“They came out with a mission and they jumped on us right away, and got it going,” said Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan, who struggled for most of the game and was sat down for most of the fourth quarter by Toronto coach Dwane Casey.
The loss was a tough one for the Raptors. Toronto held New Jersey to under 39% shooting from the floor, but the Nets killed Toronto from three-point range, going 15-for-31.
It was a game the Raptors really needed, given Jersey’s 1-6 record, and the fact that Toronto, now 3-4, plays seven games in the next nine days, including back-to-back-to-back games starting Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a game Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Casey said the difference was the way the two teams approached the game — and the Nets were definitely the hungrier team.
“We have to approach it like we’re a desperate team each and every night,” Casey said. “This is great lesson for us. I thought New Jersey did a great job coming and playing like a desperate team, and we did not.
“There was 28 second chance points (for Jersey),” he added. “That’s a sign of not being physical in the paint, but goes back to us stepping on the court and playing desperate, not playing tight, but desperate … a hungry team.”
The Raptors lacked much of the effort and intensity they’d shown through six not-too-bad games to open the regular season. They were hammered on the glass (the Nets turned 13 offensive rebounds into 28 second chance points), they were slow to close out on shooters (New Jersey was 15-31 from three-point range) and they were discombobulated on offence (just 19 assists on 33 made baskets).
“It’s about us, we just didn’t have it,” said guard Jose Calderon, who had a team-high 19 points. “We didn’t work the way we were supposed to out there, we got our game plan and it was great, we just didn’t execute the way we were supposed to.
“(It was) just a bad game. We’ll go to the next one and forget about this one.”
It was one of those nights that are going to pop up every now and then; the secret is to not let it happen too often.
“This is a great lesson for us to know we’ve got a long way to go,” said Casey. “I’ve said it all week and I’ll stay say it: We have a ways to go to change our mentality, change our approach and keep it consistent. You can’t do it one or two games and revert back to ‘NBA cool.’”
The Raptors shot 45.2 per cent from the field, actually beating the Nets, but scored only six of 17 three-pointers.
“But it wasn’t shooting. Tonight it was a lack of defensive rebounding,” Casey said. “You put a finger in one hole and another opens up.”
“We needed this,” said DeRozan, “especially going into the next couple of games. We have to get our minds back on track and understand what we have to do, We can’t ease into games.”
DeRozan said the big lesson was “don’t underestimate anybody and don’t read what the [laudatory] media says about us. You just have to keep playing.”
Calderon said the Raptors were “lost in transition” and wasn’t contest to give up three-pointers to keep the defence tight.
“There’s not too much to talk about. It was a bad game.”
The Raptors did not come out sleepwalking, but it was certainly their tamest start to a game of this young season. They were a step slow on the offensive boards early, as Kris Humphries — taunted by chants of “Kim” in reference to his made-for-television marriage to Kim Kardashian — controlled the paint. The Raptors also seemed incapable of closing out defensively on three-pointers, as the Nets hit nine of them in the first half alone.
A lot of that had to do with Nets point guard Deron Williams, though. Williams is the same player who inspired ex-Raptors coach Jay Triano to grouse, “What the [expletive] are you going to do?” after Williams had finished shredding the Toronto defence when he played for Utah last year. Williams is an elite point guard, and despite his bad shooting night, he controlled the game. He finished with 24 points and nine assists.
The Raptors started the most hectic stretch of their schedule on Friday. Beginning with the game against the Nets, the Raptors were set to play seven games in nine nights: two back-to-back sets sandwiching three games in a row. Every team has a second of its schedule like this, and this is the Raptors’ turn.
However, with most of the players not having played games at this rate since their AAU days, the question of how much to play the players comes up for coaches.
“If it comes down to us having to play a guy more minutes tonight, I wouldn’t hesitate to do that,” Casey said. “We’re a young team. It’s not like we’re an aging team with crinkly bones. I’m very conscious of the fact we have a lot of games coming up in a row. Again, that’s why we have depth.
“We really were in desperate need of a win tonight,” Humphries said.
Fifteen of New Jersey’s 31 field goals were from beyond the arc. The Nets made four 3s in the first quarter, five in the second, two in the third and pulled away with four more in the fourth, leading by as many as 21 points.
