BROOKLYN — Close. But no cigar. The Raptors again took Brooklyn right down to the wire in The Borough, but this time, Patrick Patterson was in street clothes instead of hitting dagger jumpers and picking off passes. Patterson was greatly missed, as his teammates ended up coming up short.
What went wrong? For one, a team that has been as good as any in the NBA at holding opposing point guards in check this season (statistically-speaking at least) got throttled by Deron Williams. Williams isn’t consistently great anymore (remember, for a few years, he was 1A to Chris Paul as the league’s premier point guard), but he showed that he can still do amazing things at times. Toronto simply couldn’t stop the initial point of attack, allowing Williams to break down whoever he was being guarded by. That set up open shots as Brooklyn, a strong passing team, moved the ball around well. When it got back to Williams in the second half, he was connecting. Three threes in the third in as many attempts and he stayed hot in the fourth. Kyle Lowry couldn’t stop him, Amir Johnson struggled as any big would when switched onto him, and Greivis Vasquez must have given Raptors fans flashbacks of Jose Calderon’s defence. Vasquez was OK offensively, but got lit up at the other end.
- As the group said afterward, it still was just one loss. Nothing was sewn up. It was an opportunity lost for sure because Brooklyn would have been in dire straits in terms of having a shot at winning the Atlantic Division had the result gone the other way. But as Lowry said afterward, Toronto still controls its own destiny.
- Credit the Nets for continuing to win, even without Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko’s saved the team’s season (the Nets only got on track when he returned from injury) and KG, even at his current level, is still a rebounding force on a team that is horrible on the boards. Winning without them was a big accomplishment. The last-second decision to sit Garnett out contributed to Toronto getting off to a great start, but the Nets recovered from that surprise and fed off of Paul Pierce, who said there was no way he’d miss such a huge game.
- There were too many no-shows for large stretches of this one for the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan started hot but was mostly invisible, Terrence Ross scored 12 points in the first quarter, then didn’t score again. Jonas Valanciunas should have dominated Mason Plumlee, yet was merely average, if that. Only Tyler Hansbrough provided firepower off of the bench.