By the time the fourth quarter had rolled around, the game between the Nets and Toronto Raptors had long been decided. When Yuta Watanabe posterized Kessler Edwards midway through the final period, it essentially sealed the loss.
On a day when the Nets just couldn’t seem to avoid bad news, they fell to the Toronto Raptors 133-97 in the first game of a home-and-home. Brooklyn led for less than a minute in the first quarter before the Raptors took control of the game and never looked back.
The ugly loss capped a day that seemed to spoil any momentum the Nets had from Saturday’s win over the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. It started when New York City Mayor Eric Adams reaffirmed his stance not to make any exception to the city’s private sector vaccine mandate that is keeping Kyrie Irving from playing home games and was followed later in the day that head coach Steve Nash had to go into COVID protocols.
“It was pretty sudden for the group. It really happened as our preparation going into the locker room,” said Jacque Vaughn, who served as head coach in Nash’s place. “Tried to get our guys to focus on the game. Missed our head coach out there tonight, but the thing is we’ll get a chance to play again tomorrow.”
Mixed in between that was word that Ben Simmons still had not been cleared to practice as he works through his recondition to get back on the floor this season.
All of that seemed to take a toll on the Nets, who suffered through another sluggish first quarter and continued to struggle the rest of the night. Brooklyn shot 38.4% (33-of-86) from the field and 34.3% (12-of-35) from beyond the arc when all was said and done.
The Nets turned the ball over a whopping 23 times for 31 points and were outscored in the paint 58-32.
“We had a game plan, but it’s up to the players to execute that,” James Johnson said. “A lot of shots was going in for them. A lot of miscommunication was happening on our end. It just ended up being a snowball effect I feel like at the end of that first quarter. It’s hard to come back after that.”
LaMarcus Aldridge finished the night with a team-leading 15 points off the bench and Bruce Brown had 14 points in 5-of-11 shooting against the Raptors. Cam Thomas had 14 points as well in the loss and Seth Curry finished with 11 and two three-pointers.
The loss came at an even more inopportune time on Monday with the Raptors in town and the Nets trying to catch them in the standings. Brooklyn remains in a play-in-round spot with 20 games left in the regular season and dropped back to two games behind the Raptors in the standings.
The Nets would like to avoid having to go through the play-in tournament, but that is becoming increasingly difficult as the season winds down.
“For us right now, every game is important,” Johnson said about the Nets’ current positioning in the playoffs. “We know how it goes. We need to get in an offset. That’s the bottom line. I feel like once we get in there, I like our chances against anybody.”
Brooklyn managed to tie the game early in the opening quarter off a Brown free throw, but that would be the closest they’d come to taking back the lead. Toronto ended the first quarter with a 15 point advantage and by the closing minute of the first half the Nets had trailed 69-41.
Brooklyn’s largest deficit of the night came when Watanabe hit a 27-foot three to put the Raptors up by 39 in the fourth quarter. D.J. Wilson knocked down a stepback jumper to put the Raptors up by 39 again moments later.
The Nets did suffer a scare early in the game when Andre Drummond went down on the floor. He did eventually get up and finished the night playing 16 minutes.
After the game, Vaughn said that Drummond told him that he was OK. “Hopefully he’ll get seen by the staff again overnight and hopefully be OK for tomorrow,” Vaughn said.