The Raptors, with Danny Green back in the lineup, played their nominal starting lineup for the first time in over a month. Toronto held Brooklyn to just 40 total points in the second and third quarters as they put forth a dominant defensive effort to take home the 122-105 victory on Friday evening.
After a shaky first quarter it all worked out for the Raptors, as they got contributions up and down the roster. Any night the Raptors have 32 assists, you’d be smart to guess a victory. Kawhi Leonard was effective as usual, notching 20 points on 9 of 18 shooting. But it was the bench that picked up most of the slack, pouring in 60 points combined, and putting the game out of reach at the end of the third quarter. Despite a little scare in the fourth, the Raptors put forth a really solid wire-to-wire effort to pick up their fourth straight victory.
Coming out of the gate the Nets looked sharp, led by solid team defense and impressive shot-making from D’Angelo Russell. Russell finished the first quarter with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on 5-9 shooting from the field, continuing his hot play against the Raptors (new Gerald Henderson anyone?). The Raptors, meanwhile, couldn’t get much going in the first quarter besides a couple of Fred VanVleet threes. Everything turned ugly in the final moments of the quarter where, Serge Ibaka, in the span of one minute turned the ball over on sloppy pass, missed a bunny at the rim, and traveled.
The second quarter saw the Raptors playing all sorts of funky lineups trying to get back in the game. They started the quarter with three point guards — a look we haven’t seen much of so far throughout this season. Then, around the 9:13 mark, Nick Nurse went to the defensive monster of a lineup — Leonard-Anunoby-Siakam — in the front court.
Both units looked sharp, playing to an 11-3 advantage overall before Nurse went back to more traditional lineups with Ibaka at center. At halftime the Raptors led 64-53, with Kawhi Leonard’s effort standing out, as he notched 15 points with high-effort plays around the rim, most impressively charging the basket to clean up an Ibaka missed three with an artful put-back.
The third quarter had it all for the Raptors. Delon Wright made hustle plays, OG Anunoby went coast-to-coast, and Norman Powell had a few impressive transition attacks. It was the defense though that sealed the deal. The Raptors were consistently able to get stops and push the pace after halftime. Through three quarters the Nets were shooting 39.4 percent from the field, and Toronto took complete advantage of the mishaps. If not for D’Angelo Russell’s game-high 24 points, the Raptors 24-point lead going into the fourth might have been even uglier for the Nets.
With the Raptors leading comfortably, Nick Nurse unleashed the birthday boy, Chris Boucher, in the fourth quarter — although he had some trouble getting adjusted to the Raptors offense. Upon Boucher’s entrance the Nets went on a 13-0 run and cut the Raptors lead to 13 with 4:45 left to play. Nurse, sensing the turn, called a timeout and put Greg Monroe back in the game. From there on out the Raptors settled down and secured the victory.
It was a balanced attack throughout and a good victory for the Raptors. Everyone up and down the roster had moments. Kawhi Leonard was pivotal in the second and third quarter punishing the Nets in the paint — he finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists. Delon Wright and OG Anunoby had strong nights off the bench as well. Wright was aggressive attacking the basket finishing the game with 12 points while Anunoby picked up some of the scoring load with 13 points on two threes.
The Raptors have surely avenged their overtime loss to the Nets earlier in the season. These two teams meet again just after the trade deadline, where the Nets might look a little different.