|Andray Blatche and Joe Johnson, who combined for 45 points tonight, were big reasons why the Nets were able to snap their overall five-game losing streak versus the Raptors|
It wasn't easy, was eerily similar to the infamous Game 4 of their 2013 playoff series with the Bulls, and nearly turned into a loss, but the win the Nets finally receieved tonight in Toronto versus the Raptors is an incredibly important one for the team. It snaps Brooklyn's seemingly-endless five-game losing streak and lets the guys on the team–and the coaching staff–exhale a bit in addition to catapulting the Nets out of the Atlantic cellar, leaving the Knicks by themselves.
Still shorthanded with all the injuries they've been dealing with recently, the Nets turned to their remaining big scorers (Joe, Andray, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett) for guidance….and they came through. For what feels like the first time this season, Paul and KG were both good at the same time tonight, as the pair looked as if it regained their Celtics-form. They combined for 28 points on 10-for-19 shooting from the field and added ten rebounds and eight assists between the two of them. The big thing, though, is that they made big plays late in the game when needed.
Andray Blatche was probably the star of the show though, as Toronto couldn't get him out of the paint on offensive rebounds and couldn't contest him quick enough on jump-shots. Joe Johnson, continuing from his amazing effort in Sunday's loss to the Pistons, hit some hugely important threes in this one and just generally was a big cog in the Nets' offense effort versus the Raptors. He only went 7-for-18 from the field–not too efficient–but made the jumpers and floaters when the Nets needed a bucket the most.
Brooklyn, as always, started off the night hot from the field and took a quick 16-6 lead early in the first quarter. But the Raptors, on the strength of a three-point barrage from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, came back ferociously and took a narrow two-point lead heading into the second quarter. Brooklyn made a late run in the second by attacking the paint, drawing fouls and hitting free throws, and eventually went on a Joe Johnson 7-0 run to obtain the lead they would end up never relinquishing.
Then, in a stunning change of events, the Nets didn't collapse in the third quarter. Nay, they actually OUTSCORED the Raptors by a margin of 26-25 and held on to their halftime lead. So far this season, Brooklyn hasn't won a game in which they haven't won the third quarter. So, tonight, they won the third and won the game, even after nearly blowing a 15-point lead late in the fourth in a way akin to last year's infamous meltdown versus the Bulls in Game 4 of the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The late-game execution from the Nets was god-awful, and nearly cost them a win. Even in a win, such ineptitude displayed by Brooklyn in trying to hold on to this game brings up some more hard questions for Jason Kidd to answer about team. I'm not completely ecstatic about how this one played out, but at least it turned out to be a successful finish, so that wretched losing skid is officially over with.
Some other observations I had from the game: No Reggie Evans in this one (wasn't reported as injured, so it goes down as a DNP-CD), so Mirza Teletovic got a lot of playing time. Mirza only took one shot (a missed jumper) and committed a few dumb turnovers and missed defensive assignments, but overall, he played pretty well. Grabbed five key boards though in his 21 minutes. Interesting to see how Jason Kidd distributes the minutes between Mirza and Reggie moving forward…..DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, certified Net-killers, went 9-for-15 with 27 points and 8-for-15 with 24 points respectively this evening. Brooklyn's perimeter defense woes exacerbated by Toronto's pair of active backcourt players who got basically everything they wanted on offense…..Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor, who both played big minutes in this one, were crucial off the bench and made important layups/dunks down the stretch as the Nets desperately fought to keep their lead. Mason exhibited how well he can finish at the hoop and Tyshawn how he can penetrate to the hoop with ease and either finish with a shot or kick-out pass.
The Nets have a quick turnaround ahead of them as they go back to Brooklyn to take on the Kobe-less Lakers tomorrow night at Barclays.