Despite a valiant effort in the game's final five minutes, the Toronto Raptors find themselves down in their Eastern Conference playoff series, two games to one, thanks to a 102 to 98 loss tonight to the Brooklyn Nets. DeMar DeRozan led the way for Toronto with 30 points, while Deron Williams and Joe Johnson combined for 51 for the Nets.
Toronto started this one off on the right foot. With a lackluster Brooklyn crowd in tow, the Nets couldn't seize advantage early, and the Raptors held a 23 to 19 lead after the first quarter. DeMar DeRozan was aggressive in attacking the rim, Jonas Valanciunas seemed to be on his way to another very strong outing, and the momentum from their game two win seemed to be carrying over for the visiting Dinos.
But even with the lead going into the second Q, the warning signs were there.
- The turnover issues that had plagued the Raps through the first two games of the series were still apparent.
- The Raptors weren't getting many easy looks, a lot of their scoring was thanks to DeMar DeRozan's isolation play.
- And Jonas Valanciunas was saddled with two fouls and forced to the bench.
That's when the Nets took over.
Deron Williams began draining three-pointers opening up the court, Joe Johnson continued his reign of terror and by the time Kevin Garnett was screaming at the Brooklyn crowd thanks to a 12 to 1 Nets' run, the Raptors were behind on the scoreboard, and wondering what had happened.
The hope was that the club would regroup at the half, down only 49 to 45 despite the Nets' second-quarter run and their own series of miscues (including yes, double digit turnovers.) But instead, the Raps reverted into Rudy Gay ball, running their offense almost entirely through DeMar DeRozan, while failing to defend in much of a cohesive fashion at the other end.
Throw in injuries to Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas that had both limping around, and again, a less than 100% (or maybe less than 40%) Amir Johnson, and it felt like Dwane Casey was searching for options personnel-wise for over half of this affair.
When the dust cleared with about five minutes left in the game, the Raptors were down by 15, the club looked beaten mentally and physically, and most fans and media were ready to close up shop.
But not these resilient Raptors.
Somehow, a Greivis Vasquez/Kyle Lowry/Patrick Patterson/Amir Johnson/DeMar DeRozan quintet got the Dinos back in it, climbing all the way back to within a mere basket with 19 seconds left, and Patrick Patterson stepping to the free-throw line.
However Patterson uncharacteristically missed both, and a phantom foul call and ensuing Greivis Vasquez technical foul for arguing the call, essentially ended it.
The Raptors showed their fight, but now trail their series 2 to 1, and need to regroup before Sunday's rematch.
Game MVP goes to pretty much no one as even though DeMar DeRozan had 30 points, he struggled from the field and forced things far too often. Dwane Casey and co. need to make sure next game that their is a much bigger focus on screen-and-roll basketball, especially the type that involves Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson.
No STUB of the night to be handed out tonight but comment of the night goes toTrensetta:
Lots of good options, from Batman gifs to Drake "Take Care...of the ball" references but this was my top choice in the end simply because I think it echoed EXACTLY what RaptorsNation was thinking during the third and early fourth quarter.