Archive for the ‘New Jersey Nets’ Category

It only took the Nets 61 games to earn their first win over an Atlantic Division rival this season, but they had to play overseas to make it happen. Deron Williams got most of the credit for his first win in four games as a Net but Kris Humphries had a monster performance against his former team, finishing with 18 points and 17 rebounds. Those of you who have been reading me for years know I was always a fan of his game.

There’s not much to say about this matchup I didn’t already write yesterday, but visit this blog tomorrow when I should have an on-scene report of the NBA/UK experience from somebody who attended both games.

Injury report

Toronto: Reggie Evans is out, Joey Dorsey is questionable.

New Jersey: Anthony Morrow is out with a head injury and Quinton Ross is out with a bad back.

Five questions

1. How many Raptors will have their ankles taped up today because Deron Williams broke them yesterday?

2. How is it possible for two seven-footers (Brook Lopez and Andrea Bargnani) to play a combined 76 minutes and only grab a total of five rebounds, like they did on Friday?

3. When Kris Humphries is a free agent after this season, do you think potential suitors will consider the effect of playing next to Lopez on Hump’s rebounding numbers?

4. Who’s the best soccer player on each team? I’m guessing Leandro Barbosa on the Raptors and Sasha Vujacic on the Nets.

5. Since Chris Paul has been struggling lately and Raptors fans have watched both him and Deron Williams recently, is the debate about which point guard is better over?

Start time: 3:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
New Jersey: Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Damion James, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez

Today’s pregame song is “Fit But You Know It” by The Streets. Using “fit” to describe a beautiful woman is something I wish would catch on over here. We can thank The Basketball Jones for helping to integrate “wanker” into our vocabulary.

Getty Images

Yup, that's "Super Fan" in England

The 17-44 Raptors and the 17-43 Nets took their “talents” across the pond to play the first NBA regular season game in Europe, and through the first few minutes, the coolest thing I saw was not basketball-related, but rather an overhead view of the o2 Arena, which is the largest dome in the world.

Alright, enough ripping on two woeful teams, let’s get to the action.

The crowd seemed to be in the game from the opening tip, as they were very responsive to various plays and even sounded slightly pro-Raptors through a television.

DeMar DeRozan continued his recent trend of starting ball games with a hot hand, as he led the way with 10 points after one quarter. James Johnson provided some solid defence early, but took a couple of suspect shots in that first quarter and was 0-for-4.

The real story of the first frame was that it lacked much excitement and that the Raptors could not contain the Nets inside, leading to a 27-23 New Jersey lead after one.

But the second quarter was a different story, as Ed Davis provided an early spark off of the bench, the Nets got sloppy and the Raptors’ offence started clicking. By the time Toronto’s run and the first half came to an end, the Raptors had erased the small deficit and actually jumped out to a four-point lead of their own at the half.

Whatever Avery Johnson (and maybe Sam Mitchell) said to his team during halftime, it worked.

The Nets came out firing in the third quarter, jumping back into the lead with a 17-6 run. But before the Nets could really start separating themselves from the Raptors, Toronto responded with a run of its own, led by Andrea Bargnani’s eight third quarter points.

The Raps took a three point lead into the fourth, looking for the first regular season win in Europe in NBA history.

Unfortunately for the Raps, their worst quarter of the night was to come. New Jersey started the fourth the same way they started the third, on a big run (20-6) to take the lead. Only this time, there would be no letup for the Nets, as the lead just kept growing. DeRozan and Bargnani tried to make things happen and start a late rally, but it was too little, too late, as the Nets picked up their first victory with Deron Williams in the lineup.

New Jersey outscored Toronto 38-22 in that final quarter and 69-52 in the second half.

There weren’t many positives for the Raptors in this ugly collapse, but DeRozan’s 30 points on 19 shots and perfect free throw shooting shone bright. DeMar hasn’t just been improving his numbers by chucking more shots, he’s become a much more efficient scorer over the last little while. And about those perfect free throws: DeRozan’s 6-for-6 night from the stripe makes him a perfect 28-for-28 over his last seven games.

Another positive was the Raptors’ bench, which dominated the Nets’ bench. Ed Davis, in particular, was solid off of the pine, racking up 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes. Jerryd Bayless, who has been struggling lately, didn’t break out of his funk with surreal (or even good) numbers, but he played great defence at the point of attack and stayed within himself, which is really all he has to do to stay on the floor.

