The Toronto Raptors were heading into the matchup with the Brooklyn Nets looking a little weary after dropping four of their last five games. On the other side of the court, the Nets had been playing winning basketball despite a recent loss to the Charlotte Hornets.
After starting 4-7, the Nets have improved to 13-11 and stood in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Curiously, since Kyrie Irving has been injured, the Nets have posted a 9-4 record. Notably, Kyrie was out for the Nets, again, as was Caris LeVert, while Fred VanVleet was out for the Raptors.
Despite the injuries for the Nets, though, they still pose as a threat with Spencer Dinwiddie’s play as of late. He has averaged 23.8 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game in the 13 games without Kyrie. Additionally, the Raptors really needed a “feel good game,” as Leo Rautins put it prior to tip off, to get them out of this slump.
And, oh boy, did the Raptors put on a show.
After a slow start to the first quarter, the Raptors started torching it from deep, hitting 9-for-12 from three in the first quarter, with Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam a perfect 7-for-7. The Raptors were feeling themselves so much that Lowry pulled the trigger from near the logo and drained it.
The Nets played well, too, and kept the game close; the first with a 38-31 lead for the Toronto Raptors.
In the second quarter, the Raptors started out with a 9-0 run and ballooned the lead to 47-31. Yet, with the Nets draining shots from deep, they climbed back as the quarter went on. Notably, Toronto’s bench lost the commanding lead and the momentum from the start of the second quarter. What stood out for the Raptors in the quarter, however, was the aggressiveness of Siakam. In the previous five games, Siakam seemed to shy away from the big moment. To start this game, he was highly aggressive on offense and didn’t settle for bad shots. Ultimately, his confidence skyrocketed and led to a jab step jump shot that left even him shaking his head:
Siakam ended the first half with 25 points on 8-for-14 from the field, but the Nets weren’t left for dead as they closed the lead to 65-60 overall. The Nets attacked unselfishly with the team and had a trio of double-digit scorers at the half: Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, and Garrett Temple.
To start the third quarter, Siakam’s supporting cast started to come alive. Powell had a couple of fantastic finishes at the rim and continued his hot shooting from three. Additionally, Marc Gasol broke through both offensively and defensively and recorded his third double-double on the season. He would finish the game with 17 points and 15 rebounds, an homage to his younger years.
The Nets kept the game close, though, and were utilizing turnovers to push the ball up the floor. The Raptors were only ahead by seven, 90-83, going into the fourth quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, the Powell continued his strong game. Moreover, he had an emphatic drive to the basket for an and-1 that was originally called an offensive foul with no basket. But, a skeptical Nick Nurse challenged the call and, much to his surprise, it was actually overturned.
The dagger came with about 2:30 left in the quarter. Lowry stole the ball from Jarrett Allen and threw an outlet pass to Powell, who was wide open for an emphatic dunk. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson pulled his starters immediately afterwards, given that it was the first night of a back-to-back for them. Nurse soon followed suit.
The fourth quarter was defined by the Raptors’ relentless attack. Every time the Nets chipped away at the lead, the Raptors made the right play on the other end of the court. At the end of the game, the Raptors had forced 20 turnovers and scored 29 points off of them. The Raptors ended the night with 10 blocks and 10 steals in total.
Ibaka played his way out of his funk and ended the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds. He and Gasol were tremendous together and showcased their two-man game; it was the first game of the season in which both recorded a double-double. Siakam shone in the first half, but the other players came alive as Siakam had a quiet second half (just five points). He finished the game with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists.
The game ball undoubtedly goes to Norman Powell, who picked up the slack when the Raptors started losing steam. He finished the game with 25 points on 10-for-15 from the field. Looks like Powell’s time with Kobe Bryant over the summer has increased his confidence greatly.
The Raptors next play the stumbling Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday in Toronto. They will try to use the momentum from this game to stay on track and continue to work their way out of the mini-slump. With the Cavaliers starting so poorly and trade rumors heating up regarding Tristan Thompson, there will be plenty of talk of whether or not the Canadian will try to orchestrate a trade to his nation’s team.
We can only hope tonight’s performance was the start of a positive trend for Toronto’s shooting, one that will help them make strides back towards the top of the Eastern Conference standings.