The Toronto Raptors hosted the Brooklyn Nets at the ACC Tuesday night in a contest billed as an easy win for the home team. With the visiting club’s best player in Brook Lopez sitting this one out, Dwane Casey felt comfortable enough to rest Patrick Patterson, whose workload ranks third on the team. This decision made room for more small ball lineups, enabling both Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell to play 27 minutes apiece in a 116-104 Raptors win (Boxscore).
Q1 – The Feel Out
The first made basket of the night was an alley-oop from Kyle Lowry to Siakam, signaling what was to come. Jeremy Lin celebrated his return to Toronto with a three pointer, but Kyle Lowry answered with a quick triple himself. Four minutes into the game, DeMar DeRozan exploded for a powerful dunk to wake the crowd up.
Pascal Siakam had a nice block helping on Valanciunas’ man, before Bogdanovic and Lin hit a pair of shots to bring the Nets within 3, 15-12. Joe Harris then drained a fast-break triple to tie the game at 17 following a DeRozan miss. A Carroll three gave Toronto the lead back, and they would not relinquish it the rest of the way.
With 3:30 left in the quarter, a unique lineup that included both Nogueira and JV alongside Joseph, Powell and DeRozan was featured. The question remains whether it was an error on Casey’s part, as he did not give the two tower lineup much of a leash, replacing Jonas with Terrence Ross within a minute. The offense continued to go through DeRozan, who took 10 of the club’s 21 shots in the frame, hitting 3 of them. A steal and a highlight open court dunk by Norman Powell marked a strong finish to a decent quarter, 29-23 Raptors after one.
Q2 – The Separation
The small-ball lineup experiment continued to start the quarter, as Lowry replaced DeRozan to team up with Joseph, Powell, Ross and Nogueira. As expected, the league-worst defensive rebounding Raptors continued to struggle in that department, failing to keep the likes of Luis Scola and Anthony Bennett off the glass. However, the benefits appeared to outweigh the costs in this case, as Toronto piled on the steals and blocks and punished the Nets on the break repeatedly.
A Jeremy Lin triple brought the Nets within 4, 47-43, but Toronto would close out the quarter with an emphatic 17-3 run, taking a 64-46 lead into the half. The Raptors recorded an impressive 8 steals and 4 blocks in the first two quarters, negating their rebounding struggles. In addition, they limited Brooklyn to 23 points in each period, achieving their ’23 or less’ target.
Q3 – The Status Quo
Knowing a strong start to the third would likely mark the end of the contest, the Raptors instead allowed a quick 6-0 run from the Nets, throwing a few careless passes in the process. Toronto answered with a 6-0 run of their own, extending the margin to 18 once more, 70-52. The two teams traded buckets for most of the period, with the Raptors up 91-72 after three. They didn’t exactly step on Brooklyn’s throat, but they didn’t allow an opening for a comeback either, recording a number of highlight plays in the process.
— Sam Holako (@rapsfan) December 21, 2016
— Sam Holako (@rapsfan) December 21, 2016
Q4 – Bruno Time
Lowry remained on the floor to start the 4th despite the Raptors being up 19, though the minutes were not heavy-duty, as the game slowed down with a host of fouls getting called. Toronto’s floor general was substituted with 6:11 to go after having played 33 minutes, while DeRozan played 29. Combined with the DNP to Patterson, the Raptors should be pleased with their top three guys’ playing time of late, heading into the Western road trip.
Lowry (34) & DeRozan (29) with another pair of reasonable workloads. Lowry hasn't hit season average (37.1) in 6 games. DeRozan down to 35.2
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 21, 2016
With the contest essentially over early in the fourth quarter, Leo Rautins and Matt Devlin spent roughly half the period talking about workout regimens and ice-cream eating habits. With those at the ACC unable to hear the scintillating conversation between the two commentators, they were forced to entertain themselves. With about three minutes to go, they began loudly chanting ‘We Want Bruno.’ Their wish was fulfilled, as Caboclo made a two-minute appearance, recording a quick offensive rebound to the elation of the crowd.
After somewhat of a let up, but with the win never in doubt, the Raptors take it 116-104, picking up their 20th victory of the season while handing the Nets their 20th loss.
- Kyle Lowry dominated as he often does, but it’s when role players like Valanciunas and Carroll step up that the Raptors become unstoppable. With Lopez out of the lineup, Jonas grabbed 14 rebounds alongside his 10 points, the 7th time in the last 8 games that he records double digits on the glass. Meanwhile, JYD 2.0 hit three shots from beyond the arc as he chipped in with 17 points.
- Great to see Powell getting minutes on a more consistent basis. Just like nearly every other time, he impressed with a line of 21 points on 7 of 13 shooting with 5 steals. The steals were crucial in getting Toronto easy transition points and creating separation from Brooklyn.
- While I understand the fans chanting for Bruno in blowouts, if I put myself in the shoes of the young Brazilian in his third year in the NBA, I’m not so sure I’d be enjoying the human victory cigar role at this point. I truly hope he does not end up as the Latino Mamba a la Brian Scalabrine.
Sitting comfortably in second place in the Eastern Conference standings, the Raptors head to Utah Friday to start their West coast trial by fire.