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Raptors claw their way to victory on Drake night.

Just as a heads up, today’s recap will be a bit light on game analysis as I’m unexpectedly filling in for a fellow RR writer. I’ll give a brief recap of the game before gripping about the terrible refereeing in last night’s game.

[Individual player grades and analysis can be found in Andrew's Quick Reaction]

GAME RECAP

Coming into last night’s game, the Nets were on a five game winning streak. They beat OKC on the road, they beat Atlanta, they beat Golden State and they even beat the Miami Heat. Needless to say, the Nets were on a roll, and they were getting contribution from up and down the roster. Deron Williams was huge in the win against OKC, but when he re-aggravated his ankle injury, Shaun of the Livingston took his place and dropped 11 assists on the Heat. In Deron’s absence, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce stepped up. Kevin Garnett looked somewhat spry and even Mirza Teletovic (who?), the sharpshooting big-man out of Bosnia stepped up and contributed.

On the other hand, the Raptors were well-rested after beating a hapless Pistons team two nights prior, and it was Drake Night, which really was as hilarious and as entertaining as one would expect. Drake wore one of his OVOxRaptors shirts (they were free, did anyone cop one for their favorite RR writer? No? Yeah I figured), a backwards ballcap, and he introduced the Raptors starting lineup. I highly suggest you watch the video below — spoiler alert: he calls Dwane Casey dashingly handsome:

On to the game. Both sides started slow as it was a grind-it-out type of match for the first quarter. Valanciunas and Johnson looked invisible on the front-lines so the backcourt did most of the damage via the usual ways. Ross spotted up in the corner for a three, Lowry hit a wing three and Derozan did his damage by driving to the hoop and shooting from midrange. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce had it going early, but it was apparent that their legs were tired on the second night of a back to back. Mason Plumlee was very active in the early going and held the fort down in the interior.

The Sacramento Kings bench unit came on at the start of the second and they were surprisingly effective. They extended the lead to as much as 13 points, thanks most in part to John Salmons who had a dunk and a three en route to a 5/5 night from the field (including 3 three’s).

However, the lead began to slip when the starters came back in. Valanciunas got blocked and Johnson didn’t look so hot either. The referees also called some pretty bogus fouls on the Raptors (more on this later) which allowed the Nets to get back into this one, but the Raptors still went into halftime with a 5 point lead.

It all went to poops in the third. The Raptors were completely flat coming out of the half and the Nets outscored the Raptors by a 18-3 margin before Casey yanked the starting frontcourt — who were conceding all kinds of offensive rebounds to the Nets — and subbed in Patterson and Hayes. The lineup of Lowry-Derozan-Salmons-Patterson-Hayes went on a major run to end the third and they miraculously turned a 10 point deficit into a 4 point lead going into the final frame. Demar Derozan was huge as he single-highhandedly scored 9 straight points for the Raptors, including this ice cold dagger at the buzzer. Patterson chipped in with some sorely needed rebounding.

The Raptors sprinted through the final frame while the Nets were clearly exhausted. The Raptors played up-tempo on offense and stymied the Nets on defense. Without Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce, the Nets struggled to generate any good looks, which is completely shocking because they had Alan Anderson running the point for a while (remember him?). The Nets got it to as close as 7 points, but Lowry hit a pull-up three (from the wing, because of course) and it was game, set and match from thereon. The ACC was as loud as I can remember and Drake did his best Dwane Casey impersonation beside the man himself. All in all, Drake Night was a pretty big success, both on the court and off it.

Ball Don’t Lie!

I alluded to this earlier, but the referees — led by unwrapped mummy veteran official Dick Bavetta — did a horrible job officiating last night’s game. The whistles were noticeably screwing over the Raptors in the first half (some examples below), but then the refs doubled-down on their mistakes and gave the Raptors a bunch of make-up calls in the third quarter (the Nets got whistled for 9 fouls in the 3rd).

Hey referees? Look, I don’t really care for “make-up calls”, because I personally believe it mostly evens out over the course of a game, but above all else, just try your best to make the right call. That’s all any fan could ask for. If it is a foul, call it. If it isn’t, swallow that whistle. If you made a mistake on a call, don’t double-down and keep repeating that mistake. If you accidentally called a tick-tack foul on a guy in the first, you don’t have to uphold that standard for the rest of the game. Just try your best to make the right call, because the three clips below were most certainly not the right calls:

Apparently this wasn’t a foul on Plumlee, so the refs must be calling it tough tonight, right?

Dammit Lowry! How could you foul Paul Pierce’s elbow with your face like that? Ugh.

Yep, it was that kind of night

All in all, not a great day at the office for the refs. To the Raptors’ credit, they fought through the malaise and revved up the engine after sputtering in the third. Major daps goes out to Derozan and Patterson, who contributed with scoring and rebounding respectively. Derozan’s playmaking is also to be commended, and his development on the offensive end this season has been a pleasant revelation. He repeatedly drove the the hoop in the third and without his 26 points, the Raptors would have likely lost the game, so kudos to Demar.

Oh, and the Raptors now hold the championship belt. That’s kinda cool, right?