The Nets overcame a slow start and pulled away from the Raptors for their seventh straight win and ninth win in 10 games under P.J. Carlesimo.
Here are some thoughts on the game…
- The obvious storyline from this game if you stayed ’til the end was the return of Kyle Lowry, both literally and figuratively. Lowry sprained his left ankle in the second quarter and it was originally announced that he would not return to the game, but with the Nets up 15 with 8:02 to play in the fourth quarter, Kyle checked back in. The result? Lowry scored 19 of his 21 points in those final eight minutes on 5-of-7 shooting, which included four made three-pointers in five attempts. Here’s hoping that the ankle is okay (Lowry was still slightly limping while shooting the lights out in the fourth) and that Kyle is back to being the Kyle Lowry we’ve been looking for.
Again, I’m not saying the Raptors need him to be a chucker or a ball hog, but they sure as hell need him to be more aggressive than he had been over the last couple of weeks before tonight.
- With 15 points, five assists and three rebounds, Jose Calderon was the best Raptor on the floor in this one until Lowry came alive in the fourth. Calderon sat the entire fourth quarter after appearing to get hurt in an awkward collision with Reggie Evans, but with Lowry already banged up and the Raptors dealing with enough injuries, letting Jose rest during the fourth was probably for the best.
- Though the Raptors actually reclaimed a few one-point leads early in the second half, anyone watching knows that this game turned for the worse when the Nets erased a 10-point second quarter deficit by closing the first half on a 24-10 run in a seven-minute stretch. It was a back-breaking run that the Raptors never fully recovered from.
- Turnovers played a big part in tonight’s result, as the Nets coughed the ball up only six times compared to the Raptors’ 13 turnovers and scored over 20 points off of those 13 Toronto turnovers.
- Another big negative for the Raptors tonight was DeMar DeRozan, who missed three layups in a 5-of-15 performance that saw him score 12 points while going to the free throw line just two times, grabbing two rebounds, recording one assist and committing two turnovers in over 34 minutes of action. DeMar didn’t bring nearly the level of play the Raptors need from him to go into a place like Brooklyn and come out with a win.
- Terrence Ross added a couple of nice highlights to boost the “Let Ross Dunk” campaign and grabbed an impressive nine rebounds in 23 minutes, but the rookie’s in a big time shooting slump right now. With his 2-of-9 performance on Tuesday (his only makes on the night were dunks), Ross is now 6-of-25 from the field over his last five games since his 26-point eruption against the Blazers. He’s 2-of-14 from three-point range during that stretch.
- Dwane Casey’s decision to start Aaron Gray in place of Amir Johnson worked well in the first half, as Gray did a good job of putting a body on Brook Lopez early, getting his hands on rebounds and moving the ball when it did find him before Amir brought some of his usual energy off of the bench. But Gray was nowhere near as effective in the second half, and it’s becoming painfully apparent that the Raptors need some frontcourt relief to help spell Johnson and Ed Davis right now, who have logged a ton of minutes since Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas went down with injuries.
Speaking of Davis, after an impressive 10-point, five-rebound performance in the first half, Ed managed just two points and two rebounds in a disappointing second half.
- In one of the more bizarre Raptors injuries of the season, Alan Anderson lost a tooth on this play and didn’t return to the game. In the nearly nine minutes that he did play, Anderson looked uncomfortable and was trying to force too much offensively, finishing with two points on 0-of-4 shooting.
- I won’t take anything away from how well the Nets are playing right now, but it’s still tough to get a read on them since they’ve been beating up on some pretty weak competition during this 10-game run (I’m aware of their wins over the Thunder and Pacers). They’re obviously a better team than what they were showing during Avery Johnson’s last days, but they’re probably also not as good as they look right now. In short, they’re a legit playoff team that can win a playoff series at their best, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re a threat to make the East Final until we see them beat some heavy hitters.
We should get a good indication of who they are over the next month and a half though, as the Nets are about to begin a stretch of 19 games that will see them play 14 of those games against teams with winning records.
- Here’s a direct quote from my pre-game thread: “The Nets are outscoring teams by an average of about 8.7 points over these last nine games and have beaten the Raptors by six points and seven points in a couple of close games earlier this season, so a line of -7 for Brooklyn looks about right.” As you know by now, the Nets ended up winning by seven, so this just serves as a reminder that Vegas knows what they’re doing.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 21 Pts, 5/7 FG, 4/5 3PT, 7/7 FT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast in 14:49
Nets Player Of the Game: Brook Lopez – 22 Pts, 6/12 FG, 10/10 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Stl, 2 Blk in 28:48
The Raptors will look to avoid losing a third straight game for the first time in over a month when they host the Bulls on Wednesday night, but if you’ve been keeping up with Chicago recently, you’ll know that’s much easier said than done.
With dates at Philly and then home to the Lakers after that, I maintain that a 1-3 week is the most realistic outcome.