Archive for the ‘New Jersey Nets’ Category

Game No. 43: Nets 98, Raptors 84

As Scott mentioned in his pre-game thread, the Nets have been decimated by injuries, and as I mentioned earlier today, if Dwight Howard is out of the short term plans, the Nets may be on the cusp of a monumental tank-job.

The Raptors looked like the team playing for pride in the first half, outhustling and easily outplaying the shorthanded Nets. The second half was a different story, however, as the Raps came out of the break flat and seemed like a defeated club over the last 24 minutes, being outscored 58-39 in the second half.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- I refuse to give in to the notion that the Raptors were simply fatigued on the back end of a back-to-back roadie. The Nets were severely undermanned for this game, were playing in front of a dead crowd and looked to be on the ropes in the first half. Instead of capitalizing, most of the players in black just seemed to quit, almost as if they were content with a game and a half of solid basketball. On the “bright” side, we won’t have to worry about the tank and subsequent lottery position with efforts like this.

2- Aside from the aforementioned second half effort, or lack thereof, if you want to pinpoint a major factor in how this game ended up in loss no. 29 for the Raptors, look no further than the bench. You will rarely see one team’s bench absolutely torch the opposition’s bench like the Nets did tonight, outscoring Toronto’s reserves 61-24. Yes, you read that correctly, New Jersey’s bench outscored Toronto’s bench by 37 points. Gerald Green (26) outscored the Raptors’ bench on his own.

3- The one consistent effort the Raptors got tonight was from Jerryd Bayless, who was solid in Jose Calderon’s absence once again. Bayless managed this game as well as he could from the point. He dished out eight assists and took just two shots in the first half, but when the Raps’ offence sputtered in the second half, Bayless became a scorer, going five-of-nine from the field and consistently attacking the basket en route to 14 second half points. Bayless finished with a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists compared to only two turnovers. In the three games since Jose Calderon rolled his ankle, Bayless has averaged 17.3 points on over 50 per cent shooting to go with 7.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds while committing just two turnovers per game. You can’t ask for much more than that from your usual backup point guard.

4- After looking like he was ready to find his groove again on Tuesday night in Cleveland, Andrea Bargnani struggled mightily and looked asleep for most of Wednesday night in New Jersey. He never looked comfortable in this game, and the final statline proved it, as Bargnani finished with 10 points on four-of-13 shooting and grabbed just two rebounds. We had to expect there would be some lingering rust considering Andrea has played just six of 32 games over a seven week span.

5- A few words on the Nets. Outside of the Cavs during the whole ‘Decision’ saga, has any other team ever faced such an all or nothing situation like the Nets face right now? On one hand, they are seen as favourites to land Dwight Howard, partner him with Deron Williams and take over the basketball world from their new home in Brooklyn. On the other hand, if they don’t acquire Howard, they also lose Williams, and end up moving into the Knicks’ city with absolutely nothing to build with going forward, aside from a 2012 draft pick and role players. It’s basically the difference between being an immediate contender or being the equivalent of an expansion team.

6- I knew that with the Knicks sputtering and the bottom half of the Eastern Conference still very weak, a few losing teams would look like playoff contenders for the time being. But I didn’t realize how much of a joke the East playoff race was until the Raptors, at 14-28, moved to within four games of eighth place with their win in Cleveland on Tuesday night. I’m on the record as a card carrying member of Tank Nation (though I want the Raptors to remain competitive, lose with dignity, throw in some upsets here and there and show me some positive signs for next season), but I still expect the players to shoot for W’s every time they step on the floor.

I was extremely interested to see how the Raptors would approach this game, as they had to realize that they could close the gap with the Cavs and Bucks playing each other tonight. Suffice to say, while they looked good to start the game, the second half effort was beyond disappointing. Again, it’s not that I want the team to make a pointless run for the eighth seed, but I was hoping to see them play this like it was a meaningful game, because to them, it should have been.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 39 Min, 16 Pts, 6-11 FG, 0-1 3PT, 4-4 FT, 4 Reb, 10 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO

Nets Player of the Game: Kris Humphries – 38 Min, 16 Pts, 7-18 FG, 2-2 FT, 21 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 3 Blk, 3 TO

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
New Jersey: Jordan Farmar, MarShon Brooks, DeShawn Stevenson, Kris Humphries, Shelden Williams

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon is questionable for tonight.