Stevenson said Williams was the key factor in creating opportunities for New Jersey’s outside threats.
“When you have two shooters like me and (Morrow), they’ve got to pick which one. I got open 3s, (Morrow) got open 3s. That’s the way you’ve got to play.
”That’s why I came here,“ Stevenson added. ”(Williams) is an All-Star point guard, he does great things out there. If you put him in a situation where the court is spread, we can get wide-open jumpers all day.“
The punchline is lighting it up, with a Player Efficiency Rating equal to that of Kevin Durant, a scorching shooting percentage on two-pointers, a small uptick in free throws and a better feel for help defense. Bargnani’s legendarily awful rebounding numbers are still pretty bad, but the Raps are sixth overall in defensive rebounding rate, thanks to a gang rebounding mentality.
Bargnani won’t hit 79 percent of shots at the rim or 55 percent of his long two-pointers all season, but good things will happen if he keeps attacking, and new coach Dwane Casey has Bargnani cutting off the ball and curling around screens a bit more on offense. Keep up that kind of dynamism, and Bargnani should flourish as a scorer.
So far this season, the Nets have been getting killed by giving opponents wide open 3 after wide open 3, but tonight, it was the Nets hitting their 3′s, prompting Ian Eagle to call the game, “a 3 point party up north”. The Nets still only shot 39% for the game, but were 15-31 from 3. In fact, they made 16 2 pointers and 15 3 pointers. That is a shockingly low number of 2 pointers for a team that scores 97 points, but I will take it. The 3 point party was led by Anthony Morrow, who had his first Morrow-type performance of the season with 24 points on 9-14 shooting and 6-10 from 3. Welcome back, Anthony! D-Will also had a very nice game for the Nets with 24 points, 9 assists, and 5 rebounds, even though he could have easily had more assists if the Nets were able to make a layup. Even Deshawn Stevenson showed up tonight with 15 points. Hilariously, all of his points were on 3′s, and he shot 5-12 from 3 and 0-1 from 2. Wow. Kris Humphries led the way in the Windex department with 16 rebounds, 9 of which being offensive. However, he only had 6 points, but this is the kind of game the Nets need from Humphries, who was visiting one of his many former teams.
The NBA is revving up and I couldn’t be happier, I had talked myself into thinking I wouldn’t have missed the NBA when the lockout was in full effect but who was I kidding, I am watching more NBA Basketball than ever right now.
Dwayne Casey has been fantastic, he is awesome. It appears that we really gave Jay Triano to much leeway as a coach, Dwayne has these guys playing D, Bargs is a monster, etc. Has anyone heard any of the Bargs interviews this year? Bargs is saying all the right things, he is becoming a leader. What a change, if he keeps playing like this he better make the all star team. Scary thing, he can still get a lot better. He was actually smiling on the court the other night!
I know they are 4 games in and we are 500 (currently in a playoff spot) but it wouldn’t be crazy if the Raptors snuck into the 8 spot, not sure if that is a good thing or not but crazier things have happened. Look at the teams below, If Garnett or Rondo go down Boston is screwed, if Amare can’t get healthy or Carmelo gets hurt NY is screwed or they could just fall apart. Philadelphia is an overachieving team like us and we are definitely better than those other 6 teams. I think the Raptors are the type of team this year that won’t lose to teams they are supposed to beat and will probably hang tough with the better teams, Raps stay healthy and they could sneak in, we have a decent amount of talent/athletes and a great mix of veterans and youth.
Toronto has no stars.
Let me repeat that.
Toronto has no stars.
Andrea has been playing his ass off this season up until last night. And DeMar’s been good at times. But last night the team needed both of them and they were nowhere to be found.
I’m not even sure which one’s disappearing act was more egregious.
On one hand DeMar was benched for the bulk of the fourth quarter thanks to his 1 for 6 performance that netted a giant three points.
On the other though, Bargnani took only 12 shots on a night when the Nets had no answer for him. He wasn’t aggressive, consistently deferred to teammates, and in a game that required rugged rebounding, he grabbed four boards, and was guilty of numerous lax plays on D.
Want more proof that he regressed to his old ways?
The advanced stats from the match show a usage rating of 23.2. He’s been averaging 28.95 on the season. His assist rate of 19.7 last night was also way up from his season average of 10.54. Both of these metrics and others are a pretty good indicator that Andrea wasn’t looking to be as aggressive offensively as usual.
