The Raps needed a hot Nets team to have an off-night. It didn’t happen, as Brooklyn got scoring from players big and small on their way to a defeat of a game but overmatched Toronto squad. Worse yet, the Raps already thin lineup was damaged even more by injuries to key contributors.
Aaron Gray got the start at centre, with the hope that he might neutralize Brook Lopez. Aaron was solid, but slowing down Lopez is a monumental task, particularly when he was able to shrug off Raptor assaults under the basket to hit all 10 of his free throws. Lopez needed only 28+ minutes to lead his team in scoring with 22. After Milwaukee’s bench players smoked the Raps’ 43-7 in Sunday’s disappointing defeat, all eyes were on Alan Anderson, Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry et al to see if they would step up against the Nets. Only Lowry, with a brilliant fourth quarter shooting display, came to play.
Did I jinx the Raps by mentioning in-game injuries in my preview? Anderson had a tooth knocked out by Lopez’s forearm, Lowry re-turned an ankle in Q2 and did not return until Q4, and Jose Calderon got hooked up with Reggie Evans’ knee. Jose looked like he was down for the count, but got up and carried on, like the gamer he is.
The Raps were a little slow to get rolling, but managed to take several five-point leads before slipping. Anderson hit 2 of 3 FTs to end Q1 in a tie. Toronto then pulled ahead by 10, combining careful offense with solid D. DeMar DeRozan missed an alley-oop opportunity set up by yet another excellent Jose Calderon feed, and the momentum slipped away. The Nets started making their shots, highlighted by some fine 3-ball shooting from a Peja Stojakovic clone named Mirza Teletovic. The Raps were down four at halftime.
In the second half, Joe Johnson began to hit from everywhere, and the Raps had no answer for the big guard. The lead stretched out to a seemingly hopeless 12 points before Lowry began a one-man comeback attempt. He poured in 19 points in Q4, after it was reported that his ankle injury would see him sidelined for the duration. My respect for the man increased exponentially tonight. His brilliant effort might have paid off against a younger team. The Raps’ attempts to pressure the ball in the back court were brushed off by the Nets, who had more than enough easy buckets to never be in jeopardy.
While I’m sure Bryan Colangelo detests the idea of trolling the D-League for warm bodies, he may have little choice. Linas Kleiza may never play again, Terrence Ross’ outside shot has Gone With The Wind, Mickael Pietrus indisputably has a pulse, Jose Calderon may be hurt more than we think – the situation is serious.
The Raps will be hard-pressed to dress nine healthy and capable bodies against a tough Chicago Bulls team on Wednesday at the ACC.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.