Raptors fall to Nets; division race tightens

6 mins read

vince carter new jersey nets toronto raptors
Vince had 32 to make up for
his bad game in Toronto
I didn’t expect the Raptors to win this game. Playing in New Jersey against an under-pressure Nets team that just got swept in a home-and-home by the Cavs, the Raptors weren’t going to be allowed to win this game. The Nets simply aren’t that bad. Although the Raps came back from an early deficit to take the lead at halftime, it always looked like the Nets were going to pull this one out. One had to expect Vince Carter (32, 5, 7) to make up for his pathetic performance in Toronto and he delivered the win for the Nets. The cold hard fact is that neither of these two teams is much better than the other in all phases of the game and in such contests, you have to give the home-court the edge.

The Atlantic Division race will go down to the wire and probably to the last week of the season. There simply isn’t a clear-cut winner for the division and even teams like Boston are capable of surprises. The reason the Raptors and Nets are neck-and-neck is mainly because they haven’t been hit hard by injuries; Bosh and Jefferson being the obvious exceptions. If Paul Pierce had been healthy, Boston would’ve been in the thick of things. Look for the Celtics to make a comeback once he’s back; I’ll be shocked if they don’t. Even the Knicks are right there and there’s no reason to believe that they’ll just fall behind far enough to be non-factors. The only team that is truly out of it are the Sixers who don’t even care to compete for, much less win the division.

Doc Rivers provides some great analysis of the Atlantic Division:

“If you have three or four days off, you probably move up to first place. The key in our division is not playing right now. That’s almost how you feel. Toronto had four days off and moved up to first place. “

Some positives from this game: Andrea Bargnani (8-13 FG for 22 points) continues to impress and quiet critics of his selection as the #1 pick in the draft and Jose Calderon is making a case as one of the best backup PG’s in the league. His scoring mentality works well when his shot selection isn’t erratic and he takes what the defense gives him. On the other hand, Fred Jones continues to struggle with his shot and confidence; this on a night when Joey Graham, his chief competitor, also had a sub-par game game. Raptors will need stead contribution from the swing spot to compete for a playoff spot and inconsistent production by Mo Pete/Fred Jones/Joey Graham makes the job much harder for TJ Ford and Chris Bosh, the former going 0-8 in a horrible shooting night and both having probably the worst games of the season.

A 17-6 New Jersey run to open the third quarter killed off the Raptors who managed to cut the deficit to one a couple times but Richard Jefferson and Kidd responded when needed. When the starting lineup combines for 29 points, it’s very hard to stay in any game. It’s a miracle this one was as close as it was.

Sam Mitchell said it best:

Normally I don’t like to give stat sheets out after the game. I feel that all the guys who started should get a stat sheet tonight. Take it on the bus with them and put it under their pillow and sleep with it. Sometimes you need that slap in the face.

But somebody should also ask Sam Mitchell why he opted to go for ice cold TJ Ford over Jose Calderon who was having a fluid and unforced offensive game. It’s moves like these that make people question Sam Mitchell’s coaching strategy. I wonder what Bryan Colangelo thought of this move.

Of course, a Raptors loss wouldn’t be complete without somebody at RealGM saying something completely stupid. Tonight’s gem comes from Jno, who offers:

“TJ and Bosh suck ass”

Thanks Jno.

These nights happen in the NBA. On to Milwaukee next. Going 1-2 or 2-1 on this road-trip is not a bad result. Milwaukee will be without Michael Redd and Boston will be without Paul Pierce for the Raptors next two road games. The opportunity to steal valuable road wins is there, let’s see if the Raps can take advantage.

Here are the YouTube highlights courtesy of Chasin from RealGM:

Game in a Flash

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTW0sGobY-g]

Andrea Bargnani

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GK-z7HDz8b4]

Chris Bosh

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdzPSZ_lOgQ]

Jose Calderon

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2DNsl3jfug]

Joey Graham

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF7CvEr6lnc]

Mo Pete

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yU7rPrGeAMA]

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