The Toronto Raptors were run off the court for the second straight game tonight, this time in a 114-105 loss to the Brooklyn Nets in which the final score was not nearly representative of the team’s lacklustre effort on the night.
Much like Wednesday’s 126-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, the Raptors looked completely disorganized on both ends of the floor for long stretches, rarely able to generate a quality look or slow the opposition down at all. They immediately fell behind 14-5, and eventually trailed by as many as 36(!) points.
The Raptors didn’t quit, which is always nice, cutting that massive lead to as few as seven points in the final minute. But time quickly ran out; the energy and effort that ran through those final six minutes was nowhere to be found in the first half.
Pascal Siakam had a solid night, numbers-wise, notching 24/7/5 on 7-for-15 shooting. O.G. Anunoby added 21 points and 6 boards, and Scottie Barnes and Christian Koloko led the team with 9 rebounds apiece.
Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 27 points, and dished five assists as well. Joe Harris hit five of his seven three point attempts (and hit his first four) on his way to 17 points.
The Raptors once again did a decent job against Kevin Durant, holding him to 17 points on 10 shots, though he did grad 9 boards and dish 7 assists.
Two straight embarrassing losses is never a good thing, and the excuses — injuries, getting guys back, chemistry, conditioning, rhythm, etc. — legitimate as they may be, only go so far. The “compete level,” to use one of Nick Nurse’s favourite phrases, simply hasn’t been there the past two games.
It’s not one thing or person to blame, either — there’s plenty of it to go around. Scottie Barnes has been slumping; Gery Trent Jr. looked to bust his shooting slump on Wednesday, but was awful again tonight until a late burst. Fred VanVleet hasn’t looked like himself in a month, alternatively labouring and trying to force things. Bench production has been limited, to say the least — Chris Boucher is shooting 33% over the past five games.
Still, it is just two games, and the season isn’t yet that old. But the inconsistency from night to night is alarming, as is the dismal 3-9 road record. There’s time to fix it — and hopefully tomorrow nights’ home tilt against the Orlando Magic is the elixir they need to get back on track.
The night got off to a bit of a surprising start, as Nick Nurse threw a wrench into his starting lineup: Christian Koloko would start, and Thad Young would join Gary Trent Jr. on the bench.
One bad game in New Orleans didn’t seem to me to be a reason to bench Young, who been solid as a starter, but perhaps Nurse wanted to reward Koloko and Siakam after Cameroon’s World Cup victory over Brazil!
Either way, it’s safe to say it wasn’t the smartest move, as the Raptors looked a mess on both ends to start the game, quickly falling behind by nine. Scottie Barnes stopped the bleeding with a corner three, but Joe Harris answered with a three the other way. The Nets hit 6 of their first 8 shots, while the Raptors missed 7 of their first nine… and well, that’s pretty much the way it went all night! The Nets ended up shooting 54% from the floor, the Raptors a dismal 39% before their late push (13-for-23 in the fourth) saw them finish the game at 44%.
The Raptors oddly didn’t involve Siakam much early; he opened the scoring with a three then barely touched the all again in the next six minutes as the deficit grew. Koloko, meanwhile, had a tough first quarter, turning the ball over twice, getting his shot blocked twice, and missing an open three pointer.
And I'm pretty sure in the grand scheme of the Raptors offence, Christian Koloko should not have more FGAs than any of Siakam, Anunoby, VanVleet, or Barnes— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) December 3, 2022
Yet here we are
The Nets used a 15-0 run partway through the first quarter to build a 32-10 lead. The Raptors finally woke up, putting together a mini-7-0 run, but the Nets got it all back and more and finished the quarter up 41-17.
The lead only grew in the second, eventually reaching as high as 35 points, 69-34. Both Koloko and Barnes had better moments in the later minutes of the second, helping the Raps cut the lead to 72-49. Yes, the math is correct: It took a 15-3 run to cut the lead to 23.
For the second straight game the Raptors give up 70+ at half as they trail Nets 72-49. Second quarter was an improvement as they held the Nets to 31, but still.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) December 3, 2022
Early in the third the Raptors cut the lead to 15, and looked more competent on both ends, running the ball inside, and guarding with a little more activity — which enabled them to get on the glass more. But when the Raps had a chance to cut the lead to 12 or 13, Siakam missed a good look at the three pointer, and Barnes threw the offensive rebound away, leading to a Durant layup the other way. That sparked an 12-4 Nets run, and the Raps faced another tough climb back uphill in the fourth.
They didn’t quit, at least. In fact, they had a chance to cut the lead to 12, trailing by 14 with four minutes to go. But O.G. Anunoby forced a tough shot, and although the Raptors forced a Royce O’Neal miss the other way, Nic Claxton outrebounded three Raptors and put back the dunk, pushing the lead back to 16.
And STILL the Raptors did not quit. Trailing 110-94 with 2:37 to go after an Irving layup, the Raptors ran off a 9-0 run (seven from Gary Trent) to the lead to seven with 38 seconds to go. Alas, there simply wasn’t enough time left on the clock for the effort to affect the outcome.
Imagine how good this game would have been if there was even a dash of this in the first half— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 3, 2022
The Raptors had a slight scare in the fourth quarter, too, as Scottie Barnes tried to make something happen against two defenders, and bumped knees with TJ Warren; he limped off the court in definite pain. He returned, but the team might want to take it as a sign that Barnes needs a few games off to get his body — and maybe his mind — right.
There’s no time to dwell on the two losses, as the Raptors take on the Magic tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m.