The Brooklyn Nets lost at home to the class of the Eastern Conference, Toronto Raptors, 116-102. Some hot shooting allowed the Brooklyn Nets to establish a 67-57 halftime lead, but the hands quickly sprouted icicles in the second half. The defeat now marks 11 straight regular season losses to Toronto dating back to 2015. A trip to Toronto on March 23rd will decide if this season will be the third straight season the Raptors have swept the season series with the Nets.
Voodoo From D’Angelo
Klay Thompson must have seeped into D’Angelo Russell’s spirit right before tip-off. Clearly the only explanation for SEVEN straight three-point makes in the first quarter. Russell would end the quarter with 24 points after never scoring 24 points in an entire half before. Russell started cooking by moving off-ball for open looks. Once D’Lo saw the twine wobble a few times for him, the pull-up show began with Russell taking on all comers.
The fireworks display helped the Brooklyn Nets to its first 40 point quarter since November 19th against the Warriors. Seems like the Nets get up for elite teams in this regard. Russell also became the third Net this season to make seven threes in a game. Nik Stauskas knocked seven down off the bench on December 19th and Allen Crabbe enjoyed eight falling down on February 10th. Coincidentally, both of those other games came in defeats to the Pelicans.
Unfortunately, the shooting flurry quickly cooled as Russell shot 3 of 15 from the field and 0 for 5 from three after the 24 point barrage. Still, 32 points on 22 field goal attempts from Russell will be welcome every time and twice on Tuesdays.
Not All Money Is Good Money
The Brooklyn Nets definitely cooled off from three after the prolific first quarter. The Raptors also made a much better concerted effort to close out on the perimeter. The closeouts ran the Nets regularly off the arc and allowed for dribble penetration as the game went on. Usually, the axiom is “take what the defense gives you” and, in these dribble penetration scenarios, what the Raptors defense gave up was attacks in the middle of the lane. The question is should Brooklyn actually have taken those opportunities?
Toronto usually employs a drop back scheme against pick-and-rolls, especially with Jonas Valanciunas as the defensive anchor. The scheme allows for ballhandlers to find space in the midrange and right above the restricted area. However, ideally, those ballhandlers will want to find their way right at the rim. It takes some solid burst and explosion to get to the rim when an opposing seven-footer is set in front of it. Even more so when the seven-footer has the girth and 7’5” wingspan of Valanciunas or the standing reach and timing of Jakob Poeltl.
Therefore, the Nets ballhandlers had a miserable time exploiting that space, despite the abundance of it due to the five-out Brooklyn Nets lineups. D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert often had to settle for highly-contested runners and floaters. That is when they weren’t throwing the ball back out to the perimeter and resetting with hopes of Raptors’ mental mistakes. Those mental mistakes came infrequently by the second half and the Nets could not score despite their well-spaced arrangement.
In such scenarios, you miss a Jarrett Allen who can occupy the opposing center’s attention as a lob, dump off, or offensive rebounding threat. Such attention occupation can make a contest in the lane a half-second later and make a world of difference. Do not sleep on the roles of the Clint Capelas of the world.
Full box score here via ESPN