Recap: Nets 100, Raptors 112 - Running Back the Fourth
Entering the fourth quarter of their eventual, 100-112, loss at the Air Canada Centre, the Brooklyn Nets were in good position to steal a much-needed win from their former Atlantic Division rivals. The Nets’ offense, which has struggled impressively since losing its starting point guard over a week ago, kept pace with the league’s sixth-best offense, leading by ten points after the first quarter and by three points in as many quarters. After scoring 74 points in their last meeting, the Nets dropped 84 in their first 36 minutes, and responded to head coach Tony Brown’s halftime adjustments with their most productive third quarter all season, with 35 points on 19 shot attempts.
Leading the offensive revival through three quarters was Joe Johnson, who was an efficient 8/9 for 20 points over that stretch with four assists to two turnovers, as he continued his strong shooting in 2016. Brook Lopez took over with ten points in the second quarter and another 11 in the third, to bring his totals to 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, with still a quarter yet to play. Even Inpredictable’s Win Probability charts pegged the Nets’ best chances at winning the game at almost the halfway point of the third quarter, with a 54-percent chance of victory at the 4:56-mark.
So how did the team go on to be outscored, 16-31, in the final frame, and take a loss just 12 minutes after playing their best third-quarter basketball of the season? For that, let’s dust off the ol’ running diary format, and go a bit more in depth into another Nets fourth-quarter collapse.
FULL BOX SCORE
(For a refresher, a running diary is just a “live” play-by-play reaction in real time, with time stamps as a reference point to the game’s action. Though I’ve seen the final score already, these are all thoughts from my first viewing of the fourth quarter vs. the Toronto Raptors.)
0:39.7 (3Q) - DeMar DeRozan + Bojan Bogdanovic’s defense (x isolation situation) =
11:46 - I promise this whole exercise won’t just be Raptors highlight videos, but Terrence Ross shows the flashy end result of Kyle Lowry’s tough, off-the-ball defense. Lowry sticks with Wayne Ellington and blows up a Shane Larkin pass off the down-screen, and the outlet ends up ahead of the break to (former Slam Dunk Contest champion) Ross for the swooping two-hander. Not an exactly auspicious start for that Nets offense…
11:30 - Wayne Ellington long-two count: 1 (in this quarter, at least)
11:17 - Bogdanovic rushes Patrick Patterson at the three-point line and deflects the pass to the front court, where he’s all alone for a left-handed dunk on the fast break. Nice play by Bogie and all, but Ross just set the dunk-standard thirty seconds ago, so no video for Bojan here. Nets up 3, 86-83.
11:00 - A PPat three-pointer, all alone in the corner off the pick and pop, ties the game at 86. Nets counter on the other end with a Shane Larkin layup after Toronto switches the pick and roll to the baseline. Larkin turns the corner off the high-screen and shows a nice burst to the basket and finishes right-handed on the left side of the rim. Aggressive Larkin!
10:14 - Aaaaaand Kyle Lowry, Eastern Conference All Star, buries a three off the catch to put Toronto up a point.
9:54 - While Bojan makes two free throws, Tony Brown subs Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson back in the game, to play alongside Larkin, Bojan, and Thomas Robinson. Joe goes iso-mode immediately and gets a really good look in the mid-post against the smaller Cory Joseph, but the right-handed baby hook won’t fall.
9:17 - Kyle Lowry makes two free throws, after crossing up Bogdanovic badly in the open court. Lingering question I have while watching Bojan play defense, that I felt was too “hot take-y” for my review a week and a half ago: is Bogie the worst (on-ball/wing) defender in the game? Like I wrote then, his over-active feet probably exacerbates his awful one-on-one defense, but he might be the most crossed-up player in the league. (Is there a SportsVU category for this?)
