The Raps dropped a winnable one yesterday in London, England. The HQ's Sean Tepper breaks it down and looks towards this afternoon's rematch...
God save our gracious Raptors,
Long live our noble Raptors,
God save the Raptors:
Send t victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Raptors.
Remember Kris Humphries, the guy that was never good enough to be more than a seventh man for the Raptors? The guy who was shipped off to Dallas for Devean George and Antoine Wright as a part of the Shawn Marion deal?
Well then maybe yesterday's game helped jog your memory, as Humphries played a pivotal role in New Jersey's 116-103 win over Toronto, who have lost 24 of their last 30 games dating all the way back to January. The win also marked the first game that the Nets had won since acquiring superstar point guard Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz during the all-star break.
To put it simply for those of you that may have missed the game due to its 3 p.m. start time, Humphries dominated the Raptors on every level and if you don't want to take my word for it, just take a quick glance at the monstrous stat line that he posted (18 pts. 17 reb, 1 ast, 4 blk).
While he was the one of the more efficient players on the court, Humphries was not the only former Raptor that had a productive game for the Nets.
Toronto led by three points at the end of the third quarter, but Jordan Farmar hit two consecutive 3's to begin the fourth, and former 10-day-Raptor Sundiata Gaines added seven points off the bench to spark a 20-6 run that the Nets wouldn't look back from as they decisively won the game 116-103.
The thing that I find most intriguing about this game is not the fact that Deron Williams recorded his fourth consecutive double-double, or the fact that DeMar DeRozan exploded for 30 points and played one of his best games of the season. No, the thing that I found most interesting about this game was the final box score.
If someone who had not watched the game looked at the box score closely, they would be hard pressed to find a reason as to why the Raptors lost this game: they shot very close to 50 per cent from the field,they had more fast break points than the Nets and shockingly almost had the same amounts of points in the paint. And while they did have five less rebounds than New Jersey, they had five less turnovers as well.
So where did the Raptors go wrong?
To be perfectly honest, I have no idea.
Throughout the course of the season, Raptors have always seemed capable of holding their own,whether they were playing the powerhouse Miami Heat or the cellar dwelling New Jersey Nets. With that being said, the Raptors are also always able to find a way to let their opponent go on a run that is sizeable enough for their opponents to pull away, and that is what makes the Dinos one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA to watch. Their inability to play consistently on both offense and defence throughout the course of a game is what leads to their eventual downfall.
With all that being said, the Raptors take on the Nets again at the O2 arena this afternoon, hopefully looking for a little revenge as a loss tonight will make them the NBA's most losing franchise in Europe. The keys to a win frankly are no different from the ones that Franchise posted yesterday morning, ones that the Raps failed to follow through on.
But just for good measure, here are three additional things we'll be keeping a close eye on today:
1. Amir Johnson: How many times do I have to say it. If he plays well, then the Raptors will play well. At the beginning of the season, Johnson was by far and away my most hated Raptor seeing as how I felt that he was overpaid because of his immense potential and I was convinced that he would never live up to all of the hype. Then I realised that he is only 23 years old. Amir has blossomed into a good scorer as well as a solid defensive player. Since getting consistent minutes he has proven that he can be reliable starter in addition to having shown flashes dominance. Along with Ed Davis and DeMar Derozan, Amir will be a key part to the Raptors' young nucleus.
But the bottom line for me today is that if Amir plays well against Brook Lopez, then the Raptors will win. It's as simple as that.
2. The London Effect: I am a firm believer that playing one, let alone two, regular season games in Europe is absolutely ridiculous. Forget the fact that the players and coaches have to travel eight hours to get to London, and the fact that the NBA chose two of the worst teams to play at the 02 arena, but the sheer effect that the time difference has on the players brings down their overall quality of play. It's one thing to adjust to a three hour time difference when they travel to the West Coast, but having to adjust to an eight hour time difference in London is just ridiculous and was evident in yesterday's game as some of the players looked absolutely exhausted. With both teams having some time to adjust to their new and unfamiliar surroundings, look for the overall quality of play to be better, with the Raps hopefully taking advantage.
3. Timely Play: Like I mentioned earlier, the Dinos have been able to hang around for most of a game, but untimely play at both ends of the ball usually lead to their impending demise. It will be up to the Raptors to rise to the occasion and step up when the time comes, whether that means putting an end to a New Jersey run in the second quarter, or hitting a clutch basket in the fourth quarter, something the club was unable to do yesterday.
You know Deron Williams is more than capable of executing in this manner for New Jersey...can Andrea Bargnani or DeMar DeRozan step up to the challenge too?