Morning Coffee – Sun, Feb 9

At this point you just need five dudes wearing a Raptors jersey and you'll get a W.

At this point you just need five dudes wearing a Raptors jersey and you’ll get a W.

VanVleet scores 29 points, Raptors beat Nets for 14th straight win –

Terence Davis had 20 points in his first home start, while fellow rookie Matt Thomas chipped in with 15, and moments after the win Nick Nurse praised the young players for stepping up when called upon.

“Our assistant coaches and staff do a great job keeping those guys ready with the mindset of `you never know’ and stay ready,” Nurse said.

Pascal Siakam also had 20 points, while Serge Ibaka chipped in with 12 for the Raptors (39-14), who were missing six-time all-star guard Kyle Lowry.

Caris LeVert led the Nets (23-28) with 37 points.

A day after his energetic 17-point outburst in the Raptors’ 115-106 win in Indiana, Davis earned his second NBA start. Davis, who wasn’t named to the Rising Stars game of NBA all-star weekend, was announced in Saturday’s starting lineup as “From undrafted to our rising star.” Then fittingly, he was the first Raptor on the board, after being fouled on a three-pointer for a four-point play.

The Raptors backups — Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, Thomas and Oshae Brissett — went on a 14-2 second-quarter run that gave the Raptors their first double-digit lead of the night.

“Any athlete will know when you get in that zone and when you get in that rhythm, obviously, it’s a lot easier and the game comes a lot more naturally and you play with lots more confidence,” Thomas said.

Eight thoughts from Toronto Raptors close win over Brooklyn Nets to keep the streak alive | Canada | The official site of the NBA

2. An unlikely lineup swings momentum

Without Lowry, Marc Gasol (hamstring) or Norman Powell (finger) available, the Raptors had to dive deeper into their bench than usual. They came out slow as a team, trailing by three points after the first quarter, until their bench gave them the boost of energy they needed.

A lineup of Patrick McCaw, Matt Thomas, Oshae Brissett, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher came in and held the Nets firing offence to zero points in a four minute span. They sparked a 11-0 run to take a 44-36 lead in the game and never looked back, as the Raptors never surrendered the lead again.

3. Matt Thomas’ offence sparks the run

That second unit’s defence was stout as a whole, but it was Matt Thomas’ offence that got the team going.

The reserve sharpshooter went 3-for-3 from 3 for a quick nine points in the second frame to ignite the run. He scored 11 points in the second quarter alone, eclipsing his previous season-high of 10 points in just one quarter.

‘They were incredible’: Yet another unlikely group extends Raptors’ improbable winning streak – The Athletic

There is no right way to win 14 basketball games in a row, either. To do that requires some serious bucking of probabilities and an unrelenting approach toward escaping each battle victorious. To win 14 consecutive games in the most fortunate of situations is difficult. Doing so with a rotating cast of injured players — now once again including the team’s engine, Kyle Lowry, who joined Marc Gasol, Norman Powell and Dewan Hernandez on the shelf Saturday due to whiplash — seems, if not impossible, highly implausible.

So if you’re going to win games like that — if you’re going to win 14 games in a row like that — you’re going to have to, on occasion, win ’em ugly.

The Toronto Raptors are well suited to do so. Their 119-118 victory against the Brooklyn Nets was about as ugly as any other game over the past month, complete with a near-collapse as they saw an 18-point lead squandered down the stretch. The offence grew shaky, the Nets swung back from hot to cold to hot from outside and Caris LeVert took over with a monstrous, career-best performance. That the Raptors hung on is a testament to their resilience. You’ve heard this before. Fred VanVleet hit a number of clutch baskets on his way to 29 points on 24 used possessions, OG Anunoby took on the challenge of stopping LeVert on a potential game-winner and the Raptors did just enough to skate by.

“Obviously, it’s not the textbook way to close out a game, but when you have a long winning streak like that, there’ll be different types of ways of finishing it,” VanVleet said.

Raptors win 14th straight with thriller against Nets | Toronto Sun

Had the game gone to overtime, flagging Toronto might have been in trouble. Luckily for them, it didn’t.

“I think you’re right, we didn’t make a three I don’t think forever it seemed like in the fourth; we had a couple of point blank, front of the rimmers (that missed),” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said when asked about Toronto’s fatigue.

“We knew it, we talked about it in a couple of timeouts, ‘man, we gotta gather everything we’ve got when we get it inside and try to finish,’ we couldn’t quite do it,” he said.

“Big stop at the end, good job pressing up on and getting them disjointed down there.”

Showcasing its admirable depth (three undrafted players — VanVleet, Davis and Thomas — combined for 64 points and the team got 74 in all from its undrafted crop) Toronto improved to 38-14, while the Nets slipped to 23-28. The Raptors didn’t have all-star Kyle Lowry (whiplash), former defensive player of the year Marc Gasol (hamstring) or sixth man Norman Powell (finger), but once again found a way.