It was a scary site because as a fan of this team, you quickly realize that when these two guys aren’t going, there’s not much else, especially with Bayless hurt.
“Guys made shots,” coach Avery Johnson said, “but the player of the game for us was DeShawn Stevenson. The defense he played on DeRozan was incredible.”
It really was. DeRozan, averaging 18.5 points per game, had three points and was 1-of-6 from the floor as he answered the question, “What was 6-foot-7 and invisible?”
“I just wanted to be physical and he’s a great player,” said Stevenson, explaining he sought to “lock up, be a great defender. He had tough shots early on, missed them and I think after that, the basket got smaller.”
Not the other way.
“I got open shots, A-Mo got open shots,” Stevenson said.
With Morrow (who needed to visit the dentist after the game because of the elbow to the mouth) supplying 14 of his points before the intermission, the Nets opened up an eight-point halftime lead. The lead hit 14 in the third and 21 in the fourth as Williams picked apart the defense.
Everyone got in the act, including Farmar who was out of the rotation three games ago, but had 10 points and four assists off the bench.
“We were playing together on both ends. We shared the ball, had good spacing. Defensively we were rotating,” Farmar said. “It felt like we were a team.”
Demar DeRozan after a magical performance on Wednesday had one of his worst nights of his NBA career to this point. Just 3 points on 1-6 shooting with a couple rebounds and a couple assists. Andrea Bargnani finally came down to earth tonight. His improved defence was MIA and his numbers across the board were down. He had just 17 points shooting 6-12 with just 4 rebounds on the night. Jose Calderon had a nice stat line but his lack of ability to guard Deron Williams was on full display. Even when the Raptors put him on someone else he was getting exposed. If he is on your fantasy team you will be happy with the 19 points and 8 assists. But in reality he was not that good.
“They came out tonight on a mission and they jumped on us right away,” a dejected DeRozan admitted to the media following the game. “We needed this, especially going into the next couple of games to get our minds back on track. We (obviously) can’t go easy into games, we need to jump on them.”
Calderon was a little more succinct when he told the media, “Well, we weren’t that good.”
For DeRozan, there were plenty of lessons learned tonight.
“Don’t underestimate anybody,” DeRozan told a reporter when asked what he learned from this loss. “Don’t listen to what the media is saying about us after winning three games and all of the rah rah. We need to just keep playing (hard).”
Still, with four games in the next five nights, there will be an opportunity to jump right back at it and correct these mistakes.
“The great thing about the NBA is you get kicked in the butt one night, you have a chance to come back the next night and go at it again,” Casey said to the media. “Our challenge will be to rev it back up and go out it a more desperate mode tomorrow night in a back-to-back game.”
It will be interesting to see if Toronto is able to parlay the lessons they learned tonight into a more inspired effort tomorrow night against Philadelphia.
As I’m sure most of you are aware by now, Linas Kleiza has been cleared to play after spending the last 11 months recovering from dreaded microfracture surgery. With three years and $13.8 million left on his contract (assuming Kleiza picks up his player option for 2013-2014), Kleiza is more than just another body. He is capable of becoming a solid option at small forward for the next three seasons, but he’s just as capable of becoming an amnesty clause option if he shows that he hasn’t fully recovered from surgery or shows that he hasn’t changed much from the player that last played in early 2011. Last I remember from Linas, he was an inconsistent chucker who didn’t seem to know his role on the court. Here’s hoping some good coaching and internal development sees Kleiza become a legit option at the three for Toronto.
Pound the Rock
It is the Mantra of this years Raptors. The players are united on Twitter, using the hashtag after each game win or lose.
In hindsight it really is a brilliant mantra for this young team. This year is going to filled with nights like tonight, when players like Deron Williams shred our perimeter defence. When inside players like Kris Humphries dominate the paint and we look foolish defensively.
This young team just needs to keep it coming.
We have seen major improvements in Andrea Bargnani and Demar Derozan early on and over the last two nights we have seen Ed Davis react to his name being called out.
These young players really do need to the ‘pound the rock’. Things are improving, they just aren’t going to happen over night.
Take your lumps and get back out there. The fans see the improvement and hopefully the players and coaches feel it.