It was interesting to see the Raptor mascot getting some love from the Brits during a break in the third quarter, for a comical dance routine that has become so common at the ACC that fans are numb to it. I guess when you have an NBA team in your backyard as long as Toronto has now, you forget what it was like to not have pro basketball around. Everything about it is probably cherished and celebrated, including mascot dance routines. And if you needed an indication of how boring today’s game was, I believe me wasting a paragraph on “The Raptor’s” dancing sums it up.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan -34 Min, 30 Pts, 12-19 FG, 6-6 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast

Nets Player of the Game: Kris Humphries – 36 Min, 18 Pts, 8-14 FG, 17 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 20 Min, 8 Pts, 3-9 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 2 Reb

Amir Johnson

The Raptors and Nets play back-to-back games in the O2 Arena in London today and tomorrow, with 3pm ET start times for both games. The Nets are 0-3 since they acquired Deron Williams on deadline day last Thursday, and while his shot has been off (.333 FG%) he’s been proving his worth as a playmaker with an impressive 15.7 assists per game average.

The Nets will be looking for their first win against an Atlantic Division rival this season, as they’re 0-9 against the Celtics, Knicks, Sixers and Raptors going into this game. While the Raptors are a half-game behind the Nets in the standings, they have a 4-8 record in intra-division games, including a 98-92 win over the Nets on December 17. Andrea Bargnani had one of his best performances of the season in the game, finishing with 32 points (including 24 second-half points) on 14-for-26 shooting, nine rebounds and two blocks.

Injury report

Toronto: Reggie Evans and Joey Dorsey are both listed as questionable to play today.

New Jersey: Deron Williams is expected to play in spite of a bruised hand. Jordan Farmar is listed as questionable while Quinton Ross is out.

Five questions

1. Do you think the Nets have a better than 50 percent chance of convincing Deron Williams to sign with them beyond next season?

2. Based on what you’ve seen from James Johnson so far, how would you compare his contributions to those of Hedo Turkoglu last season?

3. Is Stephen Graham the worst player in the NBA to get regular playing time? Among players with at least 700 minutes played this season, his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) of 4.1 is dead last, well behind Rasual Butler’s PER of 6.0.

4. Is there a team with more bad contracts than the Nets? Dan Gadzuric ($7.2 million), Travis Outlaw ($7 million), Sasha Vujacic ($5.4 million) and Brandan Wright ($3.4 million) combine for 39 percent of the Nets’ total player salaries this season.

5. Why are both today’s and tomorrow’s games in London considered home games for the Nets? Seems like kind of a raw deal.

Start time: 3:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Amir Johnson, Andrea Bargnani
New Jersey: Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow, Damion James, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez

Today’s pregame song is “Dream” by London rapper Dizzee Rascal — cool video, nice song.

Getty Images

Andrea had a certain look in his eye on Friday night...read more about it below

From a Raptors perspective, it was a frustrating game for three quarters, but you have to admit, it was entertaining throughout.

With both Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani listed as game-time decisions before hand, it was a bit of a surprise to see both players start, and combine for 73 minutes. But believe me, the Raptors needed every second out of those two.

Through three quarters of play, the Raptors were exciting to watch on the offensive end, but dreadful to watch on the opposite end. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries (yes, old “Hump” himself) were having their way on the inside, and any momentum the Raptors were generating was quickly being squashed by a lethargic performance on D.

Heading into the fourth quarter down two, a disastrous home loss to the Nets was looming.

The turning point seemed to be a timeout around the midway point of the fourth quarter, when Jay Triano could be seen laying into his under-achieving team. It was something many Triano critics have been waiting for, and it was something the young Raptors needed.

The Raps came out of that timeout a different team. They buckled down on defence (though it should be noted, that’s no accomplishment against the woeful Nets) and created scoring opportunities off of that stingy D. It was amazing to watch what could have been, had the Raptors played 48 minutes of hard defence instead of just six. The Nets would have been run off of the floor.

Never the less, Toronto picked up win no. 10 on the season, and now we turn to the usual individual evaluations.

First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way. That second half was the most impressive and dominant I’ve ever seen Andrea Bargnani. Yes, I’m aware it was just the Nets, I’m aware he’s had good games against better opponents, and I’m aware he’s dropped 41 at MSG. But I have not seen that fire in Andrea’s eyes since his days in Italy.

He flat-out demanded the ball on offence, he was locked in on D and was even diving for loose balls (something I’ve actually never seen Il Mago do before). Andrea was the total package in the second half.

I’m not sure if Sam Mitchell being in town had a similar effect on Bargnani as Apollo Creed coming back to train Rocky, but I tell you, in all seriousness, Bargnani had the Eye of the Tiger tonight, and he looked very much like an Italian Stallion.