“That’s how you go on a long streak in this league,” said Brooklyn’s Atkinson after talking up Toronto’s many contributors. “They have young guys deep in the roster that have helped them win games … You just can’t do it with your top five or your top six, you’ve got to be deep, and they are deep.”

10 things: OG Anunoby comes to the rescue to preserve Raptors' 14-game win streak

One — Barely: The Nets gave the Raptors a taste of their own medicine with a ferocious rally to tie the game after being down 18. Toronto took its foot off the gas pedal, and the veteran duo of Wilson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan gave Brooklyn some much-needed defensive toughness. Throw in a breakout performance by Caris LeVert, who finished with a season-high 37 points, and it was nearly a recipe for disaster. In all honesty, the Raptors were lucky to get away with that result, but 14-game win streaks don’t happen without plenty of good fortune. You take it and move on.

Two — Clamps: Nobody on the Raptors had an answer for LeVert, who scored on three straight trips to knot the game at 118 apiece. During the last timeout of the game, OG Anunoby apparently asked for the assignment on LeVert, and promptly saved the streak. LeVert got the ball on the final possession as Anunoby anticipated, and he hung step for step, refusing to bite on any fakes, before swatting LeVert’s desperate heave at the basket. The Nets actually caught a break as the ball deflected right to Joe Harris, who was wide open under the rim, but his putback attempt rimmed out as time expired.

VanVleet scores 29 points and Raptors beat Nets 119-118 for 14th straight win – The Globe and Mail

The Raptors backups — Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, Thomas and Oshae Brissett — went on a 14-2 second-quarter run that gave the Raptors their first double-digit lead of the night.

“Any athlete will know when you get in that zone and when you get in that rhythm, obviously, it’s a lot easier and the game comes a lot more naturally and you play with lots more confidence,” Thomas said.

The Raptors stretched their lead to 18 points in the third, and went into the fourth up 100-88.

“That was a big lift,” Nurse said on his bench’s big second quarter. “That group was awesome in the first half, right? They were incredible. They turned a lacklustre start to the game into an energetic game and they were great.”

The Raptors couldn’t put away the pesky Nets in the fourth. A mini 5-0 Nets run pulled the visitors to within three points with three minutes to play. But VanVleet was fouled while driving to the hoop and his basket and free throw gave Toronto a three-point cushion and had the Scotiabank Arena crowd chanting: “Fred-dy! Fred-dy!”

But three consecutive baskets by LeVert tied the game 118-118 with just 35 seconds to play. With the capacity crowd of 19,800 on its feet, Siakam was fouled, making one of his two free throws with 23 seconds left. OG Anunoby smothered LeVert on Brooklyn’s final possession forcing an airball.

The Raptors can’t catch a break on the injury front. Lowry, who missed 11 games earlier in the season with a broken thumb, suffered whiplash when he hit the back of Ibaka on Friday in Indiana. Norman Powell missed his fourth game with a broken finger, while Marc Gasol has missed 18 games, in two stints, due to a hamstring injury.

“At this point, I think we’re experienced enough in that realm unfortunately,” VanVleet said. “We’ve had a ton of guys out this year, so we don’t really think about it, it’s just more opportunity for a guy like Terence to get some starting minutes, obviously myself to be primary ballhandler most of the game, so it’s more opportunity and guys gotta step up and try to make the most out of the situation and find a way to get a win.”

Raptors notes: The NBA’s resiliency kings, including Davis and Anunoby | Toronto Sun

Head coach Nick Nurse had been pretty confident that OG Anunoby would find his way again after some recent offensive struggles. Few people in the Raptors organization have been higher on Anunoby than Nurse, who talked him up in Las Vegas before Nurse even took over as head coach in the summer of 2019.

Sure enough, Anunoby had 16 points, including three three-pointers, along with five steals in a dominant effort against Indiana.

“We found him (for offensive chances). There were opportunities to find him and he stepped in and made them,” Nurse said. “He made some great cuts and dunks and a bunch of steals. He got out in transition. He just had a great all-around game both ends of the floor.”

Anunoby is one of Toronto’s best cutters and he can take advantage of the basketball IQ of the other starters who will find him when he is open.

VanVleet steps up with Lowry down and the Raptors’ record win streak hits 14 — it wasn’t easy | The Star

A backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis, who made his first home start in place of injured all-star Kyle Lowry, combined to score 49 points on 51 per cent shooting in the battle-hardened Raptors’ third game in four nights.

“We knew it. We talked about it in a couple of timeouts: Man, we gotta gather everything we’ve got when we get it inside and try to finish,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.

