Archive for the ‘New Jersey Nets’ Category

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
New Jersey: Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Shawne Williams, Kris Humphries, Mehmet Okur

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless is probably still out with a sprained ankle while Linas Kleiza might be a game-time decision(!).

Cleveland: Brook Lopez is out for another 4-6 weeks and Damion Jones will be out with a sore foot.

The official Raptors Public Relations Twitter feed reported this morning that Linas Kleiza has been cleared to play but no timetable has been set for adding him to the active roster. I have no idea what that last part implies, but it’s good to hear that “the forgotten Lithuanian Raptor” will apparently be back in our lives soon. You know… because Rasual Butler is rather terrible.

I doubt the Raptors will need “the Kleiza effect” to beat this woeful Nets squad tonight. The Nets are 1-6 going into this game and both their offense and defense are second-worst in the NBA — they allow 16.6 points more per 100 possessions than they score. Most gruesomely, they’ve allowed opponents to make three-pointers at a 47.3 percent clip, which is far and away the league’s worst in that category. I don’t know how good they’ll be when Brook Lopez returns, but they’re terrible without him.

Random thoughts…

  • I’m having a hard time not feeling giddily optimistic about the future of this team, at the moment. In particular, I’m fine with giving Dwane Casey a five-year extension RIGHT NOW. We all agree that he’s the best coach this franchise has ever had, right?
  • What do you think the chances are that Deron Williams will want to re-sign with the Nets after this season? And if the Raptors turn out to be not-entirely-awful this season, do you think there’s even a smidgen of a possibility he’d consider signing with the Raptors?

I have no idea who made this bizarre video or what it means, but I challenge you not to laugh if you watch the whole thing.

There isn’t a lot to recommend about this game. I’m writing this as I flip between Heat-Celtics and Tiger Woods’ improbable comeback at The Masters. Earlier, I watched Derrick Rose clinch his MVP award with a 39-point game on just 17 field goal attempts against the Magic. This is an extremely intriguing day in sports, but this game doesn’t rate on that scale. The only real suspense with these teams is where the Raptors and Jazz will end up picking in the 2011 draft — in case you forgot, the Jazz have the Nets’ pick from the Deron Williams trade.

Injury report

Toronto: Leandro Barbosa, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Jose Calderon and Sonny Weems are all out today.

New Jersey: Deron Williams, Kris Humphries, Quinton Ross and Sundiata Gaines are out for the season. Anthony Morrow is questionable while Damion James is listed as doubtful.

Start time: 6:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Reggie Evans, Ed Davis
New Jersey: Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Mario West, Dan Gadzuric, Brook Lopez

Today’s pregame song is “Lost Ones” by Jersey native Lauryn Hill. Yeah, she went nuts, but she was brilliant back in the day.

Tom Hurley is an aspiring sports journalist in Manchester, UK who attended both of the Raptors-Nets games that just took place at London’s O2 Arena. This is his report from yesterday’s ridiculous triple-overtime game which the Nets won 137-136. Tom posts regularly on his Tom Hurley Sports blog and you can follow him on Twitter @TomHurley.

They may have started slow at first, unsure of how to respond during the game – when to cheer, went to boo, when’s the wrong time to do the wave; but by the time Andrea Bargnani had the ball in his hands as the clock ticked down on the last 10 seconds of the third overtime during last night’s Raptors Nets game in London, everyone in the arena was on their feet. They were screaming, roaring, clapping, stomping and going absolutely stern-fire bonkers with excitement as the climax of this never-ending game was finally upon them. As the Italian moved away from Kris Humprhies, flexing his knees before leaping skywards in an attempt to hit the game winner, every single human being in that building had fallen in love with basketball.

Read the rest of this entry »

With All-Star break and then a crazy busy game schedule and then the trip to London, it’s been awhile since I’ve checked in with some thoughts on what is going on with this Raptors team. What better time to check in than after a triple-overtime thriller (no really), in London where the Raptors fell to the Nets, 137-136.

