THEY OWN THE NORTH.
Yup, if it wasn’t here before, we’re officially there now. Sure, Paul Pierce is gone, the same man that famously yelled “that’s why they brought me here!” after blocking Kyle Lowry’s attempt in Game 7 two years ago, and the Nets are a staggering 15 games behind Toronto — but they alllllllwaaaays play their division rival tight, right? Those days, for now, are lost, as the Nets, stumbling at the bottom of the East in the midst of a organization-wide reset, are just no longer worthy adversaries for their fearsome rivals.
Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez scored 29 points on 13-18 shooting and they were still down three at halftime, a sign of ominous things to come for certain. Sure, they hung around for a while, even taking a six-point lead in the third quarter, but we all knew it was fleeting — even good Nets games give into the inevitable collapse.
And so it goes: first Lowry got hot and DeMar DeRozan followed in the second half. Two bonafide All-Stars, something the Nets haven’t had since Jason Kidd and Vince Carter both made the team in 2007, were enough, even on a general off-night for the rest of the team, to lead the Raptors to a resounding victory.
And that, sadly, is the difference between the Nets and the Raptors: almost everything. The Nets needed Herculean efforts from Johnson and Lopez to even stay afloat, whereas you got the feeling that things were just going to suddenly click at some point for Toronto. That moment was somewhere around the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter when Lowry and DeRozan, now chasing the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, decided they simply weren’t going to lose; combining for 61 points and 13 assists on 22-38 shooting before capping it all off on a 14-0 run.
Over their first three years in Brooklyn, the showdowns with the Raptors served as a great litmus test — if you could beat your rivals, you had a solid chance of making it past the first round of the playoffs. But today? The Raptors have bigger fish to fry than the Nets, bigger prizes to strive for than that Atlantic Division banner — in fact, they’ve got a legit shot to represent the entire conference in June’s NBA Finals.
It’s a major bummer to admit it, but the Nets just aren’t good enough for the Raptors anymore.
The stats: 29 PTS, 13-22 FG%, 10 RBS, 3 ASTS, 1 STL, 2 BLKS, 1 TO
Last time out, Brook Lopez went toe-to-toe with the Raptors’ talented center Jonas Valanciunas for four quarters, but tonight, dare we say, was a total knockout for the Nets’ star. At one point in the third quarter, Lopez scored on another nifty post move and Valanciunas could only shake his head as if to say:
How can I stop that?
And those games, my friends, are what make Lopez a truly special player. As the NBA’s biggest stars thrive on power above all else, exhibited in spades by Andre Drummond and DeAndre Jordan, for example, Lopez’s gorgeous unpredictability and gracefulness is a shining star in this never-ending carousel of frustration.
Slow 7-footers should not be able to do this https://t.co/CKNGOiuufW
— devin kharpertian (@uuords) January 19, 2016