The Toronto Raptors got the start they wanted against the Brooklyn Nets, but not the finish. A near-perfect Q1, in which Terrence Ross showed the world how good he can be and the Raps took an 11-point lead, was followed by 36 minutes of smash-mouth ball. The veteran Nets made the adjustments and hit their critical 3-balls; the Raps didn’t, and the result was a disappointing Toronto loss.
The fourth quarter was as fraught with tension as any our team has played this season. Perhaps the play which tipped the balance the wrong way was a 5-second in-bounding violation called on DeMar DeRozan with the Raps down a point. A Paul Pierce 3-ball and a turnover later, the Raps were down 5. They still wouldn’t die, and even took the lead again before another Pierce long ball (curse that guy) pushed the home team ahead for good. An too-hasty 3-ball by Kyle with 10 seconds to play was our last gasp.
This game was a playoff preview, as well as one with Atlantic Division title implications, and both teams came to play. With Patrick Patterson injured, the Raps needed their other power forwards to step up, and they did. The recently-slumping Tyler Hansbrough snapped out of it, scoring 16 points. He was his usual bothersome self under the boards, and was sent to the free throw line 10 times as a result. That was 2 more trips than DeRozan (who’s had better nights), which I doubt has ever happened. Amir Johnson rumbled down the lane for 16 of his own, finishing deftly near the hoop. Jonas Valanciunas lost a lot of minutes to the other bigs, and could only manage 6 points. Kyle Lowry was all over the scoresheet, with 21 points and 8 rebounds, and took a bunch of charges by the aggressive Nets.
Brooklyn got the best game I’ve ever seen Shaun Livingston play. He consistently penetrated the paint for pull-up jumpers, and is too long for Kyle to bother when he goes up to shoot. Deron Williams also gave the Raps grief, hitting 4 of 7 from beyond the arc to match Livingston’s 18 points. Alan Anderson haunted his former team with 11.
Coach Dwane Casey can be stubborn about maintaining his rotation, and I think it cost the Raps on this night. Ross was lighting up the Nets early, scoring 12 of the Raps’ 30 points in Q1. He then sat down, as is Casey’s pattern. Why the hot hand was not allowed to stay on the floor is beyond my comprehension. Ross had no shots in Q2, was ignored on offense when he did return to the game, and was scoreless in the second half.
Ultimately this game was lost beyond the arc. The 3-ball is critical for Toronto, and making only 6 of 23 tries is an almost-certain route to defeat.
The Raptors are home to the scuffling Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.