So much for the easy schedule. Against the now-32-48 Toronto Raptors, a team the Brooklyn Nets should have been able to dismantle with ease, a team they looked to finish off a season sweep of, the first team the Brooklyn Nets ever played — and defeated — the Toronto Raptors kept control throughout the game, only allowing the Nets to briefly flirt with victory at the end before the Nets finally succumbed to a 93-87 loss.
“Our guys came out in the second half and defended, and we just dug too big a hole,” Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo said after the game. “The game got away from us when we didn’t defend in the first half.”
Despite 30 efficient points from Deron Williams, including four threes and his second dunk of the season, the Nets had a shot at winning this game as fleeting as their shot at the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. With fifteen seconds left and the Nets down 91-87, P.J. Carlesimo called for a play called “Elevator Doors” — running Joe Johnson through two teammates, who close at the same time to set a double-screen, freeing Johnson for an open look. Unfortunately, while the doors closed in time, Johnson swung a bit too far outside the doors, and Raptors guard Alan Anderson was able to close quickly, leading to a fading Johnson airball:
As you’ll see from the following screenshots, Johnson stepped “outside of the elevator,” which gave Anderson the space he needed to contest his shot:
There were a few questionable calls — most notably a continuation call that led to an and-one for Rudy Gay and a clear path foul that helped swing the game further in Toronto’s favor — but had the Nets not dug themselves a 21-point hole in the first half, those calls wouldn’t have been relevant. The Raptors hit all kinds of shots — open jumpers, uncontested dunks, contested fallaways off the backboard (yes, more than one) — while the Nets struggled to even hit open looks in the first half. In the first half, the Nets scored just 32 points on 34.1% shooting, allowing 51 points on 47.8% shooting; in the second, the Nets scored 55 points on 46.5% shooting, allowing just 42 points on 38.9% shooting.
The Nets had no answer for athletic wings DeMar DeRozan and Rudy Gay; Keith Bogans was ineffective guarding Gay early and Joe Johnson fared no better. The two combined for 62 points on 22-41 shooting: DeRozan displayed his improved outside touch, as all but two of his field goals came from 16 feet or beyond, while Gay simply scored anywhere he wanted.
With nothing left to play for and the Nets locked into first-round home-court advantage, there’s likely to be much less of Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez on the floor. “Going forward now, we certainly have to rest some people,” Carlesimo added after the game. “There are some people we don’t want to play big minutes.”
The Nets close the season at home: against the Washington Wizards Monday night and the Detroit Pistons Wednesday.