Culture of Hoops

Despite late run, Toronto Raptors get the Brooklyn Nets back in the W column

Image courtesy of Matthew Addie/Flickr

Image courtesy of Matthew Addie/Flickr

What a game this turned out to be.

The Toronto Raptors were looking to improve their record to 7-7 and be at .500 through 14 games for the first time since 2010, but instead lost to the seemingly hopeless Brooklyn Nets, 102-100, in a game that Brooklyn dominated throughout.

The Nets were stuck in a five-game losing streak, mostly due to injuries to star players, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. The Raptors on the other hand were on a two-game win streak and were looking to keep their top spot of the Atlantic Division. One team is young, fast and playing confidently. The other team is old, slow and was at the bottom of the division. While watching this game, it was clear that the younger Toronto squad was taking the old team a little light, something that ultimately cost them the game.

If you’re not a Raptors fan then you might be unaware of how bad Rudy Gay is. If you just watched Raptors highlights, you might be convinced that Rudy is actually a star player. He’s had a few memorable big shots during his time in Toronto so far, including a three-pointer he had tonight that made it a 101-100 game. However, if you watch Raptors games in their entirety, or just look at the stats afterward, you would know that Gay is extremely mediocre. His numbers are so bad that he has actually banned stat sheets from the Raptors locker room. He ended up with nine points on 3-for-12 shooting while adding seven turnovers to his already abysmal stat line.

Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri is more than likely shopping Rudy Gay at this point. If Rudy’s 37.5 percent shooting from the field warrants any actual trade value, Raptors fans should hope Masai pulls the trigger on a deal very soon.

Despite the loss, there were a couple of bright spots for the Raptors. First off, DeMar DeRozan continued his high level of play, scoring especially well this season at 21.2 points per game. DeMar had 27 points in this one, scoring on an efficient 9-for-15 from the floor, including 4-for-6 from three-point land. After getting off to a less than stellar start to the season, it seems DeRozan has started to calm down and is starting to play like he did this preseason.

The other bright spot for Toronto was the play of point guard, Kyle Lowry. He scored 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting and also chipped in with six assists. Lowry started off the game great, scoring nine points in the opening quarter, but struggled until the fourth quarter where he came up with two big steals that lead to two lay ups for him.

The man that gets MVP honors this game for the Nets is Andray Blatche. He had a great night, scoring 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go along with five rebounds and two blocks. Blatche was always an underrated player when he played with the Washington Wizards so no one should be surprised when he has one of these games. After three quarters, the Nets were up 38-16 for points in the paint, 48 points in total; Blatche was the main contributor for that stat.

During the fourth quarter of this game, all hope seemed lost for Toronto. The Nets led 81-76 going into the final frame and for some reason, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey decided to have D.J. Augustin, Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough start the quarter. That move led to the Nets making it a 15-point game, 101-86. The starters for Toronto finally came back in with less than nine minutes to go and they had their work cut out for them.

Then something miraculous happened, maybe an early Christmas miracle for the Raptors. Toronto remembered how to play basketball and went on a 14-0 run. That run ended with the aforementioned Gay three-pointer that made it a 101-100 game. The Raptors then went on to foul Shaun Livingston who went 1-for-2 at the free-throw line. Despite Rudy Gay’s awful shooting night, the ball will almost always be in his hands when the game is on the line. With 10.7 seconds remaining, Toronto was down two and had the ball in Rudy Gay’s hands, looking to redeem himself once again.

Rudy milked the clock, wanting the last shot of the game; it would all come down to him. Gay drove the lane, but ran into traffic; what was he to do? The smart play would have been to find DeRozan, Lowry or one of the best pure shooters in the NBA in Steve Novak. Instead, Rudy found power forward Amir Johnson in the corner three-spot. The shot missed and Novak came flying in for the put-back, which he missed. If their roles were reversed and Novak was shooting the three and Amir was there for the put-back, maybe this game would have ended better for Toronto.

Next up for the Raptors are the defending champion Miami Heat on Friday. While the Raptors were looking to get to .500 last night against Brooklyn, they’ll be trying to just stay alive versus the Heat.

Featured image courtesy of Shinya Suzuki/Flickr

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