Desperate for a win, it didn’t help when Gary Trent Jr. was added to the injury list just before tip-off with a left quad strain. Along with him, O.G. Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa were also out.
Unfortunately, they were not able to secure the win in a heartbreaking close loss against a star-studded Brooklyn Nets team.
Fred VanVleet had 39 against Sacramento. The Raptors lost by 1.— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) December 17, 2022
Fred VanVleet had 39 against Brooklyn. The Raptors lost at the buzzer. pic.twitter.com/kkdMh729Bd
The Raptors opted to start VanVleet, Barnes, Siakam, Koloko and Hernangomez. The Brooklyn Nets on the other hand started Durant, O.Neale, Claxton, Simmons (greeted by boos), and Kyrie Irving (greeted by even more boos).
Brooklyn came into this game at 17-12 on the season while the Raptors fell to 13-15 after Wednesday’s loss.
The Raptors started with lots of energy — particularly from Fred VanVleet. VanVleet scored 39 points in the Sacramento game and was outspoken in the post-game press conference about his disappointment in himself for not being able to come out with the win.
He came out with a set of back to back three’s and scored 5-7 from the field in the first quarter — leading all scorers with 12 by the end of the first twelve minutes. Siakam also came out with tons of energy, scoring six by the end of the first.
Despite a strong start from Kevin Durant, who led the Nets in the first with seven to start, the Raptors lead at the end of the first 29-19.
The second quarter started HOT with a THREE from Malachi Flynn (#RaptorNation). Malachi continued to make an impact — especially when he scored the three pointer PLUS the and-one about halfway through the second quarter.
Yet, it was AGAIN Fred VanVleet leading the charge for Toronto, and by the end of the half he had 25 points. Yes, I am a Fred VanVleet truther — but even the haters gotta admit, Fred is BACK?!
With that, the Raptors led 62-52 over the Nets at halftime.
With Fred leading with 25, the next two highest scorers were Malachi Flynn and Pascal Siakam with nine. Scottie Barnes had seven.
On the Nets side, it was just mistake after mistake — travels, offensive fouls, etc. At the half, Brooklyn had eight turnovers as opposed to the Raptors two. Kevin Durant led their team with 15 points.
The Raptors started the third quarter with a few quick fouls with allowed the Nets to catch up in score. A couple from KD and Kyrie allowed the Nets to come within one possession and the Raptors lead was gone...
It was around the four minute mark that Kevin Durant got the Nets their first lead of the night, after Toronto had led by as much as 18 in the first half.
Raptors were down 88-84 going into the fourth.
Who was it to keep the Raptors in it? You guessed it, Fred VanVleet! He continued to have ANOTHER massive performance, and despite his three-point percentage not being completely back to his standards, he has been finding other ways to make an impact.
Yet, the Raptors just could not re-close the gap in the first half of the fourth. the Nets got it up to 103-95 with six minutes left to play.
A pair of fouls against KD allowed the Raptors bring the game back within 3, and another stop on the end gave them the opportunity to bring it back — but Pascal Siakam travelled and it went back to Brooklyn...
ESPECIALLY SINCE THE CROWD AT SBA WAS GOING NUTS (thankfully — we know how the vibes can be off sometimes).
It only got more suspenseful when FRED VANVLEET hit the THREE to tie it up! Yet, of course, KD had the comeback and the Nets maintained their lead.
Scottie Barnes helped close the gap yet again, getting up to 22 points on his night. He went off in the second half and ended with 26 points three assists and three rebounds.
With another from VanVleet, tying his season high 39 point performance from Wednesday night, VanVleet takes the lead, followed by ANOTHER wild take from Scottie.
Fred Vanvleet tonight:— Ball Muse (@BallMuse23) December 17, 2022
Getting back on track after a rough start to the season pic.twitter.com/w6vXiGl0dM
BUT it was FORMER TORONTO RAPTOR YUTA WATANABE who scored the three to bring the Nets up by two with 14.1 seconds left. Isn’t that always the case? Raptors ball.
DID I MENTION THE SUSPENSE?
Scottie gets fouled with 8.0 left, goes to the line — and makes both. Game tied 116-116.
Kyrie makes the buzzer beater.
Raptors lose 119-116.
This marks the fourth loss in a row for the Raptors but it isn’t all bad. Fred’s 39/5/4 performance marks the second game in a row that’s he has reached that season high milestone.
He explained in the post-game press conference that while he does feel good about how he has played these last two games, it doesn’t really matter when they end in losses. Still, he will continue to work to maintain this level of play and set his mind to the next game.
Another positive was Scottie Barnes 26/3/3 performance, in which he went on a hot streak in the second half of the game. He was making finishes he often struggled with in recent games and things seemed to click for him a little more.
As both VanVleet and Kevin Durant explained post-game, Scottie is a young gifted player who will come into his own, on his own time. He is clearly talented — hence the pressure put on him — and we’re confident we will see him become better and learn how to handle the ebs and flows of the game as he progresses.
The Raptors will now host a Steph Curry-less Golden State Warriors team Sunday night at Scotiabank Arena.
and, despite the positives from this close loss...
it’s still just pain.