 8 Pts, 3-9 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 2 Reb