Fatigued Nets routed by Raptors in fourth quarter
TORONTO - Apparently their legs couldn't make it through customs.
The Nets had been riding high, boasting the league's longest active winning streak and finally feeling good about themselves, figuring they'd finally discovered the right formula.
Their confidence was in a stratosphere that it hadn't reached all season, thanks to a stretch in which they'd beaten four .500-or-better teams, including the Thunder, Warriors and Heat.
On Saturday night, although Kevin Garnett was given a rest day after Friday night's double-overtime victory over the Heat, the Nets could have sent a message to the team they're chasing at the top of the Atlantic Division. But their legs didn't cooperate in a 96-80 loss to the Raptors at Air Canada Centre that ended the Nets' season-best winning streak at five games.
The Nets (15-22) trailed at the end of every quarter, unable to keep pace with the springy Raptors (18-17). They actually held a 10-point lead in the third quarter before watching Toronto seize control with an 18-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. The Raptors outscored the Nets 28-16 in the fourth quarter.
"It looked like our guys ran out of gas," Andray Blatche said. "That's about it. We got in late, even though it's no excuse, but it is what it is. We ran out of gas. We played a tough game last night and traveled all night here and guys didn't have the energy."
Playing in a wild atmosphere that resembled a concert, aided by rapper Drake hyping up the crowd with his presence, the Nets couldn't maintain the offensive gusto they displayed late in the second quarter and most of the third quarter. They went through a scoreless stretch of 9:01 in the second half and fell behind by 13 with 7:23 left, an uphill climb they weren't able to make.
"I thought we did a great job of fighting back and taking the lead and pretty much controlling the game," Joe Johnson said. "And for whatever reason, whether we were lax or whatever, they were able to make a run and pretty much take control of the game."
Shooting 31.6 percent in the fourth quarter, including 1-for-7 on three-pointers, didn't help matters for the Nets. Perhaps it was a case of jelly legs.
"That's the easy way out for me," Shaun Livingston said. "We played a lot of minutes [Friday]. It was a tough stretch, a tough turnaround. But you see we fought. That was a winnable game, so that's always disappointing. Disappointing for me as a competitor. Each game counts. That's a game that I would like to have back."
DeMar DeRozan had 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Raptors.
"We will see them again," said Paul Pierce, who led the Nets with 15 points. "I think we've got them a couple of more times. Right now, they've earned the right to be where they are at. They've played well since the [Rudy Gay] trade. They are a really deep team.
"It's just one of those things where I think fatigue really set in for us, didn't really have quite the depth. We didn't have Kevin. Of course, you already know about the injuries. A lot of things were against us tonight, and we still had a chance there until the end of that third quarter. They sort of went on a run and kind of fed off the crowd and put the game away."