Toronto dropped their final In-Season Tournament game to the Brooklyn Nets 115-103.
Toronto’s been eliminated from NBA Cup contention since before their past IST matchup against Chicago, but had the ability to play spoiler for the Nets who were still looking to qualify. With a plethora of scenarios up in the air, the main points were that Brooklyn needed to win, and win by a lot to stay in contention. In the end, they came out of this one with one of those two aspects.
Despite the final score ending with Brooklyn up by 12, this was a close, back and forth matchup for about 46 of 48 minutes. Basketball is a game of runs, and these teams exchanged runs all game long until Brooklyn got the last laugh.
The first run of the game went to both team’s defences, as no one made a basket for the opening 1:30. Toronto took another minute before their first field goal, and both teams exchanged various misses as the score was 4-4 nearly halfway through the opening frame. A Scottie Barnes spot up three opened the flood gates on both ends and finally brought some energy into the game. Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr led the way the rest of the quarter, combining for 12 of the team’s final 14 points in the frame. Despite shooting 8-for-24, Toronto only trailed 22-21 heading into the second quarter.
To start the second, Darko subbed out both Pascal and Gary Trent Jr to give the team a different look. The lineup of Scottie and OG with the bench unit was very clunky and almost exclusively attempted three-point shots while Brooklyn took a 35-30 lead. Dennis Schroder was subbed back in, bringing some needed structure back to the offence and the Raptors went off for a 12-0 run. However, it didn’t last very long, as Toronto made one more basket before giving up a 15-0 run to the Nets, which lasted until the end of the first half. Heading into halftime, the Raptors trailed 52-44.
Toronto’s starting unit re-entered the game to start the second half, sharing the ball around and began righting the ship, bringing the game back to within one score. Midway through the third quarter, Darko switched up the look, leaving Pascal and OG on the court with the bench unit. Most notably, Gary Trent Jr coming back into the game had the largest effect, as the Raptors pulled away to win the quarter 31-24, and reduce the lead back to one, only trailing 76-75.
Chris Boucher as well as GTJ continued to score well off the bench to start the fourth quarter as the Raptors’ returned to lineup with Scottie and OG leading the bench. The entire starting lineup re-entering the game is again where things started to fall apart. Much like the opening quarter, Toronto was very inefficient in their shooting, consistently taking and missing tough, contested shots. All night Brooklyn had limited their touches in the pain, but down the stretch it was evident that they were packing the paint and letting the Raptors shoot. The Nets’ strategy worked, as Toronto continued to miss jumpers and were forced to take contested layups or midrange shots which were also not going in. In what was a brutal final two minutes to watch, Brooklyn went on a 12-0 run before a buzzer beating three from OG Anunoby because it is the In-Season Tournament of course. The final second score officially eliminated the Nets from NBA Cup contention, so despite not registering the win, the Raptors did succeed in playing the spoiler role.
Overall, this was an extremely ugly game, from both teams. While both teams defence’s proved capable, offence was hard to come by at points. Brooklyn is a team that’s built its game plan around shooting threes, where they shot 13-for-38 tonight. Instead, they were able to penetrate and outscored the Raptors 50-34 in the paint. Toronto’s offence was flat out bad for most of the game tonight. While they shot near league average from three at 36%, their overall field goal percentage was not much better. In total, the Raptors shot 39-for-101, giving them a 38.6% field goal percentage. For a team that is looking to compete for a play-in spot, they need to get better looks at the rim and start becoming more consistent with their scoring. On the bright side, Gary Trent Jr (15 points) and Chris Boucher (13 points) were both efficient scorers off the bench and were able to keep the Raptors afloat while their starters underwhelmed.
Toronto heads home to face Kevin Durant and Devin Booker’s Phoenix Suns tomorrow night, so Darko Rajakovic has his work cut out for him as he tries to get this offence going again.