Game Recaps

Recap: Los Nets 74, Raptors 91 - “A Thud in Brooklyn”

Jonas Valanciunas dunks all over Thaddeus Young.

Jonas Valanciunas dunks all over Thaddeus Young.

For as ugly as the Brooklyn Nets’ offense looked in Monday’s matchup against their Atlantic Division rivals from Boston, it somehow appeared even worse in Wednesday’s 74-91 loss to the Toronto Raptors. Setting a season-low in points scored, the Nets proceeded to shoot under 40-percent from the field against the league’s 10th-best defense (by Defensive Rating) while committing more team turnovers (19) than assists (16) in the losing effort.

Thankfully for the team - at least for the first two quarters or so - the Raptors’ offense wasn’t exactly inspired either, finishing with a 16/17 assist/turnover ratio of their own and converting on just 43.8-percent of their field goals and 18.2-percent from three (4/22). An edge in the rebounding department and in made free throws helped the Raptors string together a 14-2 run to close out the first half, and their lead would swell to 20 in garbage time behind Jonas Valanciunas’s 22 points (on 8/13 shooting) and 11 rebounds.

Kyle Lowry looked fully capable of torching his Brooklyn opponents for a huge night, but had troubles with his jump shot in going 0/7 from beyond the three-point line and instead was a perfect seven-of-seven in shooting inside the arc. He’d finish with a quiet 18 points with eight rebounds and six assists, and was able to cheat off of his cover by playing passing lanes and picking up five steals.

Outside of Brook Lopez and his almost routine 20/10 output (well, actually a 24 and 13 on 11/21 FGs), the Nets were unable to get consistent looks from the field. The three-point shooting of Bojan Bogdanovic would show up in the second quarter and then completely abandon him over the rest of the evening, while Shane Larkin’s three-pointer to open the game would be his only make from deep. When the Nets were able to get into the lane off of dribble penetration, good things would generally happen, and the ball flew around the perimeter in the first half.

In that regard, Shane Larkin played much better against the Toronto Raptors and in his second-consecutive start at point guard than he did versus Boston on Monday. The confidence was apparent in the first shot attempt of the game, and he would display an improved sense of aggression in keeping the Toronto defenders on their toes. Larkin’s chemistry with Brook Lopez in the high-screen and roll is still evolving over their extended court time, and his biggest issues in running the starting unit seem to come from the mental and confidence side, as to when to shoot, or pass, or get into the lane.

Against the Raptors, Larkin showed bursts of playmaking and explosiveness, as limited as they may have seemed. Compared to Monday’s game, when he mainly drifted and was unsure as to when he could be aggressive with the basketball, it’s at least an improvement. 

This same sequence would have gone much differently just a few days ago, from Larkin’s perspective. After getting the switch on the 1-4 pick and roll and seeing Luis Scola crowd him on the perimeter, Larkin easily could have called for a Thaddeus Young post up (from above the free throw line) and given the ball up, instead of clearing it out and taking Scola to the basket. He flashes the quick left-to-right crossover and takes his man to the middle, and then throws the helping Valanciunas a nifty shot-fake to get him off of his feet and open up the drop-down pass to a lurking Lopez along the baseline. Lopez gets to yam all over three collapsing Raptors, without having to do much besides look inconspicuous around the basket and then catch-and-flush.

That’s a high-coordination play from a third-year point guard who is visibly struggling with his confidence upon being promoted to the starting lineup. The challenge for his teammates and head coach Lionel Hollins will be empowering the young Larkin to maintain that level of activity, and to challenge him to take charge of an offense that desperately needs a ball handler who can turn a defense’s head and find the open man. Because when Larkin plays passively - or not at all, in this case - this is how the Nets (and Brook Lopez) must manufacture their offense.

Scary, right?

The Nets were never going to be an offensive threat this season, given their personnel and schematic limitations in this age of pace-and-space, but without Jarrett Jack to command the point, their offense has reached new lows. The hope going forward is that Shane Larkin can grow into the lead point guard at the NBA level and learn on the job how to consistently play with confidence, and offer the team a new dimension with a vastly different skill set than his predecessor. For now, however, expect more offensive futility from the Brooklyn Nets, following Jarrett Jack’s injury.