It was another reminder of a very familiar early-season theme: Nearly anything is possible in the Eastern Conference. The Nets have been a disaster, and it might not matter a bit.
Down to 11 seconds and trailing by two, the Raptors put the ball in Gay’s hands. It was his play all the way, but he didn’t like what he saw. Instead, he passed off to Amir Johnson alone in the corner. Johnson is an improving three-point shooter, but he’s still only taken 47 of them in a nine-year career. That was not statistically optimal (another thing Gay wouldn’t know, and how could he?!) He missed. The Raptors lost 102-100.
This was one of the worst coached games I’ve seen by Casey. The Raptors were coming off an extended break and looked thoroughly unprepared. The only two players that kept them in the game were DeRozan and Lowry. Who did he trot out to begin the 4th quarter when the Raptors were down 5? DJ Augustin, Landry Fields (both of whom saw the court for the first time all game), Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, Terrence Ross. The Nets dominated the next 3 minutes and never relinquished the lead. The Raptors were down 1 with 23 seconds left. They let 12 seconds run off before fouling. When they got the ball back, the final play had Amir Johnson parked for a corner 3 while Steve Novak crashed the boards. You literally can’t make this stuff up.
“They were in attack mode and they made shots,” Casey said. “Against those types of teams you have to throw the first punch. You can’t wait to get hit like we did tonight and wait until the last five (actually three) minutes and then you start scrapping and playing desperate. We are no where near where we need to be to play at that level and feel our way into the game. We have to be the desperate team every time we walk on the floor.”
“They had us on our heels on both ends of the floor,” Casey said, his team outscored by 20 in the paint and allowing the Nets to shoot 51 per cent from the field. “It started on the defensive end. They had us on our heels, they were in attack mode, they made shots and we shouldn’t be surprised by that. They have Hall-of-Famers on their team and against those types of teams you’ve got to throw the first punch. You can’t wait to get hit like we did tonight.”
You think you were sick and tired of losing? So were they. All of a sudden, the Nets (4-10) are now two games back of the first-place Raptors (6-8) for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. There’s still no word on when Deron Williams (ankle), Brook Lopez (ankle), Andrei Kirilenko (back) and Jason Terry (knee) will be back. But the Nets couldn’t kick off a stretch of four games in five nights any better than this.
It was effort. Effort and execution that carried the Nets. They were active on both ends, Kidd called the proper adjustments, and the played to their individual strengths — Tysahwn Taylor (9 points, 4 assists in 19 minutes) and Mason Plumlee (9 points in 16 minutes) were fantastic in providing athleticism off the bench. You can make the case that Kidd made the wrong call in the final minutes, taking Taylor out in favor of Livingston, and after the Raptors went on an 11-0 run it certainly seemed so. But, at this point, you take the win, put it in your back pocket and head home.
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