Maybe we needed that. Maybe it was stupid to look at the standings and think "Man, we have a shot." Maybe it was nice of the Toronto Raptors to put the cautiously optimistic among us in their place. That game shouldn't have surprised me, but those 2 and a half hours just leave a bitter taste in my mouth. You have to win these games if you want to show some positive growth, and colour me disappointed at how this turned out.
Brooklyn came into this game dialed in. They were missing their two most dangerous weapons in Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, but depth was never the issue with this team. Andray Blatche plugged himself into the lineup seamlessly and absolutely wreaked havoc on the Raptor front line with 24 points on 10 of 16 shooting. The first half was a back and forth affair -- on the Raptors side, only Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan were keeping them in the game, as the Nets stayed a step or two ahead, taking a 55-51 lead into the break. The same back and forth theme continued in the 3rd quarter, as the Raptors went into the 4th frame trailing by 5; they kept things close despite being a two-man show for the majority of the game.
Of course, a bizzare lineup presented by Dwane Casey promptly extended the Brooklyn lead to double digits, and the Raptors, despite a furious comeback in the last 2 minutes, couldn't come out with the W. The last play of the game was a Rudy Gay iso to an Amir Johnson 3 point attempt in the corner. Just how you draw them up.
- DeMar DeRozan - He's still one dimensional, and he's still inefficient on the whole. But we're seeing some growth from DeRozan. He was impressive tonight and nights like these are becoming more common that we're used to seeing. 9-15 shooting, 4-6 from 3, 6 boards, 3 assists, 27 points. Stellar. Keep it up, DD.
- Kyle Lowry - When K-Low is on, he is fun to watch. This game brought back memories of that 3-game stretch to open last season, when Lowry was a complete game changer. A season high 24 points for him, to go along with 6 assists and a couple of key steals to give the Raptors a glimmer of hope. He was also a very efficient 8-15 shooting and 2-4 from 3.
- Rudy Gay - Would anyone blame me if I just copy-pasted everything people have written about him in the past? It's the same story over and over again. A thought on that scoresheet story that came out yesterday: I understand the premise in a vacuum, but when the scoresheet speaks against him game in, game out, the optics are just BAD. Rudy was terrible tonight (a big 3 pointer notwithstanding). He was 3 of 12 from the floor, and a terrible 7 turnovers. The Raptors genuinely looked better with him on the bench, the offence stagnates when he's on the court and the intensity level just seems to drop.
- Dwane Casey - This was one of the worst coached games I've seen by Casey. The Raptors were coming off an extended break and looked thoroughly unprepared. The only two players that kept them in the game were DeRozan and Lowry. Who did he trot out to begin the 4th quarter when the Raptors were down 5? DJ Augustin, Landry Fields (both of whom saw the court for the first time all game), Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, Terrence Ross. The Nets dominated the next 3 minutes and never relinquished the lead. The Raptors were down 1 with 23 seconds left. They let 12 seconds run off before fouling. When they got the ball back, the final play had Amir Johnson parked for a corner 3 while Steve Novak crashed the boards. You literally can't make this stuff up.