After losing eight of ten, the Toronto Raptors were blessed on Sunday with the ultimate confidence boost — a game in Brooklyn, New York. Early as it may have been, the Raptors overcame the Nets with relative ease, winning 103-95.
With DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson sitting with injury, the onus was again on Kyle Lowry to perform, and perform he did. Questionable with flu-like symptoms before tip, he came out and owned the entire court for his ninth career triple-double: 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Lowry was especially effective in tandem with Jonas Valanciunas, which can often be a frustrating pick-and-roll combination. Against Brooklyn, though, it worked, and Lowry had a bunch of shiny dimes like this one to his big.
Valanciunas, who fininshed with a game-high 22 points on 9-for-17 shooting, was absolutely instrumental in the Raptors best stretch of the game, late in the second quarter.
Leading up to that was a gnarly first 15 minutes, indicative of the 12 p.m. EST start time. Both teams struggled with turnovers and missed shots early on. Carrying a 26-24 lead into the second frame, the Raptors watched the Nets go on an 8-0 run and, temporarily, plant some serious sadness into the hearts of those watching.
Ok I'm out bye everyone— Sean Woodley (@WoodleySean) February 5, 2017
After Brook Lopez took a rest, though, Valanciunas went on a tear. He put up 16 of his 22 in the first half, running the floor and making himself available for drop-off passes. It was elementary, but effective against a team like the Nets.
During this Lithuanian-led 17-5 run, the Raptors supporting wings finally(!!) made some open shots. Terrence Ross and DeMarre Carroll both shot over 50 per cent in the game, combining for 32 points. Norman Powell was more inefficient, shooting 5-for-14, but his ten points included a couple lively rim runs.
Ultimately, this meager formula — Lowry plus big guy plus shooting equals win — was enough to drop the Nets to 9-42 and stymie the Raptors free fall in the standings. The Nets gave the Raptors every opportunity to win, turning it over 16 times in the first half and 21 times in the game. They were led, as per usual, by Brook Lopez with 20 points and seven rebounds. Sean Kilpatrick had 18 off the bench, while trade target Trevor Booker muscled in 15 on 7-for-13 shooting.
On the whole, though, the Nets are still a mess while the Raptors have higher aspirations. Toronto let Brooklyn back in the game late, as Dwane Casey tried to get Kyle Lowry off the floor. With their lead down to four with five minutes remaining, though, Lowry was forced to play out the game. The triple-double is a nice result, but 40 minutes against the Nets hurts — especially when you consider the team plays tomorrow and Lowry was already under the weather.
Unfortunately, the Raptors just aren’t good enough to play the minutes game with Lowry. They still need him to be great for 40-plus minutes on a nightly basis, as DeRozan and Patterson sit out and their depth becomes more liability than asset. Cory Joseph was a non-rest DNP-CD today, the first time that’s happened in his Raptors career — a decision by Dwane Casey that shows just how devoted he is to playing guys who, in his opinion, are willing to play hard. Right now, that means more time for Fred VanVleet, who had ten points on 2-for-10 shooting in 20 minutes.
The 31-21 Raptors now return home, where they’ll await the LA Clippers for a date tomorrow night.