While the Nets carried a lead for the majority of the first half, the Raptors stormed back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game going into halftime.
Coming out of the half, the Nets set the tone for another game that was going to come down to the wire.
After an impressive third quarter from Russell where he put up 15 points on 7-for-9 shooting, hope was starting to rise for a win.
With the rest of the game going to a familiar chaotic back-and-forth nature, the game was tied at 98-98 with a minute to play. After an out-of-bounds turnover by Russell where he was trying to call timeout, the game went to overtime. The dream-like run that started this game was turning into a familiar, recurring nightmare for the Nets.
Brooklyn was being tested once again.
Even in a losing effort Kawhi Leonard stole the damn show.
The Toronto Raptors stud went off on one of his tangents again, dumping on the stats sheet from all angles with 32 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, 4 steals, and 2 blocks in a one-point overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
The Nets busted their eight-game losing streak after catching Toronto on an off night for the most part, with only three players scoring in double digits and shooting just 39 percent on the night as a team.
But when Raptors fans take a deep breath and step back to remember that this Kawhi dude can do absurd stuff like this, these losses are just a little bit easier to stomach.
The 9-18 Nets can’t compete with Toronto’s talent, yet outworked the visitors and survived in overtime to take the 106-105 final, dropping the Raptors to 21-6.
Fred VanVleet had a chance to win the game, but rimmed out a three-pointer set up by Kyle Lowry on a broken play that the Raptors managed to turn into something workable.
“Great ball movement. I know everybody would have probably liked Kawhi (Leonard) or Kyle to take that shot, the last shot, including me (but) they both made great plays,” VanVleet said.
“Kawhi found Kyle and then Kyle drove and found me wide open. I’ll take those all day, every day.”
D’Angelo Russell had 29 points, allowing Brooklyn to overcome Leonard’s 32, and the Nets had a massive 60-41 rebounding advantage that helped negate Toronto’s 24-9 made free-throw advantage.
Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis did yeoman’s work on the boards. Allen had 10 rebounds, with Davis snatching 15 in just 21 minutes. The tandem also combined to hold Jonas Valanciunas to seven points after halftime. The big Lithuanian center had 17 in the first half.
Even the much-maligned defense of D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie made an impact. All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry dished out 11 assists, but he also turned the ball over five times and shot just 1-for-8 on the game, scoring just three points. He came in averaging 14.6 per game.
Brooklyn cleaned the defensive glass and limited offensive rebounds — something the team has been among the worst in the NBA at doing.
The Nets’ defensive rebounding rate of 74.2 percent ranked 28th in the NBA entering the game and opponents had averaged 11.1 offensive rebounds per game, 25th in the league.
The Nets grabbed 44 boards off the defensive window against Toronto, while the Raptors had just six offensive rebounds. That matched the second-lowest total Brooklyn has surrendered this season.
Toronto also failed to capitalize on two game-winning chances. At the end of regulation and tied at 98, Leonard missed what would have been the game-winning shot, sending the game into overtime.
“Yeah, the ball went in and out,” he noted. “That’s just the way the game goes sometimes.”
Leonard has posted 30-plus points in four of his past five games. In the extra period, the four-time All-Star momentarily took over scoring seven of his 32 points, including a monster dunk over Nets center Jarrett Allen.
Allen ended up scoring the only non-D’Angelo Russell (29 points) bucket in overtime as he netted the go-ahead layup with 1:04 left. After Leonard failed to secure an open look in the final seconds of overtime, Kyle Lowry found an open Fred Van Vleet who missed a game-winning trey.
OverDrive hosts Bryan Hayes, Jamie McLennan and Jonas Siegel are joined by ESPN Baseball Tonight host Adnan Virk to get his take on the Raptors pulling large numbers when they were broadcast on ESPN and how Kawhi Leonard is fitting in the team.
Nurse has pointed that out as one of the key attributes to third-string centre Greg Monroe on more than one occasion, and the coach complimented Jonas Valanciunas for the same key character traits after one of the best games the Raptors’ centre has had this season.
“He works, he wants to know the answers when he’s got questions, he wants to work in between days and things like that,” the coach said of the 26-year-old Valanciunas. “He gets rewarded, I think, for just his good-natured spirit. He’s in a good place as far as being a team guy.”
The one consistent trait Valanciunas has displayed since he arrived in Toronto seven years ago is a team-first mentality. Sure, he wants to shoot more and play more and be a more vital cog because he’s like every other NBAer worth his exorbitant salary: He is convinced he can do whatever is asked of him.
But Valanciunas has been steadfast in coming across as a legitimate team-first guy.
