The Nets started this game strong and the Raptors looked like they had been out partying the night before, but as has so often been the case this season, Toronto used a dominating fourth quarter surge to rip out the hearts of the visitors 29-16 and win easily 105-89. #WeTheFourth is alive and well in Toronto.
The Nets are a shell of the team that defeated the Raptors by one-point in game seven last spring. Last year’s leading scorer Paul Pierce is in Washington and the point guard that gave the Raptors problems Shaun Livingston went to Golden State. The Raptors were leading Brooklyn by 8 games in the Atlantic Division heading into the contest and with both Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez unavailable, the Nets had every reason to anticipate a long evening.
However, the Nets took advantage of a sluggish Raptors defense to score 30 points in the first quarter led by Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic with 8 points each and only the bulldog mentality of the Raptors Kyle Lowry with 10 points and 5 assists kept Toronto within 8 points at the end of the quarter. Valanciunas did get 6 rebounds, but like the rest of his teammates, he wasn’t moving fast enough on defense to slow down his check.
The Raptors woke up in the second quarter to reverse the score and take a 53-52 lead into the half, but they couldn’t carry their momentum through the break and let Plumlee, Teletovic and Joe Johnson take it to them in the third quarter. Fortunately Valanciunas came to play after the break and put in 10 points on 4 shots as he finished off some pretty feeds to him in the post. Valanciunas had 16 points and 10 rebounds after three-quarters, but he could have easily put up better numbers and Head Coach Dwane Casey went to Tyler Hansbrough, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson to finish out the game.
As has so often been the case this year, the Raptors bench outscored the Nets bench 41-20 and they came through big time for Coach Casey in the final period by scoring 23 of the Raptors 29 fourth quarter points led by Lou Williams and Patterson with 8 points each.
Even more impressive was how Toronto shut down the Nets big guns over the last 12 minutes. Leading scorer Plumlee (23 points) was held to 3 made free throws. Joe Johnson (17 points) went 0-2 from the field for 0 points and Deron Williams (11 points) was held to 1-2 shooting for 2 points as the Nets only scored 16 points in the quarter.
Coach Casey praised his players for what they accomplished but continues to say he is surprised by the Raptors 20-6 record.
“Everything we have done is still as a growing team and you can see we have a lot of areas where we can improve on,” Casey said. “It is very unusual that you can grow as a team and get some wins. That’s something our guys accomplished. My hat’s off to them, but they know, everybody knows in that room there are a lot of areas we can get better in.”
Perhaps that is why both Valanciunas and Terrence Ross were watching from the bench as the Raptors put the hurt on the Nets during the fourth quarter.
Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Raptors 105, Nets 89 by Garrett Hinchey summed things up from a Toronto perspective:
(Jonas Valanciunas) scared me early in the game, when he blew a couple defensive assignments and let Mason Plumlee get off (23 points??), but it’s hard to argue with that statline. He’s a beast down low, and, just like the playoffs, he dominated the Nets on the glass. Showed some nice chemistry with Amir on big-to-big passing, too.
What more is there to say? (Kyle Lowry)’s incredible, and if he’s not an all star this season, it’ll be a travesty. The bench stepped up huge in the fourth quarter, but if it wasn’t for this guy, they wouldn’t have been in a position to win the game. Dominated in the first quarter when the rest of the team (besides Amir) looked like they were falling asleep.
Brooklyn’s Finest: Recap: Brooklyn Nets 105, Toronto Raptors 89 by Brian McNichols brought the visitors view of this game:
The only consistently bright light in this strobe light of a game was the quickly-improving Mason Plumlee. Unfortunately every other Brooklyn Nets player faded as the game went on. Players like Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson started strong, but all but disappeared in the fourth quarter.
What makes this particular game so frustrating is that there were plays, runs, and even quarters where the Nets looked like a talented, coherent basketball team. Then they saw their reflection in the glistening eyes of those Raptors and fell apart, just like they’ve been doing all season.
Lowry put up a beastly line of 20 points and 13 assists in 31.6 minutes and Greivis Vasquez backed up him with 13 points. Amir Johnson was solid with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Patterson also scored 13 points and was particularly impressive on defense once again.
The NBA Eastern Conference leading Raptors head to Detroit on Friday to take on the 5-21 Pistons.
“We got to stop playing to our competition and play Raptors basketball,” James Johnson told Pro Bball Report. “We the North and we got to start acting like it.”
It was 10 years ago today, December 17, 2004, when the Toronto Raptors went from a US National TV worthy team to being forgotten in the frozen North. The Raptors had sent superstar Vince Carter in a huff with management to the New Jersey Nets.