The Toronto Raptors arrived in Brooklyn looking to put Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee behind them. They were in Brooklyn playing a Nets team with an 8-1 record under interm head coach, PJ Carlesimo.
Aaron Gray returned from injury and was jettisoned right into the starting lineup. One gets the feeling that Dwane Casey wanted a bigger body to throw at Brook Lopez, who has been on a roll as of late. Amir Johnson would be able to come off the bench and wouldn’t get himself into foul trouble when dealing with Lopez.
Gray was fairly active early on, as he was getting in the way of Lopez and always looking to facilitate the basketball to the open man. All of a sudden time seemed to freeze and Gray treated viewers to, quite possibly, the highlight of his time as a Toronto Raptor. Anyone who was watching this game is never going to forget where they were when they saw this:
Yes, Aaron Gray posterized Reggie Evans.
Ed Davis let out a Chris Bosh-like war cry and it fired up the entire team and it looked like we had a real contest on our hands.
Toronto started the game strongly yet again but weren’t doing much in the way of defending. Other than Aaron Gray breaking Twitter, nothing notable really happened in the first half. Ed Davis, Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson didn’t do anything incredibly out of the ordinary and were their usual, reliable selves. Kyle Lowry sprained his left ankle midway through the second quarter, but that wouldn't prove to be the end of his evening.
Toronto got absolutely nothing out of their wing positions though and that ultimately proved to be their downfall. The only swingman who came to play was Landry Fields, as he had one of his better games in a Raptors’ uniform. He led the team with over 40 minutes and finished with 8 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. He even managed to, relatively speaking, play decent defence on Joe Johnson and were it not for the lackadaisical finishing of one DeMar DeRozan he surely would have had a couple of more assists. DeRozan looked out of sorts and shot 5/15 on the night. He missed a few "easy" buckets and there were a couple of instances where some calls could have gone his way but didn't. He's been in a bit of a funk since the turn of the year and he'll need to raise his level of play if this team is serious about challenging for a playoff spot.
The game was slipping out of Toronto’s grasp when Kyle Lowry, who was reportedly begging assistant coaches to let him back in the game, stepped onto the court late in the fourth quarter. He entered the game at a point where it all but seemed over and almost brought the Raptors within touching distance of a two-possession finale. He was clearly given the mandate to score the basketball and he reverted to his early-season self, giving fans the kind of performance they've been waiting for, seemingly for months now.
Lowry set a team record for scoring at least 20 points with the fewest minutes played and definitely made an impression.
However it’s important to provide some context before reading too much into his scoring explosion. It was, for analytical purposes, garbage time and the Nets seemed to be comfortable letting things ride out. MarShon Brooks, CJ Watson and Andray Blatche were all on the court and, at this point in time, lockdown defence wasn’t at the top of their respective minds. Most of these shots wouldn't be classified as good shots during the course of an NBA game and his scoring outbreak was somewhat circumstantial. It will therefore be interesting to see how the events of Tuesday impact Casey’s team selection and rotation for tonight’s match against the Chicago Bulls.