Despite calling Rochester, New York home, I've been a New Jersey Nets fan since I was in single digits and my brother has been a Toronto Raptors fan just as long. Every year since I got my license, the two of us have taken our annual trek to Toronto for the Raptors/Nets game, usually finding seats just above the players tunnel at the Air Canada Centre. This year, the Nets finally beat the Raptors at home and we were witnesses to a show put on by Deron Williams, Kris Humphries and several heckles directed towards my #8 red Nets jersey. Because of the belatedness of this reaction, we've opted not to do player grades and instead give my five thoughts on the game. If you'd like some more specific reactions to players performances, hit me up on Twitter @chrishooker9.
The Deron Williams Show. After six games of "Is Deron Williams grumpy?", we got to see a completely dominant performance from the point guard. Like, completely dominant. D-Will displayed some ridiculous handles and looks and I actually thought his 24-9 performance was better than his stats indicated. He could have had fifteen assists, easy. Despite a great offensive performance, the Nets still shot 39% from the field and missed a lot of wide open looks and low-post buckets. Jose Calderon had no answer for him yesterday.
The Rebirth of Anthony Morrow. Sometime during the fourth quarter, some Raptors fan wearing a #4 jersey with a dirty slang taped next to "BOSH", whispered to his girlfriend: "This guy [Morrow] is killing us? Who is he?" Another fan in front of him said something about Morrow coming to Jersey from Golden State, where he was drafted and about being notable for being a three-point shooter. "Still," Bosh**** said. "This guy is a scrub." Anthony Morrow certainly silenced some critics tonight, hitting completely wide-open threes (first time this year), and just tearing apart the Raptors defense.
Offensive Chemistry. I said this after the Indiana game--the Nets look better on offense. Maybe they don't make all their shots, maybe they get out-rebounded, whatever. But it's difficult to say that the Nets are still struggling in running plays and creating open looks. Much of this is due to Deron Williams' leadership on the floor and his ability to communicate to his players. I don't know if this showed up on TV or not, but at one point during the close second quarter, Deron brought the team into a huddle underneath the bucket and started coaching them through something, almost like he was a quarterback drawing up a player before the line of scrimmage. The Nets are more in sync with each other and it's starting to come through. Tonight versus Miami will be a huge test for a number of reasons--but how they answer their defense will be a huge one.
Lock-Down Defense. DeShawn Stevenson and co. completely shut down the Raptors on offense. DeRozen couldn't handle Stevenson's defense. DeRozen is an inconsistent shooter, but to eliminate him from the game is no easy feat. Doing that gave the Nets a chance to drive that lead up in the second half. I don't think there is any question on who should be the Nets starting small forward going into the season. What has Damion James done that shows he is a better player that Stevenson? Stevenson is only really great at two things, but it's better than being pretty mediocre at everything.
Net Fan Count In Toronto: 1. Not sure if this is something that carries over throughout all Nets away games this season, but I was literally the only fan I saw in a Nets jersey all night. I got a few jeers from Raptors fans and team store staff, but overall the Raptor fans were pretty nice. With the exception of Hump, who was booed with every touch of the ball, the Nets weren't really booed too much either. Seems like for the time being, the Nets aren't a team to draw any negativity from fans, or any popularity from road fans. Hopefully that'll change soon.