9:16 - Tony Brown counters a small Raptors lineup with the rare Larkin/Donald Sloan backcourt. How rare, you ask? (I’m assuming…) Per NBAWowy, the two-point guard lineup of Sloan and Larkin has shared the court for a whopping eight minutes together all season. (Thanks, NBAWowy!)
9:02 - With all those guards and speed on the court, Brook Lopez, the only big man in Brooklyn’s lineup, can’t get out of the paint in time and the team turns it over on the three-second violation. “That’s turnover number eleven for the Nets,” says Ian Eagle, on cue. (Thanks, Ian!)
8:36 - More Shane Larkin speed bursts! This time he finishes on the right side of the rim with the left hand, after again turning the corner on a high-screen (or one and a half, in this case). Unfortunately, however, Kyle Lowry buries a mid-range jumper, then a catch-and-shoot three from a nice Jonas Valanciunas kickout, and the Nets take a timeout, down four. Donald Sloan recognizes his mistake in doubling down on the Valanciunas dribble, but it’s tough to run a dual-point guard lineup (or even a four-guard, one-big lineup) without at least one player being a plus-level defender.
7:58 - Brook Lopez benefits from a broken play to contort his big body as he bounds to the basket. (Okay, I’m done. Nice take, though. Nets back to within two points.)
7:19 - He then follows with the embodiment of a heat check for a big man, but Brook somehow gets the jump ball back after Valanciunas blocks his awkward layup attempt. Shane Larkin uses Brook’s ensuing screen to pull up with his jumper before Jonas can step up, and the game is tied and Ian Eagle is excited.
6:49 - I have no words for what Patterson throws up against the backboard, upon being rushed off the three by Thaddeus Young. No words.
6:31 - No but seriously, it’s like teams don’t read the scouting reports and realize that Thaddeus Young is a lefty. He gets Patterson deep in the paint (who at least forces him to the right side of the basket) and turns over his right shoulder for a drop-hook. Tied again.
6:12 - Textbook pick-and-roll result from the Toronto Raptors’ offense. Kyle Lowry runs the high-screen with Valanciunas, forcing Joe Johnson to help on Jonas’s roll to the basket. Lowry finds Johnson’s man, and Terrence Ross nails the three-pointer as the defense collapsed. (Fine, let’s go back to the video.)
5:48 - TERRENCE ROSS FAST-BREAK SMASH! Nice loft-pass by Lowry, too.
(/cuts out huge geek-out paragraph as the YES Network advertises their “Ladies Night R&B Superjam” event on February 12th, and which prompts a “Who’s your favorite: Jagged Edge?” exchange between Mike Fratello and Eagle. Jodeci, Faith Evans, J.E., SWV, Blackstreet, The Lox, Carl Thomas, Total, and Black Rob, though?! I AM SO IN.)
5:44 - Ughhhhhh, this is a great example of an argument against Shane Larkin as point guard with the starting unit. Credit to Jonas Valanciunas’s adjustment in going well under the Larkin/Lopez screen and staying paint-bound, which forces Larkin to switch the high-screen and force the pass to his big on the roll. Kyle Lowry gets right in Larkin’s pass-release point and draws the steal on the drop-down pass.
4:45 - Some ugly offense on both sides. Donald Sloan gets deep into the lane against the Raptors’ defense and flips up a lefty layup that can’t connect, as Valanciunas forces up his own drive to the basket. Thaddeus Young then takes an open elbow-jumper off one dribble, and DeRozan holds the ball on the other end and throws up a long jump shot that just rattles out. Not to be left out, Shane Larkin takes the ball upcourt and gets below the foul line for a floater which bounces off the back rim.
Last five Nets possessions:
Missed layup (Sloan)
Missed jumper (Young)
Missed runner (Larkin)
4:11 - Wayne Ellington subs in for Larkin and the Nets go a bit more traditional in their lineup. DeMar DeRozan immediately takes Joe Johnson off the dribble across the lane, fades away, and nails the jumper following a whole bunch of hang time. Impressive.
