The Raptors’ dominance Nets fans were bracing for heading into Monday night did not take effect right away, and it was so delayed that it begged the question if it was going to come at all. Brooklyn was showing impressive ball movement and was on a blistering three-point pace behind Joe Harris and Allen Crabbe that saw the Nets take as large as an eight-point lead against the second-ranked team in the East.
Then the fourth quarter came.
Toronto was powered in part by its new weapon, Marc Gasol. He finished off hook shots with ease, found his open teammates and even drained a three-pointer to quickly put the Raptors up seven at the start of the fourth quarter. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard then made big shots down the stretch to battle Brooklyn’s threat.
The combination of Crabbe, who scored back-to-back threes to will the Nets back from a late eight-point deficit, and D’Angelo Russell who put up 28 points and fell just short of the game-winning shot, made this game a thriller and heartbreaker all in one.
It was a heck of a fight against a powerhouse.
The Raptors may have made the extra shot in the fourth quarter, but in the first quarter, the Nets could not be touched offensively — all thanks to Joe.
At any glance of the game, Joe was draining a three off a screen. It was like clockwork — beautiful clockwork. Joe was 5-6 from three in his first eight minutes and ended the first half just as he started the game, with back-to-back dagger threes.
Joe made up seven of the Nets’ 13 threes at the half, and Brooklyn needed every single one with the Raptors’ 54.3 percent shooting on the night.
The Nets came into the game averaging 12.3 threes per game, and they passed that in the first half alone.
But once the second half hit, Joe and his threes were nearly nonexistent — he only saw one shot attempt the rest of the game, and it was a bunny that could have brought the Nets to overtime.
The lifeblood of this Nets roster is that there is almost always a next man up. D’Angelo was that guy in the second half, constantly attacking the paint in the second half and draining a beauty of a three-pointer to put Brooklyn up three with less than a minute left.
Behind a career-high 14 assists, D-Lo led Brooklyn in one of the team’s best ball-sharing performances of the season. The Nets assisted on 33 of its 46 field goals, and the team’s 20-41 performance from three can be attributed to that ball movement.
After a Jarrett Allen three (!) in the fourth quarter, Crabbe made back-to-back threes in the final moments of the game. D’Angelo followed that surge with a three of his own to bring the Nets ahead.
The shot did not move the net a millimeter.
It was as sweet as a shot could get — until Danny Green made a three in response and Kawhi’s banked jumper iced the game.
The Nets went on a 13-3 run to pull ahead and get a shot at a win after going down by eight late in the game. Brooklyn made big shots — Crabbe and Russell both did — but what makes the Raptors great is that they responded each time. Brooklyn also struggled in getting out-rebounded 40-31 and Toronto edging out the Nets 60-46 in points in the paint.
Kawhi just had the extra bucket to put a cap on what was an entertaining and well-fought game on both sides.
Brooklyn also struggled in getting out-rebounded 40-31 and Toronto edging out the Nets 60-46 in the paint.
The Nets have lost five of their last six games, but as Kenny Atkinson said postgame, they represented themselves much better than they did when they visited Toronto earlier this season.
Come playoff time, we might be seeing a seven-game series between these two teams. After tonight’s thriller, we are on board and ready to sign our names on the dotted line.
The stats: 28 PTS, 10-22 FG, 2-7 3PT, 6-8 FT, 7 REB, 14 AST, 1 STL, 4 TO, 34 MIN
It took a bit for D-Lo to get going offensively, but he ran the offense while his teammates filled the scoreboard for him. Besides a career-high in assists, D-Lo came alive in the second half by constantly attacking the paint, finding success in that method and feeding his teammates.
#DAngeloRussell getting to the bucket in the 3rd @dloading | #WeGoHard pic.twitter.com/eOvUVvKjN8
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 12, 2019
He did miss what would have been the game-winning three, but it was a tough look that came up just short. Without D-Lo coming up three rebounds short of a triple-double, the Nets don’t get a shot at victory.
If we had a video of all the Nets’ threes this game, including D-Lo’s last, we’d play in on repeat.
The stats: 22 PTS, 8-13 FG, 6-10 3PT, 3 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2 TO, 31 MIN
Allen Crabbe has been SCORCHING, going 12-21 from distance since his return from injury. He’s picked up his three-point shot right where he left it off, and his back-to-back balls of fire single-handedly tied the game up in the final minute.
HUGE transition 👌 from 🦀@allencrabbe | #WeGoHard pic.twitter.com/DpDuOj6WOM
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 12, 2019
With DeMarre Carroll sitting out this game with a sore knee, the Nets needed the bench to step up — and Crabbe has been playing his best basketball this season.
As Ian Eagle phrased it, his “Crabbe trey” is irreplaceable.
The stats: 24 PTS, 7-9 FG, 7-8 3PT, 3-3 FT, 2 REB, 4 AST, 1 TO
The 7-of-8 performance from three in the first half for Joe was exhilarating. He couldn’t miss! And he had a career-high in no time.
"Joe Harris is a machine!"#WeGoHard 60#WeTheNorth 56
He's scored 22 PTS on a career-high 7 3PM, all in the first half. pic.twitter.com/1tiKQrkpbf
— NBA (@NBA) February 12, 2019
Then the second half game came, and Joe did not get a shot off until the final minute — a mid-range push shot that was off the mark. Joe would have looked more comfortable if it was a three-pointer instead.
Joe not getting another three-point attempt after finishing the first half with back-to-back shots from deep was somewhat troubling, but the Raptors switched their attention to him. And Joe was also unselfish and gave up some looks to assist his teammates.
But the question will always linger — what if Joe shot it more? It was not Brooklyn’s biggest problem, but it stood out after his first half.
The stats: 6 PTS, 3-11 FG, 0-5 3FG, 4 AST, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 5 TO, 23 MIN
Caris LeVert is still shaking the rust off, and his 0-5 shooting from three and five turnovers show that.
Still, his fearlessness is encouraging in his drives to the rim, even if he had trouble finishing. The rust will come off, and the finishes will come, but the attack is the most important part. The Nets could have used those finishes from Caris, but he will get to where he needs to be.
The stats: 10 PTS, 4-4 FG, 1-1 3PT, 1-2 FT, 1 REB, 4 AST, 2 STL, 1 BLK, 17 MIN
Shabazz only played 17 minutes, but he still did it all — perfect from the field, four assists, two steals and a block. He is continuously smart when he has the ball, and he led the Nets well when D’Angelo had a break.
Shabazz continues to step up in Dinwiddie’s stead and show he is a key part of Brooklyn’s identity.