Wright has never been a particularly high-usage player, but his usage has bottomed out this year, mainly due to a massive drop is assist percentage. It’s tempting to blame VanVleet, as he dribbles into three defenders under the rim, for stealing all of Wright’s possessions (and assist opportunities). There’s some validity to this, but VanVleet is not really finishing more possessions than he did a year ago — he just hasn’t been nearly as effective in doing so. In fact, VanVleet has dropped from the 68th percentile to the 31st percentile in points-per-shot-attempt, and his overall eFG% has dropped from 52.5% to 47.8%. Add the minutes Wright shares with Miles and his miserable 41.3 eFG%, and the problem becomes clearer for Delon.
So is Wright’s drop in assist percentage just due to VanVleet and Miles’ poor shooting this year? Not exactly. He’s also simply getting fewer touches. In four fewer minutes, Wright is making 21.5 passes and receiving 22.5, while last year he averaged 32.6 passes made and 34.5 passes received. The bench offense is not flowing as freely, which might have something to do with the lack of transition offense, the lack of chemistry, and the lack of Siakam.
The game was far from an aesthetically pleasing affair, with enough poor shots missed badly to set the cause of professional basketball back a bit.
The Raptors began the fourth quarter missing nine of 11 shots but then went on a 9-0 run when the Nets starting throwing the ball away and running themselves into shot-clock problems repeatedly.
Toronto went to a small lineup to finish the game and provide some energy, with Pascal Siakam and Leonard in the frontcourt with Lowry, VanVleet and Danny Green.
Toronto gave up an astonishing 16 offensive rebounds to the Nets, failing to chase down long rebounds off missed three-pointers and repeatedly being outmuscled at the rim. The Raptors were out-rebounded 60-41 overall.
It was the only way Brooklyn was able to stay in the game and set up the dramatic finish. After a Leonard miss, the Nets had a chance to win in the final five seconds but Spencer Dinwiddie missed a shot at the rim.
The Raptors just continue to roll, winning nine out of their last 10 and with Kawhi Leonard looking a legit MVP candidate. This spot appears safe for the foreseeable future.
Let’s start with the good news: Kawhi freaking Leonard. Though a 32-point (10-for-21), four-assist, four-steal evening doesn’t necessarily pop on paper, Leonard looked like an insane person trying to win this game for the Raptors in the second half. Playing primary ball defence on any Brooklyn player who threatened to get on a hot streak, Leonard appeared primed to win the game by himself.
His second-in-command? Jonas Valanciunas, who had the start against the lanky Jarrett Allen, proof Nick Nurse is maybe concerned with his team’s rebounding woes, or trying to observe a mismatch. While Valanciunas didn’t necessarily shore up the issues on the boards — Brooklyn out-rebounded Toronto 44-35 — he was great on offence. The big Lithuanian had 24 points to go with eight rebounds.
Outside of that, save 16 from Pascal Siakam, it was crickets from the Raptors. Kyle Lowry in particular will be a talking point coming out of this one. With his jumper bricking badly, Lowry looked caught between not wanting to shoot and heeding the words of his coach coming out of practice this week. Nurse wants his All-Star to shoot ten times per game — if they look as bad as they did tonight, though, that might not be the best idea. Lowry had just three points on 1-for-8 shooting (1-for-7 from downtown), adding five turnovers while getting 11 assists.
Nobody outside those I’ve already mentioned shot better than 50% for Toronto. OG Anunoby, Delon Wright, and Fred VanVleet were a combined 5-for-20 off the bench, as the Raptors struggled again to tread water during those minutes.
In what should have been a winnable game for the Toronto Raptors turned out to be a close one that came down to the final shot and the Brooklyn Nets played it perfectly.
With the ball in Kawhi Leonard’s hand, the Nets didn’t give him any space forcing him to pass it off to Kyle Lowry who gave to an open Fred VanVleet who had his shot bounce off as time expired. It was a big win for Brooklyn who ended an eight-game losing streak.
However, when you look at this game it was clear that the Raptors had more to do with the result than what the Nets did and this is something Nick Nurse will look to address. An obvious thing is an overreliance on Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry who have played well but recently, only one has shown they can shoulder the load.
Lowry hasn’t looked himself the past couple of games and only had three points in 36 minutes against the Nets. Simply put that’s not going to get the job done even though he continues to distribute the ball at a high rate.
The final flurry in the fourth quarter coincided with the most extended run of the season, as I recall, with Pascal Siakam as the centre of a smallish lineup.
With Lowry, VanVleet, Green, Leonard and Siakam, the Raptors were able to get the tempo up a bit and scramble the game, which is what it needed given their inability to make a shot most of the night.
It issue, of course, was rebounding, and boxing out. The three guards – Lowry, VanVleet, Green – aren’t exactly proficient on the boards, Leonard’s have a great year rebounding for him but Siakam gets pushed around under the glass just a little bit too much.
I’ve said from the start of the season that I thought rebounding would be a consistent trouble spot and it has been. I don’t think it’s by any stretch a season-killing issue – they are 21-6 don’t forget – but it’s something to keep an eye on.