The Brooklyn Nets played the Toronto Raptors just four days ago and, despite staying tight for three-quarters of the game, unraveled in spectacular fashion and dropped the road game by 19 points. So, what’s changed over the weekend?
The short answer: well, uh, not much.
But, hell, at least the journey there was a little bit different this time around — right?
To start, the Nets spotted the Raptors an 11-0 lead before finally getting into the swing of things thanks to Bojan Bogdanovic and some game-saving jump shooting. And yet, other than the Croatian, the other four starters were a combined 4-12, so the onus fell on the young bench to respond.
Spoiler alert: they did.
Sean Kilpatrick, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Justin Hamilton, Caris LeVert started off 6-7 from the floor and even pushed the Nets ahead 29-26 after the first quarter, against all odds. With the Raptors sitting All-Star Kyle Lowry, Corey Joseph helped quell some of the second seed’s scoring woes as DeMar DeRozan started just 2-10 from the floor. But following Hollis-Jefferson’s self-substitution — via exhaustion, not injury — Terrence Ross took advantage of his generous opposing defenders for 10 points and spurred an 8-0 run that would put the visitors back in front 45-40 with 6:30 remaining in the half.
While Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie were no match for Joseph’s scorching-hot 18 first-half points, it was Isaiah Whitehead’s high-energy minutes that kept the Nets in the driver’s seat against the 27-13 Raptors with a few assists, a three-pointer, and a rim-rocking dunk in his 8 opening minutes. However, it was a newly-awakened Brook Lopez that ignited onlookers by finishing alley-oops (both on purpose and accidently) and shaking Jonas Valanciunas out of his Canadian boots.
In perhaps one of their best quarters of the season, the Nets took a slim 61-58 lead into the break.
The Nets, predictably, do not care about “good” quarters and your “good” feelings and promptly reverted to their strange Upside-Down versions of themselves. While DeRozan started to heat up (4-5 to start the half), the Nets could do nothing but hold on for dear life. Toss in a handful of turnovers, another poor shooting effort from Kilpatrick, and the disappearance of Hamilton (9 points, 3 rebounds), and you’ve got your game-changing quarter for the worse.
I’ll spare you the details: when it was all said and done, the Nets had turned a three-point halftime lead into a seven-point deficit.
Ah, it feels like home.
Thanks to a 16-16 mark at the free throw line, they pretended to stick around for a bit, but they would eventually run out of gas and blah, blah, blah, you already know the rest. The Nets stopped moving on offense, starting chucking airballs, and Lopez even had an ankle injury scare (still, say three hail mary prayers before tonight, just in case) — but these Nets are still the same ones that got blown out across the border less than a week ago.
At the end of the day, allowing DeRozan and Joseph to combine for 65 points will never, ever, ever, ever, ever turn into a positive result.
Your 2016-2017 Brooklyn Nets: different journey, same results.
The stats: 14 PTS, 5-8 FG, 8 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 1 TOV
Do y’all still want to trade Rondae Hollis-Jefferson?
Yes, the shooting form still needs fixing but you saw his contributions in full form tonight: energy, hustle, lengthiness.
Stay patient, it’ll be worth it.
The stats: 14 PTS, 6-8 FG, 3 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 1 TOV
LeVert with LeBurst!
After a slow start, LeVert came on strong in the third quarter with a winding move to the hoop followed by back-to-back three-pointers. His jumper looks more refined by the day and his small explosion kept the Nets from getting outscored 34-16 in the third quarter.
Praise the rookie, y’all.
The stats: 28 PTS, 11-23 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 2 BLK, 3 TOV
After 19 first half points, Lopez quieted down and finished with just 28.
The opening 24 minutes were beautiful, the final 24 were mysterious. The more we know about Lopez and his touches, the less we seem to see. It makes no sense and all the sense in one single moment of nirvana.
Shrug, I don’t know — we’ve been here before and we’ll be here again. The Raptors are a really great team and Valanciunas to a good rim protector, so let’s chalk it up to that and move on.