Like a train chugging along about to come into the depot the Brooklyn Nets kept waiting for the real Toronto Raptors to show up. The inevitability of that occurring was palpable. Although the Nets took it to the Raptors and for much of the night were the better team ultimately it comes down to a simple adage – winning teams find a way to win.
While the writing team generally uses this space to break down the game (don’t worry – the highlights/key producer is below). Instead the majority of my focus in this piece addresses the surprising similarities between the Raptors and Nets. Moreover, it offers optimism for just how close the Nets may be to returning to the upper echelon.
Respect for Nets in Toronto:
Unlike teams who tend to play down to their competition (and, yes occasionally the Raptors do that), this contest did not fall under that category. Despite sweeping the Nets in each of the past three seasons Toronto opined post game on how impressive the Nets have been.
Other than one of the games in the season series the Nets put themselves in position to win each contest. It’s important Kenny Atkinson’s charges remember that. When the Raptors began their initial culture reset the first puzzle piece was to be considered as a tough out. I can’t speak for other cities, but the fan base (and franchise) in Toronto are definitely cognizant of Brooklyn’s no quit efforts.
Since I’m a native Torontonian I caught the Canadian coverage and from the broadcast team, to Raptors coach Dwane Casey to the players there was effusive praise for this never quit effort of the Nets.
Casey told the media scrum post game “we (Raptors) did not deserve to win that game.”
Leo Rautins and Matt Devlin spoke of D’Angelo Russell‘s fit in Brooklyn and showered Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with praise. For Allen they expect big things and already feel RJH is the leader on this Nets team. Although I don’t want to put words in their mouths, the overriding impression is the internal Raptors group feel Brooklyn may not be that far off becoming a playoff seed again.
The reason I mention this is some fans never get to hear positive feedback from outside and there was nothing but respect and love showered on the Nets franchise.
In fairness, the Raptors are a woefully exhausted troop. Toronto played their sixth game in nine days including a back to back and a matinee thrown in for good measure. Toronto’s schedule in March has been horrid. Three back to back sets (one each for the past three weeks) and 2 matinees. Arguably the worst part was no consecutive days off. Furthermore, including this week, this is the fourth week in a row with four games.
In contrast, the Nets played one back to back set, no matinees (although one is coming Sunday). And Raptors players are likely quite envious of the three sets of two consecutive days off the Nets got this month. Plus, this is the first week this month Brooklyn will play four games in a week.