You can’t call it a rivalry. No, the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets haven’t shared enough agony at the hands of the other to be a true rivalry. That may come. Over the last two seasons, though, these Atlantic Division opponents have had their share of great games - the last four have been decided by five points or less. Friday in the borough was another, as the Nets came out with the 114-109 win.
Both teams played exceptional offensively. The Raptors got a magnificent all-around performance from DeMar DeRozan, who had 27 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and a steal. DeRozan saw the floor beautifully and started ball movement on numerous occasions, racking up hockey assists on Jonas Valanciunas baskets, who had 21 points.
It was, of course, the other end where the Raptors lost the game.
Toronto guards were completely incapable of keeping their check in front of them, as Deron Williams was able to score a game-high 31 points and break down the defence at will, forcing slow rotations and earning easy buckets at the rim. Brooklyn had 74 points in the paint, an opponent season-high - many of them looking like this.
Please comment on Vasquez's D here. https://t.co/euo6pV9vov— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) April 3, 2015
Vasquez’s struggles on defence have been consistent with his team’s in recent weeks, but unfortunately he deserves a spotlight tonight. Part of it is being put in a position to succeed by your head coach, but Vasquez was caught standing up on defence so many times, you start to question if effort is the true issue.
Of course, we have to mention Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young as having great games. The two bigs were the top recipients of those gaudy paint numbers, as they grabbed 30 and 29 points respectively. Lopez had his figures in 44 minutes of play, as the Nets are clearly hitting the gas pedal on grabbing a playoff position, which may end up higher than many expected. They may end up (sigh) in the sixth seed, playing the Raptors.
Despite the incapacity to defend, the Raptors were able to keep this game close with some impressive shot-making by Lou Williams. Lou had 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead three with 1:41 remaining. The Nets were able to make many of the Raptors turn to Lou-esque isolation late in the game, however, so Toronto wasn’t able to maintain the efficiency of their 6 Man.
Lastly, the Raptors lost Amir Johnson in the third quarter to a right ankle sprain. This has been an ongoing issue for Amir, but rarely does he tweak the ankle this badly, or leave the game as hobbled as he was. The Raptors will have to hope he misses a short period, as his presence would be sorely missed come playoff time.
It’s difficult to diagnose this one succinctly, but the first improvement has to be the Raptors point guard defence. This era of the NBA is brimming with point guard talent, and if Toronto is unable to keep teams from initial penetration, they won’t be playing past the end of April.
What were your thoughts on this one?