The Raptors got off to a solid start in Brooklyn to keep the crowd at bay early on, even building a 10-point lead at one point in the first quarter, but a lazy second quarter and start to the second half dug a 14-point hole that they could never quite erase.
Take the jump for some thoughts on the game:
- As mentioned, this game got away from the Raptors beginning in the second quarter, when they allowed a positive first frame to be nullified by letting the Nets drop 33 and only scoring 17 themselves. The bench finished with a decent night, but the second unit’s poor play in that second quarter (outside of Amir Johnson) and eight team turnovers in the second led to a malaise that carried over into the early stages of the third quarter.
- Eventually, it was Kyle Lowry, who’s quickly becoming a fan favourite in Toronto, that almost single handedly got the Raptors back into the game. Lowry finished with 28 points, eight assists, eight rebounds and three steals (he also committed five turnovers) in another sparkling performance to start his Raptors career. If there’s one thing that concerns me with Kyle, it’s that he logged 39 minutes tonight, has logged 75 minutes through the first two games, and is constantly putting his body on the line. I’ve mentioned numerous times how tough the schedule is for the Raps in November, and my concern is that Lowry’s going to be logging some heavy minutes just to keep the team in some games.
- In his first game since everybody and their grandmothers (including me) took countless shots at the four-year, $38 million extension he signed, DeMar DeRozan enjoyed one of the better games I’ve seen from him. He was aggressive on the offensive end early, mixed up his offence to finish with 25 points on only 13 field goal attempts (he got to the free throw line 10 times) and played solid defence on Joe Johnson, who finished with just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting. If this is the kind of game that DeRozan is going to bring consistently this season, no one will be left complaining about the contract, but I stress the word consistently, because I need to see this more than just a handful of times to be convinced anything’s changed.
If there’s one complaint I had with DeMar tonight, it’s that he wasn’t as aggressive late in the game as he was to start it. With as hot a night as he was having, he needs to make himself seen and heard down the stretch, and really has to demand the ball.
- One guy who I’m definitely not impressed with is Andrea Bargnani. 14 points, three rebounds and three turnovers in over 34 minutes of action was nowhere near what the Raptors needed from him tonight, and when the team did desperately need him to knock down a WIDE open shot down two points late in the fourth quarter, Bargnani came up short. Missing a crucial shot can be forgiven when you’re busting your ass out there, but not when you put forth the effort we saw from Bargs tonight.
He had stretches of the game where he locked in on defence and seemed to wake up (a beautiful high-low pass to Valanciunas sticks out, as does an offensive rebound and put-back), but overall, Andrea wasn’t good enough. He’s barely broken a sweat through eight quarters of the season so far, so he’ll hopefully have plenty left in the tank tomorrow night vs. Minnesota.
- Jonas Valanciunas was fine when he was on the floor, but he picked up a couple of early fouls and had to settle for just 12 minutes of game time, finishing with two points, three rebounds, two assists and two blocks. I would’ve liked to see him get some more burn in the second half, but Aaron Gray’s interior defence was part of why the Raptors got back in the ball game.
- Speaking of Aaron Gray, did anyone notice some of the beautiful passes he was making out of the post tonight? I honestly didn’t know he had that vision in him, though there were also a few plays that should have ended in easy buckets for him that didn’t, and that’s one of the downfalls of having Gray on the floor in tight games when you need buckets.
- Amir Johnson and Ed Davis filled out the frontcourt rotation nicely in Brooklyn, as Amir was the bench’s lone bright spot in the first half, while Davis’ seven points to start the fourth quarter really helped cut into the deficit. Overall though, the Nets absolutely dominated the Raptors inside, which was really the story of this game.
- The Raptors committed 12 more fouls than the Nets and attempted 12 fewer free throws, and there were some questionable calls, but the officiating had much less to do with this outcome than Toronto’s inability to compete with Brooklyn in the paint and their reluctance to attack the basket in the middle quarters. I actually thought the officiating on Wednesday, when the foul numbers and free throw attempts were more balanced, was way more frustrating than it was in this game.
Raptors Player of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 28 Pts, 9/19 FG, 4/10 3PT, 6/7 FT, 8 Reb, 8 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 5 TO
Nets Player of the Game: Brook Lopez – 27 Pts, 8/17 FG, 11/15 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO
The Raptors host the Timberwolves Sunday evening to cap their first back-to-back of the season, and it won’t be easy. Sure, the T-Wolves are missing their two best players, but they’re a deep basketball team who will be much more rested and fresh than this Raps team will be. It’s ridiculous to call the third game of an 82-game schedule a “must win” game, so I’ll stop short of doing so, but I remind you that after Sunday’s game, the Raptors play at Oklahoma City and at Dallas before following those games up with contests against the 76ers, Jazz, Celtics and Pacers.
I shudder to think what Toronto’s record might look like after that stretch if they can’t take a W from their next game.