The last time the Toronto Raptors faced the Brooklyn Nets was in the first round of the 2019-2020 NBA Playoffs. Toronto swept Brooklyn 4-0. Toronto continued their winning streak against the Nets, winning 123-117.
It was a strange night of basketball. Before tipoff, Kevin Durant was out due to Covid health and safety protocols. He was later cleared to play in the 1st (coming off the bench for the first time in his career), before being pulled for the night in the 3rd. In 19 minutes he had 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 fouls, as he helped rally the Nets from a 17-point deficit. They took their first lead in the 3rd, in what became a closely contested matchup.
Pascal Siakam led all players with 33 points and 11 rebounds in 38 minutes. He struggled early but fought through his initial difficulties and exploded for 16 of his season high 33 in the 3rd. Siakam has seemed to find his stride and helped spark the team’s offence going into the 4th.
With Toronto up 2 going into the 4th, it was back and forth in the final 12 minutes. Brooklyn took the lead and went up 6, but that’s as far as they would take it. Toronto ended the game on a 20-10 run enroute to their 3rd straight win.
In the win, Kyle Lowry had a season-best 30 points, 7 assists and 2 steals. He was 6 of 9 from deep and shot 66.7% from the field in 37 minutes. After sustaining a cut from an inadvertent elbow late in 3rd, Lowry took over. He scored 11 of his points in the final 4+ minutes to help close out the game.
The Raptors got stops when they needed it and forced 18 Nets turnovers, resulting in 26 points. They grabbed 10 steals and 6 blocks, while limiting Brooklyn to 117 points on the night. Despite outscoring their opponent 64-40 in the paint, Toronto had 15 less free throw attempts. It has been a discouraging stat for the team all season, yet they persist.
Kyrie Irving was held to 15 points on 6 of 12 shooting, in his lowest scoring night since his return to action on January 20th. James Harden had a quiet 17 with 12 assists. Joe Harris led the Nets with 19 points and 5 made 3’s.
After the game, it was clear Toronto was all on the same page. Regarding Friday’s win, Siakam discussed how important it was to “stick to the game plan”. When Lowry was asked how Toronto was able to pull off the win under such unusual circumstances, he said they needed to “stay locked in to the game plan”.
As the season continues, the Raptors are showing their awareness of what is needed for them to be successful: defence. It continues to be a driving force in their recent turnaround. They are 8-4 in the last 12, and in those wins, Toronto has held their opponents to an average of 103 points per game. Defensive stops lead to transition basketball, and that is their bread and butter. They are currently 2nd in the league on fast break opportunities (16.2 per game). With 4 games in 6 days, Toronto will need to buckle down on defence to come out on the winning side of this road trip.
Game Notes: Chris Boucher had his first solid night off the bench in since mid January. He had 17 points and 9 rebounds in 26 minutes. Toronto will need more consistent production from their second unit if they look to continue climbing the east standings. The Raptors are now tied for 6th in the East.
Next up.. Toronto faces the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. It is 1 of 2 back to backs for the Raptors in the next 6 days. Tipoff is 8pm EASTERN at State Farm Arena.