3:34 - Kyle Lowry step-back three-pointer, and all of a sudden Toronto’s up ten and the crowd is live. Nets go Iso Joe in the previous possession, that draws some help and sets up a Young runner along the left-baseline. It rims out and the Nets’ drought continues.
3:21 - And if there’s ever a bad time to force a bullet pass through traffic and down the middle of the lane, Donald Sloan found it, coming out of a timeout and down ten points. That’s three turnovers and four missed shots over a span of three minutes, with the score going from tied to down ten. With under three minutes remaining, let’s see if the Nets have enough time to respond…
2:45 - Wow… What’s the opposite of “respond”? I want to blame Brook Lopez for taking a face-up jump shot at barely a step in from the right-corner-three - because it’s a really, really bad shot attempt at a pivotal point in a soon-to-be blowout - but that’s what happens when the ball gets sticky on offense and every player doesn’t feel involved: they take the first bad shot attempt they see when they do touch the ball. Appropriate blame to Brook, especially if he aspires to be an actual leader on this team, yet also some to the team’s point guard (Sloan) for a costly turnover on the previous possession and the entire team for the lack of ball movement over a tough stretch.
2:18 - Toronto, meanwhile, isn’t exactly a beacon of ball movement themselves, but their hot-potato’ing between DeRozan and Valanciunas leads to a made runner. Ellington pulls the trigger on the first look he sees, with 18 seconds still on the shot clock, to put their consecutive-missed shot streak at six. PPat makes a decidedly-less ugly runner than his previous attempt, from in front of the rim, and the lead balloons to 14 behind Toronto’s run.
(In my Jerry Seinfeld voice: What’s the deal with runners? Maybe it’s because the Nets can’t do anything else on offense, but it feels like every other possession between Brooklyn and Toronto is of the floater- or running layup-type. Enough’s enough, already.)
1:38 - WE’VE GOT A MADE BASKET BY BROOKLYN! WOOT WOOT!
Joe Johnson uses a Lopez screen to put DeRozan on his back, and makes the in-between jumper to quell a five-minute stretch of scoreless Nets basketball. The Nets get to 100 while the Raptors use the clock to their advantage, and at least Young forces a bad DeRozan long jumper in isolation.
1:01 - Donald Sloan launches a three that (predictably) falls short, and this one’s over. Sloan gives the Nets’ last available foul on the other end - to Kyle Lowry - and Tony Brown calls for a line change. Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira checks in for Toronto and skies for a rebound on a Bogdanovic missed-three, and still remains more intriguing as a prospect than he is as an actual on-court player, after some stalled years of development between Atlanta and Toronto. He’s still so young (23) and could still put his physical skills together at the NBA level, but his departure through trade probably won’t come back to bite the Hawks just yet (at least not like Lou Williams last season).
In the future, when referencing how to lose a winnable game on the road and in the fourth quarter, feel free to use this Nets loss as a guide. Turnovers - 14 for the Nets and seven for Toronto - again cost the team, and though the offense finished at 51.3-percent from the floor, they again fell into a deep hole from beyond the arc (minus-24 from three, compared to the Raptors). The offense was still much better than in previous games - at least for the first three quarters - and matched Toronto in assists (24), but the five-minute period in the fourth quarter without a point was the catalyst, and allowed their opponent to post a double-digit run that would ultimately decide the game.
The Brooklyn Nets can at least take positives from the first three quarters of their 100-112 loss in Toronto, and draw optimism from the revived shooting of Joe Johnson and another strong statline from Brook Lopez. The fourth quarter, though, showed all of the Nets’ flaws, and their familiar symptoms of offensive futility in big moments. (Oh, and surrendering 61-combined points to the Kyle Lowry/DeMar DeRozan duo also doesn’t help.)
Brooklyn falls to 11-31 on the season following their loss in Toronto, and will play next on Wednesday, at home, to the recently blown-out Cleveland Cavaliers.