It was definitely a weird experience, watching the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night. At about the midway point of the fourth quarter, Kyle Lowry checked back into the game — already having committed five fouls and cooking up a bit of a beef with one of the officials — to pull Toronto’s starting unit together.
The Raptors were down 13 and it felt we were right in the territory where they would make the comeback we were all waiting on. Lowry would siphon all his righteous anger into drawing charges and penetrating, Pascal Siakam would make some absurd spin move layups, Fred VanVleet might bury a shot from three steps outside the line.
Me? Worried about the Toronto Raptors? pic.twitter.com/kAvU39KhtY— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) February 13, 2020
It just never came together. The Raptors made shots in fits and spurts all night in Brooklyn, as the Nets were able to keep them at bay throughout. The home team won in all the categories you expect “hustle” to win for you — points in the paint (50-38), second chance opportunities (12-6 OREB), and getting to the foul line (25-13 FTA). Toronto, meanwhile, shot 37.8% as a team and just 30.2% from three, while committing 13 turnovers.
It seemed like the Raptors were content to take jump shots on a lot of possessions, and even though that run felt like it was always going to come — it never did. The Nets wrapped up a 101-91 win and ended Toronto’s 15-game win streak, just before All-Star Weekend takes centre stage in the NBA landscape.
Struggles were apparent everywhere, but most notably with Siakam. Missing his first four shots well short, it was clear early on that fatigue might be setting in for the Raptors’ defending MIP. He would end up making just 6-for-17 from the field and 1-for-6 from three, hitching up more outside jumpers than you’d like to see against a Nets team that generally plays four out with a centre in the middle.
To give Pascal the benefit of the doubt, his load has been much heavier since Marc Gasol left for a second stretch of games with a hamstring injury, and the Nets had the personnel to wear him down. Serge Ibaka wrassled with DeAndre Jordan, leaving Siakam to fend off weak side action that never slowed down for Brooklyn. The Nets were attacking the paint at any time possible, led by Caris LeVert, who had 20 points on 20 shots, adding seven rebounds, four assists, and four steals.
LeVert played bully ball when guarded by Fred VanVleet throughout the game, which was a smart tactic with his size advantage, and it paid off with six or seven easy hoops. He was supported by 19 points from Joe Harris (2-for-5 from three), 17 points from Spencer Dinwiddie, and ten points each from the -arrett twins — Jarrett Allen and Garrett Temple.
The Raptors were led by Ibaka, who was the only player besides Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (2-for-3) who shot better than 50% from the field, draining 10-of-17 looks including 5-for-10 from three to score 28 points.
Kyle Lowry had a triple-double in support with 12 points, 12 assists, and 11 rebounds, but shot just 4-for-13 and — while playing well in stretches — didn’t push Toronto over the top in this one.
Bench play was another Achilles heel for the Raptors, as they scored just nine points to Brooklyn’s 17.
After the All-Star break, the 40-15 Raptors will host the Phoenix Suns on February 21.