The Brooklyn Nets fought hard to come back from a 21-point deficit, but could not get over the hump and fell to the Toronto Raptors 93-87 in their final road game of the season. With the loss, the Nets cannot catch Indiana for the third seed and they have clinched the 4-seed. Deron Williams had 30 points and 7 assists for the Nets. DeMar DeRozan had 36 points to lead Toronto, while Rudy Gay also had 26 points and 10 rebounds.
The Nets didn’t get off to a great start tonight and were trailing 14-2. The Raptors were making some very difficult contested shots, and the Nets were missing their pretty good looks. The Nets fought back, but Rudy Gay hit a contested 3 at the buzzer to give the Raptors a 4-point lead after 1. Unlike in the first quarter, the Raptors really outplayed the Nets in the second and got way too many easy looks. Toronto had many alley-oop opportunities in transition and the second unit did not play well. The starters came back in, but still did not play much better. The Nets trailed by 19 after the first half. Brook Lopez finally woke up in the third quarter, but the rest of the team did not. Finally, at the end of the third quarter, Deron Williams hit back-to-back 3’s and then got fouled on another 3 at the end of the quarter to cut Toronto’s lead to just 11 heading into the fourth. The Nets got within 2 points in the fourth quarter, but were never able to get over the hump. DeMar DeRozan had an answer for every Brooklyn run.
Even though Indiana lost to the Manhattan Knicks this afternoon, the Nets will not be able to catch the Pacers because the Pacers are division champions. This means that the Nets will matchup with either the Bulls or Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Bulls also lost this afternoon, so Atlanta is one game ahead of Chicago for the 5-seed, but Chicago does own the tiebreaker. Most Nets fans would prefer to face Atlanta. If the Nets win their first round series, they will meet the winner of Miami and Milwaukee in the second round, and we all know who is going to win that series.
With the loss, the Nets finish up the road portion of their schedule with a very good 23-18 record away from home. That is the best record in franchise history and could be either 2nd or 3rd best in the eastern conference depending on what the Knicks do in their last road game of the year. The Nets should be proud of how they played on the road this year, even though they were unable to win the game today.
For a box score of this game, click here.
Player grades and notes:
Reggie Evans: C+
Reggie played 30 minutes tonight, but did not play a single minute in the fourth quarter because the Nets needed offense to get back into the game. He had 16 rebounds but didn’t attempt a single field goal or free throw. He also picked up his third technical foul in the last two games.
Keith Bogans: C-
Bogans knocked down his first two 3-pointers and appeared to be getting out of his slump, but he missed his last five 3-point tries, and many of them were good, open looks. When he is making his shots, he can help the Nets spread the floor and create more room for their slashers like Deron, Joe, and Brook. He needs to get back on track in his shooting in the playoffs.
Brook Lopez: C
Lopez really struggled in the first half and finished with only 2 points. He woke up in the third quarter, but again disappeared in the fourth. He finished with 16 points and 5 rebounds on 7-19 shooting. It’s ok that he has an off game once in a while. Get these games out of the way now and be ready for the playoffs.
Deron Williams: A-
Deron did not look hobbled at all by the injury he suffered at the end of the game on Friday. He finished with 30 points and 7 assists and brought the Nets back into the game in the third quarter by scoring 8 points in the final 2 minutes. He also made some good plays in the fourth to keep the Nets alive. I don’t expect him to play much in the last two games of the year with the Nets having nothing to play for.
Joe Johnson: C+
Joe struggled tonight and scored 12 points on only 4-16 shooting. He was 2-9 from 3. He did have one big 3 to keep the Nets alive in the final 30 seconds of the game, but also missed another two 3’s. Joe has been playing much better lately, so I don’t mind one off game.
Andray Blatche: B+
Blatche was one of the Nets’ best players tonight off the bench and finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds. He made good decisions on offense and was smarter than usual on defense. Blatche could be Brooklyn’s X-factor in the playoffs.
The Nets will be back in action tomorrow night as they host the Wizards in the second-to-last game of the regular season. FRWD will have full coverage of that game.