  • While the Raptors lost and everyone is sick of “moral victories” this was a great game for the young guys on the team to go through. Huge minutes, tired bodies and minds and playing in an arena that’s foreign to them: Even though they lost, there were lessons to take away.
  • If you’re Andrea Bargnani, you hope the lesson is to drive to the hoop in crunch-time rather than taking the tough jumper that failed you in a game-clinching position 10 minutes earlier.
  • If you’re Ed Davis, it’s knowing that playing hard every single possession does matter and that even if it feels like your minutes have a cap on them, keep fighting and your coach will start to trust you and give you opportunities when it matters.
  • Some of the minutes that guys logged were pretty incredible. Bargnani played nearly 52 minutes and DeMar DeRozan clocked in at just under 54 minutes. Those are huge, especially on a back-to-back. Whether coaches and players are willing to acknowledge the issue of fatigue or not, the fact is, it’s there. As the overtime(s) wore on, you saw silly turnovers (Hi, Jordan Farmar) and missed layups (Sasha Vujacic and Farmar) and rebounds that were given away (Hello, Raptors squad). As sloppy and frustrating as it can be, despite the turnovers and miscues, it was really entertaining to watch two teams scrap and fight for a victory that didn’t mean much to the rest of the NBA.
  • Ed Davis is getting better by the game. Give the rookie minutes and he’ll produce for you. He’ll be efficient and he will make you forget he’s only played professional basketball for a handful of months already. With 12 points and 15 rebounds on Saturday, Davis was balling. Now, to work on the free throws where he was just 4-for-8.
  • It’s fun to watch other writers/fans/media around the league see how much DeMar DeRozan has improved his game. While we get to see it on a nightly basis (and even then, it’s still impressive), their reaction is always awesome, because you know how hard he has worked to improve.
  • DeRozan hit a three today. Don’t hold your breath waiting on the next one. Seriously, his last make from deep was December 1st.
  • Julian Wright did not play in either game. That’s right, he didn’t hit the court for a single minute of game time while the team was in London. I knew they were committed to seeing what James Johnson could do for them, but I’ve got to say I expected him to at least see the floor.
  • Jerryd Bayless had some spirited celebrations from the bench when he was rooting on his teammates, but most importantly he showed some commitment on the defensive end of the floor. Speaking with a few of my fellow beat writers who are in London and the feeling was that Bayless may be getting some of Jose Calderon’s minutes when the team needs more defensive intensity.
  • Speaking of Calderon, it’s amazing how much better this team is when he is a scoring threat.
  • And speaking of James Johnson, he’s doing lots of things during his time on the floor. He doesn’t have the best shot selection and he takes too many shots for my liking (at the clip that he’s currently making them, at least), but the guy is getting blocks, steals and deflections and he’s always crashing the boards. Before the Raptors left for London, Amir Johnson said how much he loved playing with Johnson because he knew he’d have another body crashing the boards. Something the Raptors don’t do nearly enough, save for Amir and Ed.
  • While it sounds as though the team was very busy during their time in London, it also sounds like they had plenty of love from the fans and an amazing opportunity. They’ll be back here sometime tomorrow and likely will practice on Monday. I’ve got a lot of stuff waiting to roll out, just need to finish a few pieces up with some quotes from some key players. Wonder if that serves as a hint or two of what is coming soon.

The Raptors were looking for a split in London, and they came out of the gate on Saturday with the energy to get it done.

I must sound like a broken record by now, but once again, the Raptors relied on DeMar DeRozan’s hot shooting in the first quarter, as the youngster poured in 13 points in the opening frame.

The Raptors seemed to have a different composition in the first quarter than they did on Friday, and it showed on the scoreboard after one, as the Raps led by seven.

In the second, Andrea Bargnani picked up where DeRozan left off scoring wise, as Bargnani made up for poor shooting by getting to the line eight times in the first half and racking up 14 points. But it wasn’t enough to close out the half for Toronto, as the Nets chipped away at the lead by nailing three ball after three ball after three ball.

What New Jersey was accomplishing behind the arc, the Raptors were trying to accomplish at the charity stripe, as Toronto went 16-of-17 from the free throw line in that first half, but failed to hang onto their lead.

After holding the Nets to just 23 points in the first quarter, the Raptors gave up an astonishing 42 in the second.

Toronto’s defence came to life a bit in the third quarter, but the real story of the third was Andrea Bargnani’s lights out shooting. Andrea carried the Raptors through the quarter, and was a big part of why the game was tied, for the 17th time, heading into the fourth.

The Raptors then jumped out to a 7-1 run to start the fourth quarter and held the lead until there was about a minute left. After the Nets had taken the lead, DeMar DeRozan converted a layup off of an incredible spin move to tie the game with about 20 seconds left. Deron Williams then missed a potential game-winning shot, and with the Raptors out of timeouts, the game was headed to overtime.

Sasha Vujacic hit a big three-pointer to tie the game with 10 seconds left in OT, and Bargnani missed a chance to win the game after that, which meant fans at the O2 were treated to double-overtime. The second overtime was awfully similar to the first, only this time it was Deron Williams tying the game for the Nets with 10 seconds left and DeRozan missing a potential game-winner at the buzzer.

Finally, in the third overtime, one team pulled away. Unfortunately, that team was the Nets, as the Raptors were held scoreless for the first three minutes of the period. New Jersey went up seven with under two minutes to play, and even though the Raptors actually fought back with eight straight points, the Nets regained the lead on a pair of Travis Outlaw free throws with about 12 seconds left. Then, for the second time with the game on the line, Bargnani held the ball for too long, was indecisive, and missed a jumper.

Marathon over, Nets win 137-136, after 63 minutes of basketball.

After both teams failed to play any defence in the first half, I thought both recovered well, and at least put an honest defensive effort into the second half and overtime. The result was a hard fought ball game between two young teams, which looked to have the crowd in London on their feet. They deserved a great game after Friday’s snooze-fest, and they got one with this epic.

No, the Nets and Raptors aren’t going anywhere this season, and their inability to close out games contributed to today’s finish, but you can’t argue the fact that this was an instant classic.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 52 Min, 35 Pts, 11-28 FG, 3-7 3Pt, 10-10 FT, 12 Reb, 3 Ast (I know Bargs came up empty with the game on the line, but over the course of the whole game, he was the best Raptor, even putting in work on the glass and taking charges)

Nets Player of the Game: Brook Lopez – 47 Min, 34 Pts, 14-24 FG, 6-8 FT, 14 Reb, 3 Ast, 8 Blk