(Photo courtesy of @jaysatur)

Game No. 7: Nets 97, Raptors 85

Well it took seven games and almost two weeks, but that was more like the Raptors a lot of people expected this season. After six solid games of consistent effort and all around good team play, the Raps treated their fans to 48 minutes of disgusting basketball on Friday night.

The Raptors’ offence was stagnant, their defence was incomplete and their effort was average at best. With this roster, anything less than a superb effort, and you’ll get what you saw against the Nets.

Here are six thoughts:

1- Three things went into this loss: An inability to contain Deron Williams, an inability to seal a defensive possession with a rebound, and an inability to defend the three-point line. D-Will had his way with the Raptors, finishing with 24 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals. When the Raps did look to contain him, Williams simply kicked it out to an open man on the perimeter, which led to the Nets shooting 15-of-31 from deep, as New Jersey scored 45 of its 97 points from behind the arc. As for the boards, the Nets only out-rebounded the Raptors 44-39, but it was their 13 offensive rebounds and a bevy of second-chance points that really proved to be the back-breaker. Toronto’s initial defence was more than acceptable, holding the Nets to just 38.8 per cent shooting. But as we’re all aware, initial defence means nothing if you can’t seal the deal by securing the rebound.

2- I don’t remember the last time I saw DeMar DeRozan play that poorly. It was bad enough that he didn’t have his shot (1-of-6), but DeMar just looked to be in a daze all night. As bad as his offence was (three points, three turnovers, three fouls), his body language was worse. DeRozan made an aggressive move and drove to the basket for a dunk early in the game, and when he didn’t get the foul call, he pouted and basically decided to stop attacking for the night. DeMar is too far along in his development to let calls and isolated plays like that deter his entire game. Based on what we’ve seen from DeRozan in the first six games, I’m going to chalk this one up to a bad night at the office. It happens sometimes. Here’s hoping DeMar proves me right, and comes out gangbusters in Philly.

3- One thing I was looking forward to tonight was watching Ed Davis continue to break out of the mini-slump he was in from games two-to-six. Davis showed signs of coming out of the funk in the second half of Wednesday night’s win against the Cavs, and he put up some decent numbers in this game (11 points, eight rebounds), but I still have some concerns with what I’m seeing. Most notably, Davis’ offensive game doesn’t look like it has improved at all from his rookie season. He can still pile up some points under the basket on put backs and dunks, but he’s also missing way too many “gimmes” around the bucket. Not to mention, his mid-range game and free throw shooting, which actually looked to be slowly coming around near the end of last season, seem to have regressed to their original form. I still have faith that Ed can take a big step forward in his development this season, but he’s going to have to start showing us more than what we’re currently seeing.

4- A quick note on the Nets. I realize that they just beat down the Raptors and also realize that they have a bonafide All Star (something the Raptors don’t have) in Deron Williams. But at the end of the day, this is a 2-6 basketball team that will be one of the worst teams in the NBA again this season. Brook Lopez is alright when healthy, Kris Humphries is a work-horse (16 rebounds tonight) and MarShon Brooks looks like he might be a decent NBA scorer, but really, why in the hell would Deron Williams want to sign an extension and commit an extended period of his prime to this lowly franchise? If Dwight Howard signs with the Nets outright or the Magic are pressured into a sign-and-trade with the Nets for Dwight, then I’ll totally get it. Having Superman as a teammate for the foreseeable future and playing in Brooklyn instead of New Jersey would be attractive to most young NBA stars. But outside of landing Howard or Mikhail Prokhorov giving him an ownership stake in the entire country of Russia, Williams would have to be crazy to extend his stay in Jersey.

5- As I’m sure most of you are aware by now, Linas Kleiza has been cleared to play after spending the last 11 months recovering from dreaded microfracture surgery. With three years and $13.8 million left on his contract (assuming Kleiza picks up his player option for 2013-2014), Kleiza is more than just another body. He is capable of becoming a solid option at small forward for the next three seasons, but he’s just as capable of becoming an amnesty clause option if he shows that he hasn’t fully recovered from surgery or shows that he hasn’t changed much from the player that last played in early 2011. Last I remember from Linas, he was an inconsistent chucker who didn’t seem to know his role on the court. Here’s hoping some good coaching and internal development sees Kleiza become a legit option at the three for Toronto.

6- On Friday night against the Nets, the Raptors started an absolutely brutal stretch of the schedule that will see them play five games in six nights (including their only back-to-back-to-back next week) and seven games in nine nights. In terms of strength of schedule, the only real tough opponents the Raps will get are the Pacers and Bulls next Friday and Saturday, but the sheer volume of games will likely produce some ugly basketball over the next week or so. After a disappointing home loss to New Jersey to start the stretch, I will be both surprised and thoroughly impressed if this team finishes better than 2-5 between now and next Saturday.

***

No one wants to see a performance like that from the hometown team, regardless of whether you’re thinking playoffs or leading the Tank-Nation charge. But at the end of the day, we knew there would be nights like this in a season of learning for the young Raptors. Does it suck to have to watch them go through nights like these against the equally lowly Nets? Of course, but at 3-4, this team is probably exactly where we thought they’d be after seven games (don’t tell me you expected a W at MSG).

On to the next one…

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 35 Min, 19 Pts, 7-13 FG, 2-6 3PT, 3-3 FT, 2 Reb, 8 Ast, 1 Stl

Nets Player of the Game: Deron Williams – 38 Min, 24 Pts, 6-18 FG, 1-4 3PT, 11-13 FT, 5 Reb, 9 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO