With the voting period almost up, the talk of the NBA is on All-Star Game selections. While some are praising a piping hot DeMar DeRozan, the consensus is the correct one: the Toronto Raptors go as far as Kyle Lowry allows them. Lowry anchors the team’s best units, he’s sensational on both ends, and he’s Toronto’s beating heart (to use a cliché).
That’s why, even against the eight win Brooklyn Nets, there was naturally some doubt about the Raptors as Dwane Casey made the decision to rest Lowry on the front end of a back-to-back. In his stead, Cory Joseph got his first start of the season, and responded in an unexpected way — he put together a career night.
Joseph did a Lowry imitation, with 33 points, four assists and four rebounds. His efforts, along with 36 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists from the de facto leader DeRozan, helped the Raptors beat the Nets for the second time in five nights, 119-109.
Joseph’s night came on 15-for-22 shooting, and he was relentless in his attacks to the basket. With downhill momentum, he made a number of circus layups. When those weren’t available, he dropped a couple shiny dimes. It was everything working at the same time for the Raptors backup point guard, which was a nice surprise. Not surprising, meanwhile, was the performance of the guy next to him in DeRozan.
DeRozan’s 36 points is his 21st game of the season over the 30-point mark, second in the league behind Russell Westbrook. It was also the rare occasion where DeRozan led the team in all three major statistical categories, as his 11 rebounds outpaced all the Raptors bigs and his six assists accounted for a third of the team’s 18. Yes, DeMar doddled on the defensive end tonight. Against the likes of Bojan Bogdanovic and Caris LeVert, though, it’s hard to blame him.
In support of their two studs, the Raptors’ supporting cast shot the ball well from deep. DeMarre Carroll hit three of his four tries, continuing a good stretch of games with nine points. Terrence Ross had three makes from deep as well, as the Raptors shot 10-for-19 as a team with the long ball.
Of course, the Nets were not so fortunate. Now 8-33, Brooklyn has seen the long ball treat them like a hot girl in college — nice to think about, but never attainable. They continue to shoot with desperation, but miss in big numbers. The Nets were 7-for-26 on three pointers in this game, and that discrepancy between the two teams was enough to decide the game.
The lone bright spot for Brooklyn, as it usually is, was Brook Lopez. The centre continued his habit of dominating Jonas Valanciunas in the paint, as he scored 28 points and added eight boards.
Valanciunas had a quiet seven point, ten rebound effort in response, as the frontcourt around him continues to be in flux. Tonight’s starter at power forward was Lucas Nogueira, filling in for Patrick Patterson, but he left in the first half with blurred vision and concussion symptoms after receiving an elbow from Trevor Booker.
Lucas Nogueria has blurred vision in his left eye. Will not return. Will be reexamined after tonight's game. #rtz— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) January 18, 2017
While a nation hoped for Nogueira and Patterson’s health, Pascal Siakam filled out minutes. His four points was nothing to write home about, but Siakam did violently block three Nets shots — good enough for a highlight reel.
Feeling good, the 28-13 Raptors will head to Philadelphia to take on the Sixers, who have won four of their last five. I will not, against all temptation, end this recap on a process joke.
Thoughts on this win over Brooklyn?