Jose Calderon returned from his time off with what may have been his best performance of the season. 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting and 14 assists; you can’t ask for much more from your starting point-man. More than anything though, Jose controlled the offence beautifully, and you don’t need a boxscore to have noticed that.

Linas Kleiza looked good in his first start in a while, as he knocked down most of his open jumpers, attacked when given the opportunity, grabbed 12 rebounds and cut down on his “what the hell was that?” shots. I didn’t think Kleiza had earned his starting job back, but I definitely believe he has earned another start after tonight.

As mentioned earlier, it was nice to see Triano give his team a public scolding. They needed it, and I think fans needed it to believe Triano was as fed up as they were. Now there’s one more thing I ask of Jay before this Christmas: let Sonny Weems stew on the bench for a while.

Sonny did not play tonight because of back spasms, but hasn’t played well enough, lately, to warrant rotation minutes anyway. When Weems is healthy again, scratch him. See if that teaches him a lesson and gets him back to playing team-ball, because his sporadic, selfish play of late should not be welcomed back with open arms.

On a side-note, is anyone else wondering what happened to Devin Harris? The guy who burst onto the scene as one of the NBA’s up-and-coming young point guards, during the 08-09 season, has come crashing down to earth. He isn’t a horrible point guard by any stretch, but certainly is nowhere near where he was just two years ago. And if you’re thinking, “it’s no big deal, he’s still young,” then I must remind you, Harris is now 27-years-old.

Back to the Raptors.

After grabbing win no. 10 against the lowly Nets, the two-time defending NBA champions are in the house on Sunday, so the young Raps best be prepared.

If you’re looking for some positives though, know that the Raptors have played the Lakers extremely well in their last three meetings, which included the big win in Toronto last season. If nothing else, at least you know the ACC will be rocking again on Sunday afternoon.

Enjoy your weekend, Raps fans.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 38 Min, 32 Pts, 14-26 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 3-3 FT, 9 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Nets Player of the Game: Brook Lopez – 32 Min, 20 Pts, 7-13 FG, 6-7 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Blk

Goat of the Game: Sasha Vujacic – 27 Min, 6 Pts, 3-10 FG, 0-5 3Pt, 2 Reb, 2 Ast (and one bone-headed play in the final minute)

Kim Kardashian

It’s the battle for the Atlantic Division basement! OK, not really. Even if the Nets win tonight, they’ll still be a game behind the Raptors in the standings. On the other hand, if the Nets lose they’ll fall into last place in the Eastern Conference. Whatever happens, it’s a safe bet the game highlights won’t be leading any 11pm sports news shows unless Stephen Graham’s robot CPU short circuits and he starts attacking fans at the ACC.

While it’s been a disappointing season for the Nets, one happy story has been the emergence of Kris Humphries as a consistent double-double threat now that he’s finally earned a starting lineup spot in his seventh season. He’s averaged 13.5 rebounds over his last four games, but his growing stardom has a lot more to do with his new relationship with serial jockrider Kim Kardashian. I bet Hump’s rebounding prowess has improved because Kim taught him a few things about boxing out.

Brook Lopez is probably a threat to go off for 30-plus points tonight if Andrea Bargnani can’t play, but the Nets don’t really have any other daunting offensive threats — they’re 27th in the NBA in Offensive Rating (101.7 points scored per 100 possessions) and they’re 28th in field goal percentage. The Raptors have allowed their opponents to score at least 110 points in six of their last seven games, but it’s unlikely to be seven times in eight games after tonight.

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon will both be game-time decisions.

New Jersey: Damion James and Anthony Morrow are out for an extended period with their injuries.

Five questions

1. Before the season, new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov proclaimed that he expected this team to make the playoffs. Do you think he realizes yet that’s almost certainly not going to happen?

2. Is Kris Humphries stealing all of Brook Lopez’s rebounds? Lopez averaged 8.9 rebounds per game last season but he’s only averaging 6.2 boards this season.

3. Did Prokhorov trade for Sasha Vujacic earlier this week mostly so he could put the moves on Sasha’s wife, Maria Sharapova?

4. What’s the over-under on Kardashian camera time if she comes to the game?

5. Do you think Prokhorov has his own miniature giraffe?

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
New Jersey: Devin Harris, Jordan Farmar, Quinton Ross, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez

Tonight’s pregame song is “Stand Up Tall” by Dizzee Rascal. To my Scarborough crew, get paper! To my Etobicoke crew, get paper! To my Markham crew, get paper! And to my RealGM haters, see ya later!