Let’s get this out of the way — D’Angelo Russell went 7-of-7 from three-point range in the first 6:40 of the game. For Nets fans, heaven had arrived. I had flashbacks of Ian Eagle belting “HE’S NOT HUMAN” when Joe Johnson drained nine threes in a quarter in 2013.
But as all good things in a Nets uniform do, the good times ended. Russell scored just eight points for the rest of the game and his sloppiness increased. Fred VanVleet all-but-shut Russell down after the first quarter and D-Lo could not break him.
Russell was not the only one dominating in the first half — the Nets as a unit were solid. The ball movement was great, teammates were finding the open man and the three ball was dropping for nearly everyone. The Nets shot 9-of-14 from three in the first quarter, which is a franchise record for threes in any quarter, and finished the half shooting 12-of-22 from three.
Brooklyn held a 67-57 halftime lead, and that lead went up to 15 at the start of the third quarter. It was then, though, that Toronto went on a 15-0 run to tie the game at 74.
Brooklyn was losing the momentum slowly but surely. Not only was it felt, but it was expected, especially against a team like Toronto.
With Jarrett Allen out with a sore left foot, Jonas Valanciunas had more room to operate and hurt the Nets down low. He gave the Raptors second chances with his four offensive rebounds and notched 26 points. Toronto sported an edge in the paint all game, finishing with a 62-36 advantage.
The Raptors pulled away by as many as eight points early in the fourth quarter, but the Nets did not sit back and watch. Brooklyn worked its way back into the game by being aggressive and getting quickly into the bonus. As the Nets hit their free throws, they came within three of the Raptors with 4:15 left in the game.
The Nets battled for second chances, but not all of them went down. Toronto’s starters stepped up, responding with an 11-0 run. D-Lo was still cold and the game was just about out of reach.
DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for just 26 points, but Toronto got it done for their ninth straight victory. Toronto’s bench out-played Brooklyn’s and the Raptors had the edge in boards, and that was the difference.
Fun start, but no result for the Nets to show for it. After falling from 67 points scored in the first half to 35 points in the second, it seems as if Brooklyn’s batteries need a recharge.
Dante Cunningham Power Forward
10 PTS, 4-9 FG, 1-2 3FG, 1-1 FT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 24 MIN
Dante had some great fill-in minutes in Jarrett’s absence, always showing aggression and fighting for possession. He had a solid start and made some important momentum shots. Props to Dante.
DeMarre Carroll Small Forward
9 PTS, 3-7 FG, 1-3 3FG, 2-3 FT, 6 REB, 1 AST, 29 MIN
After struggling a bit recently, DeMarre showed improvement, but it’s hard to dominate when helping fill in at center for Jarrett against Valanciunas. Carroll struggled at times in that role, but the Nets were at their best with him on the court. He’s as important a starter as anyone on the Nets.
Allen Crabbe Shooting Guard
6 PTS, 2-7 FG, 2-5 3FG, 6 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 30 MIN
Allen Crabbe continues to sneak closer to the single-season three-pointer record in Nets history, tying Joe Johnson today in second place with 162. He was a part of Brooklyn’s firepower from three, but the Nets can always use more from him.
D’Angelo Russell Point Guard
32 PTS, 10-22 FG, 7-12 3FG, 5-5 FT, 7 REB, 0 AST, 4 TOV, 1 STL, 2 BLK, 35 MIN
D’Angelo’s second half was just as disappointing as his first half was thrilling. His three-point barrage was one of the most exciting moments of Brooklyn’s season, but he went cold and got sloppy. VanVleet stepped up the defense on him, but consistency is one area of concern in D’Angelo’s department, and that is as important from quarter-to-quarter as it is game-to-game.