It was the best of games, it was the worst of games. It was the play of wisdom, it was the play of foolishness. And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hill, ’til the landslide brought me down. Whoops, I always mix up my Dickens and my Fleetwood Mac.
This Brooklyn Nets 105-89 loss to the Toronto Raptors was a mixed bag of a game. Sometimes you reach in the bag and you pull out a candy bar, such as a wonderful, fluid fast break where Deron Williams drives to the lane and kicks to Joe Johnson on the wing, who then fizzes a ball to Mason Plumlee under the basket. Another time you might stick your hand in the bag and find the corpse of a mouse, like Joe Johnson’s late-game isolations, or Deron’s wild turnovers in the fourth quarter when he decided he was done attacking the lane.
It’s possible the presence of rapper Drake in the building for Drake night piled mounds of pressure onto the shoulders of the Nets and they couldn’t help but be smothered by it. I mean, how menacing is this:
Despite having a cartoon character rooting against you as well as the Raptor mascot (oooh, Drake burn), the Nets started very well, something they’ve done a lot of this season. Brooklyn shot 59.1% in the first quarter and had moments of movement, passing, and hustle for the first three quarters. The Raptors weren’t laying down though, they were just starting to peek in the window…
Don’t worry too much though Brooklyn, you’re safe in this room with your iso-sets, mid-range jumpers, and sluggish defensive rotations. Dinosaurs can’t open doors…
The Raps came roaring in that room, got to the rim, and took what they wanted. There was no T-Rex deux ex machina lurking offi-screen to save the Brooklyn Nets, who only managed 16 points in the fourth quarter.
The only consistently bright light in this strobe light of a game was the quickly-improving Mason Plumlee. Without Brook Lopez, Plumlee has seemed livelier, and it’s showing in his numbers. Mason scored a career-high 23 points versus the Raptors on 9-13 shooting and added 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks. Of course not everything can be good, so he was only 5-11 from the free throw line (after starting 2 for 2). Plumlee was staying ahead of the Raptors, but just barely.
Unfortunately every other Brooklyn Nets player faded as the game went on. The only real explanation is that their childhood fears of the velociraptors from Jurassic Park came rushing back once they saw the cartoon raptor on the front of Toronto’s throwback jerseys.
Players like Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson started strong, but all but disappeared in the fourth quarter. They finished with 14 and 17 points respectively, but had almost no impact in the section where Toronto took the game. Other players, like Bojan Bogdanovic, never showed up. Bojan finished 1-5 for 3 points in 17 minutes.
Bojan does look pretty scared there.
Ultimately I found Deron Williams to be the most frustrating of the Brooklyn Nets. Early in the game Deron was getting to any spot on the floor and making good things happen. Sometimes it was a snappy pass, sometimes a floater, but almost always good. By the fourth quarter, Williams wasn’t even attempting a drive, settling for skip passes from the perimeter. It was the best of times with 11 points, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists and the worst of times with 5-15 shooting and 5 turnovers.
What makes this particular game so frustrating is that there were plays, runs, and even quarters where the Nets looked like a talented, coherent basketball team. Then they saw their reflection in the glistening eyes of those Raptors and fell apart, just like they’ve been doing all season.
I’m so mad and sad and disappointed that I couldn’t even settle on an extended metaphor for this article. Instead I’m all over the place and fading here at the end, which just seems fitting.