New Jersey: Pay attention, here. Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Mehmet Okur, Keith Bogans Damion James and Shawne Williams are all out. Whew.

Decimated — that’s how I would describe the New Jersey Nets’ roster right now. They’ve actually played pretty well recently, under the circumstances, with a .500 record over their last 12 games. But the understandably poor attendance at the Prudential Center hasn’t done them any favors — they’re 4-15 at home and 10-14 on the road this season.

Only having Brook Lopez in their lineup for five of their 43 games has been devastating to the Nets’ defense, as they’re dead last in defensive efficiency with 110.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. They also get out-rebounded by more than two boards per game, and they’d be a lot worse off if they didn’t have Kris Humphries pulling down 10.7 rebounds per game. Humphries has been a treasure for fantasy owners who took him in the mid to late rounds this season, complementing his rebounding with 13.6 points per game and 50 percent shooting. He’s been mostly ineffective while the Nets split two previous games with the Raptors this season, averaging 4.5 points and 12 rebounds.

Jose Calderon will probably sit this one out for the Raptors, which means Jerryd Bayless should get another opportunity to remind us how much more effective he is as a starter on the night after he dominated stud rookie Kyrie Irving. Bayless must be licking his chops at the opportunity to face off against Jordan Farmar tonight — I predict he’ll be the Raptors’ leading scorer tonight, win or lose.

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Now that warm weather is here to say, it’s time to get your bicycle out of storage, right? Just watch out for bike tire thieves.

Game No. 21: Raptors 94, Nets 73

This road trip has largely been about ending nasty streaks for the Raptors. First they ended an eight-game losing streak overall and a 14-game losing streak to Phoenix, then they ended a 12-game losing streak to Utah, and finally tonight in New Jersey, the Raptors got their first win of the season without Andrea Bargnani (came in 0-8) and ended a 14-game losing streak against Deron Williams, who had never lost to the Raptors in his seven-year NBA career.

Even more impressive, the Raptors finished a road trip of five games or more with a winning record (3-2) for the first time since November 10-18, 2001.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- A new look. Dwane Casey decided to go small and shake up the starting lineup for this ball game. Linas Kleiza and Aaron Gray were replaced by Jerryd Bayless and Amir Johnson to create a starting five of Calderon, Bayless, DeRozan, Johnson and Johnson. It’s obviously not ideal for the long term, but I do like a Calderon/Bayless back-court in certain situations and also like what James Johnson can bring to the four spot in a small lineup.

2- The altered lineup obviously worked wonders for the Raptors, as for the first time in nine games, Toronto wasn’t down by eight or more points after one quarter. Without Bargnani and Leandro Barbosa (who missed the game with a sore left ankle), the Raps found a way to shoot 55 per cent in that opening frame and looked like the much crisper team. The score may have been tied after one, but anyone watching the first quarter knew the Raptors were the better team on this night.

3- Is DeRozan back? Finally, after 14 games and three weeks of consistently inconsistent play fueled by tentative offence and lackluster defence, DeMar DeRozan came through with what might have been his best performance of the season. DeRozan scored a season-high 27 points in extremely efficient fashion, going eight-of-12 from the floor and getting to the free throw line a career-high 16 times. For good measure, DeMar added three rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block and overall, looked active on the defensive end (he took two charges). Oh, and there was this.

The big question now is can DeRozan build on this performance and become a reliable scoring option again with Bargnani shelved indefinitely? I’ll be interested in watching how he performs at home against the Hawks on Tuesday.

