That Was Not a Pretty Second Quarter
The Raptors jumped out to a 12-point lead in the first, but the Nets managed to get it down to 7 at the end of the frame. The Raptors had a chance to get it back to 9 or 10 but suffered through another poor end-of-quarter possession (a long DeMar DeRozan 3-point attempt off an isolation).
Things didn’t get much prettier from there, for either Toronto or Brooklyn, as the two teams combined to shoot 15-of-43 in the second quarter; the Raptors were a woeful 1-of-8 from 3-point range, with the normally reliable C.J. Miles going 0-for-3. It felt like if the Raps could hit just a couple shots, they’d blow the game wide open and run away with it. (Of course, from another angle, you could easily say without a few solid DeRozan floaters, the Nets were about to run away with it.)
Brooklyn ended up winning the quarter by six, largely on the strength of their rebounding (a 14-8 edge in the frame). It was certainly not any kind of victory for anyone watching the game, though.
The Raptors Bench Did Their Best to Put This One Away in the Fourth
The Raptors bench didn’t do much in the first half (2-of-12 from the floor), and the stat sheet isn’t kind to them in the second half either — but they did actually help build the Raptors lead spanning the third and fourth quarters.
It was dogfight of a third quarter, back and forth early, with neither team taking control, but the Raptors bench seemed to settle things in the final minutes. When Kyle Lowry came out with three minutes left in the third, the lead was three; it was eight when he returned with 7:45 to play (and only a Spencer Dinwiddie bomb cut it to single digits before Lowry’s return).
I can’t say there were any standouts in the second unit; Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet were fine, and Lucas Nogeira once again showed his impact quickly by blocking a shot and altering two others in the first 90 seconds he was on the floor. And, in a rare turn, Pascal Siakam hit a 3-pointer!
Of course, he also missed another five 3-pointers...
Spencer Dinwiddie, Clutch Superstar?
Someone who didn’t miss much on the night was the Nets’ Spencer Dinwiddie. The Nets’ third-year guard caught fire in the second half and OT, scoring 21 points and almost single-handedly winning the game. Only some solid rim protection from Serge Ibaka prevented him from being the hero.
Overall you really do have to respect the way this Nets team plays. Yeah, they’re made up of guys you’ve barely heard of (Joe Harris? Jarrett Allen?) and high draft pick castoffs (Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, D’Angelo Russell) with a couple vets (Jeremy Lin, DeMarre Carroll) and yet they play hard, they’re scrappy, and they can score.
In fact, they hung around this night without four of those seven players I named! That’s the sign of a scrappy, well-coached team, when no-name guys simply step up and make a difference.
The Raptors Had 9.3 Second in Regulation to Win — What Happened?
Let’s talk about the last play of regulation, score tied at 107, Raptors inbounding the ball on the left side of the frontcourt. The Raptors didn’t get a good look and the game went to OT. But...
Although it didn’t produce anything, I actually liked the play call. Instead of a DeRozan iso at the the top — the Raptor’s bread and butter — they actually had some motion on the play. A DeRozan screen freed Wright, who received the inbounds from Lowry; Lowry then screened down for DeRozan. That left DeRozan open coming to the ball, curling to the centre of the floor. Simple but effective.
Two problems though. One, Lowry didn’t sprint across to screen DeRozan’s man; it took him about 4 of the 9 seconds to get there. That’s way too long. (He did set a great screen though.)
Problem two, Wright delivered the ball to the DeRozan’s left side—away from the hoop. DeRozan had to stop and spin, which took up the rest of the time and allowed the defense to recover; DeRozan had to force a long J (airball).
If that pass had been in front of DeRozan, going to the hoop, he has an open jumper or a floater; furthermore, if he has more time, and the defense is chasing him, then Lowry is open in the corner.
I hope that the Raps’ poor execution doesn’t mean Dwane Casey goes away from this. It was a simple play, but it was a good one; it just requires three pretty basic things: Good timing/hustle; a good screen; and a well-delivered pass. Raps only got one of three.
(You could also argue with the personnel choices; Wright isn’t much of a threat from the top of the circle. Perhaps if C.J. Miles inbounded to Lowry, and Miles then screened for DeRozan, that might have worked better. Lowry is probably better equipped to make a decision with the ball at the top, and if the defense follows DeRozan, then Miles is open in the corner for three, which is money.)
The Raptors Won, But It Was Costly: Kyle Lowry Left With a Back Injury
Initial post-game reports seem positive but it was pretty scary when Lowry went crashing to the floor and, after some time on the ground in pain, couldn’t put any weight on his legs when he stood up.
Even if it is a minor injury, I suspect most Raptors fans are OK with Kyle sitting out a few games; we all know how important it is for him to be fresh and rested and healthy come playoff time. And Toronto does have a quality pair of backup guards; I’m confident they can fill his shoes adequately on a short-term basis! We’ll have to wait and hear the news on Lowry’s status.
As for the OT, it wasn’t any prettier than the rest of the game; the teams combined to shoot 6-of-19, with the free throw on DeRozan’s 3-pt play with 26 seconds remaining the difference, along with Ibaka’s rebounding and rim protection. DeRozan finished with 35 on 30 shots, not quite as efficient as his past three games, but not too shabby either; Ibaka, meanwhile, finished the game with six blocks and 12 rebounds, to go along with his 11 points.
The Raptors are back home for a matchup with Miami tonight. A back-to-back, coming off an OT road win, and an injury to their starting PG; it’s going to be a tough one for the Raptors.
And it doesn’t get any easier either, with Cleveland and Golden State in town later this week! Let’s hope the Raptors simply got their poor shooting out of the way in Brooklyn and some friendlier home rims await.