A breathless, end-to-end first quarter saw the lead change eight times, with the Nets up by three after 12 minutes. Without Lowry (whiplash) and Marc Gasol (hamstring), the home side finished the quarter with a new-look second unit of Patrick McCaw, Matt Thomas, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher and Oshae Brissett, who was recalled from the G League’s Raptors 905 after recovering from an ankle sprain.

The surprising five held the Nets scoreless for more than 4 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. Thomas led the bench with a career-high 15 points, including three of four from beyond the arc, in a career-high 22 minutes. Boucher chipped in nine points. In total, the second unit outscored the Brooklyn bench 27-11 in the first half.

“That group was awesome in the first half, right?” Nurse said. “They were incredible. They turned a lacklustre start to the game into an energetic game and they were great.”

Nets' upset bid falls crushingly just short in loss to Raptors

Caris LeVert saw his career night end with his late jumper missing, and Joe Harris missing a putback attempt at the buzzer. When it was over, the Nets’ late-game rally fell just short in a 119-118 loss.

“They guarded it pretty well. They switched a lot of the screens,” said LeVert, whose career-high 37 points went in vain. “It was pretty crowded on that side. I tried to get a good shot up. They played pretty good defense.

“We’re not really into moral victories or anything like that. I would much rather have just played OK and got the win.”

Harris slammed the ball down in disgust as the Raptors celebrated an NBA-high 14th straight win. The Nets’ rally from an 18-point third quarter hole fell inches short. But they weren’t about moral victories, or pats on the back for playing hard.

“I don’t think we’re really in the business of moral victories,” said Spencer Dinwiddie, who had 21 points and 11 assists. “We’re a playoff team as well. If you’d asked me that two years ago we probably would’ve been like, ‘Yeah we played well and we fought, yada yada yada. We’re a young group and we’re fingering it out.’

“We’re a playoff team. We need to figure out how to beat these teams. This might be our first-round matchup, so we could play them next week and then four more, five more, six more times in the playoffs: You’ve got to be ready, prepared for that.”

Raptors Top Nets 119-118, Extend Record Winning Streak to 14 – The New York Times

VanVleet said the Raptors have become accustomed to winning without a complete lineup.

“At this point, I think we’re experienced enough in that realm, unfortunately,” VanVleet said. “We’ve had a ton of guys out this year. We don’t really think about it.”

Besides Lowry, Raptors center Marc Gasol missed his sixth straight game because of a sore left hamstring, while guard Norman Powell sat for the fourth consecutive game because of a broken finger on his left hand.

Davis shot 5 for 8 from 3-point range and VanVleet went 4 for 9 as the defending NBA champions remained unbeaten since a 105-104 home loss to San Antonio on Jan. 12. The Raptors swept their third straight set of back-to-back games.

Caris LeVert scored a career-high 37 points, going 6 of 7 from long range, but missed a 3-pointer with a second left that would have given Brooklyn the win.

“I’m not really into moral victories,” LeVert said of his high-scoring effort. “I would much rather have played OK and got the win.”

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Spencer Dinwiddie had 21 points and 11 assists and DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and 14 rebounds, but the Nets lost for the first time in three games without injured guard Kyrie Irving (sprained right knee).

Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson praised Toronto for “incredible depth” that has prolonged its current streak.

“That’s how you go on a long streak in this league,” Atkinson said. “You just can’t do it with your top five or your top six. You’ve got to be deep, and they are deep.”

Caris LeVert’s career night not enough to top scorching hot Raptors, 119-118 – NetsDaily

While Toronto denied Brooklyn (23-28) a third straight win, Toronto (39-14) won their 14th straight game, 119-118, Saturday night at Scotiabank Arena. Caris LeVert was phenomenal with his career-high 37 points and a career-high tying six 3-pointers. Over the three games that Kyrie Irving has missed with a right knee sprain, LeVert has scored 89 points, a 29.7 point average.

It wasn’t enough, and it wasn’t because of the final play. It wasn’t because Kenny didn’t call a timeout. It was because the Nets failed to play good basketball for 48 minutes, specifically on the defensive end.

Toronto scored 33 points in the first quarter; 33 points in the second quarter; 34 points in the third quarter.

“Our defense, we just couldn’t get stops until the fourth quarter,” said Atkinson.

LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie opened up the game by scoring a combined 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Behind the lead of the backcourt duo, the Nets scored 36 points and led by three entering the second quarter, having shot 7-of-15 from three with only one turnover.

By halftime, the Nets trailed by 12. The Raptors started the second quarter on a 14-2 run and outscored the Nets 33-18. They contained the duo of LeVert and Dinwiddie to only two combined points, and the Nets missed 11 of their next 13 3-point attempts.

LeVert kept going, though. Down 11, he nailed a three plus the foul, matching his career-high for points (29) for the second time this week, while also cutting Brooklyn’s deficit down to seven with 9:37 remaining. At that point, he also tied his career-high for 3-pointers in a game (six). He’s scored 20+ points in three consecutive games.

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