4- Was that really Amir? If you thought DeMar DeRozan’s impressive performance was surprising, then how about this? Amir Johnson played 19 minutes on Sunday night in Jersey without committing a single foul. Sure, he finished with just six points and four rebounds, but this is Amir Johnson we’re talking about – The guy who has been plagued by foul trouble his whole career, the guy who leads the NBA in fouls per 48 minutes and the guy who once made a comedic video poking fun at said foul trouble. Seeing him play 10 minutes without committing a foul is noteworthy, let alone 19 minutes.

On a side-note, Ed Davis is apparently trying to steal Amir’s thunder, as Davis fouled out with six personals in just 26 minutes, or one foul every 4.3 minutes.

5- As Raptors fans, we know all about the feeling of losing a game that we anticipated would be an easy W. The Nets and their seven fans have to be feeling that tonight. This is a Nets team that looked to finally be turning a corner, had won two games in a row and were just 1.5 games behind eighth place in the weak Eastern Conference. Thoughts of a three-game streak had to be in their heads, but instead, they come out and lay an egg at home against a Raptors team playing the last game of a grueling five-game road trip, a Raptors team that was 0-8 without Andrea Bargnani and was averaging only 81 points per game in his absence, and a Raptors team missing the one guy who was scoring in Bargnani’s absence, Leandro Barbosa.

These are the type of losses that separate good teams from average teams, average teams from bad teams, and playoff teams from lottery pretenders. Even with Deron Williams, that’s exactly what the Nets are.

6- I mentioned that Dwane Casey elected to start Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless side by side in this one, and the move paid off. Calderon and Bayless played 34 minutes each and combined to score 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds and 12 assists. It’s unreasonable to expect them to put up combined numbers like that every night, but if they can do it even somewhat consistently, it would stop the Raptors from relying so much on Barbosa’s scoring off of the bench.

You know it was a blowout when every Raptors player that touched the floor, even Solomon Alabi, recorded at least a plus-two in their plus/minus rating.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 41 Min, 27 Pts, 8-12 FG, 0-2 3PT, 11-16 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Nets Player of the Game: Deron Williams – 33 Min, 24 Pts, 8-20 FG, 3-10 3PT, 5-6 FT, 4 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 TO

Start time: 6:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Who Knows, Aaron Gray
New Jersey: Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Kris Humphries, Shelden Williams

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani is expected to be out until at least early February.

New Jersey: Brook Lopez, Mehmet Okur and Damion James are out, MarShon Brooks is questionable.

Man, those are a pair of pitiful starting lineups. The Nets actually managed a three-point victory over the Cavs with that lineup on Friday. On the other side, the Raptors are 6-7 this season when Bargnani is in the lineup and 0-7 when he’s not. Against the Nuggets on Friday, Linas Kleiza played the role of “Who Knows” and that led to the Raptors trailing 28-12 after one quarter. Maybe Amir Johnson or Ed Davis will start in his place today. Maybe not. Who knows? Not I.

We tend to associate solid team defense with the head coach, and yet Avery Johnson coached a top-five defensive team in the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks before coaching this year’s Nets, who are dead last in Defensive Rating at the moment. I suppose you can call that the Brook Lopez Effect, although he’s never really been considered to be a defensive stalwart. Regardless, he’s clearly the best of a bad lot on that end of the court with this team.

Random thoughts…

  • I hadn’t noticed this until Matt Devlin tweeted it, but the Raptors have been called for 499 personal fouls while their opponents have 364 personal fouls. That’s a disparity of 6.75 fouls per game, which is freaky. In fact, the Raptors lead the NBA in fouls by a wide margin — the Knicks are a distant second with 450. I feel like this merits its own post, which Joseph Casciaro will probably write.
  • Would you believe that I hadn’t actually heard the song “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO before this weekend? Hey, I never listen to the radio. Anyway, I can’t set up this video any better than the YouTube uploader does: “Ain’t no party like a Pyongyang party, ’cause a Pyongyang party is ABSOLUTELY MANDATORY.”

(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.

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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