Nets beat Raptors to end five-game losing streak
TORONTO -- Call it a great escape.
It wouldn't have mattered if the Nets had been playing the Washington Generals Wednesday night, they were desperate for a victory after a five-game losing streak.
The opponent wasn't the longtime foil for the Harlem Globetrotters, but the Raptors, crippled by injuries, down to eight players and with one of the NBA's worst records. Still, the listless Nets, struggling with the Raptors' zone defense, were down by eight points at halftime.
"We came out in the second half and brought the energy up," Andray Blatche said. "To be honest with you, the threes were what gave us that energy."
Guards Joe Johnson, with 23 points (19 in the second half), and C. J. Watson, with a season-high 16 off the bench, each was 4-for-4 on threes after halftime. The Nets (12-9) were 9-for-11 from beyond the arc in the second half as they rallied to eke out a 92-86 win over the Raptors (4-19) at Air Canada Centre.
"It looked like we were feeling sorry for ourselves," coach Avery Johnson said. "We had our heads down a little bit, but after the loss [to the Knicks], those games are not the easiest to come back from, especially on the road. Deron [Williams] had a little talk with them on the court before the third quarter and they responded."
The 31-point third quarter for the Nets began slowly, but five minutes after intermission, two threes, from Williams (12 points) and Johnson, trimmed Toronto's lead to 53-48. Williams hit a floater in the lane, Watson fired in a three and all of a sudden, the Nets trailed by only one, 58-57. Johnson's ensuing three gave the Nets their first lead since the opening minute, and they went into the fourth up 68-64.
"Nothing was going right for us," Williams said. "When a team is missing six players, you tend to overlook them. And we hadn't faced a zone except for maybe five or six possessions all year. We had to figure out how to exploit it."
The Raptors turned over the ball, started to sag and just couldn't recover before a surprisingly large crowd of 18,847. Once down by 11, Toronto closed to 90-86 with 17 seconds remaining, but Watson dropped in two free throws.
The Raptors were missing forward Andrea Bargnani (torn elbow ligament) and point guard Kyle Lowry (triceps), who were injured Monday. Center Amir Johnson was suspended for one game after being ejected against the Trail Blazers for flinging his mouthpiece at a referee. Three others were sidelined previously by injury: former Knick Landry Fields, Alan Anderson and Linas Kleiza.
Nonetheless, the Raptors led 27-20 after a quarter, and they needed Williams' three at the buzzer to be that close. Against the Knicks, the Nets led 26-9 in the first.
Ed Davis, starting for Bargnani, had 11 of his 24 points and the Raptors shot 57 percent. With the Nets missing center Brook Lopez for the seventh consecutive game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey's instructions were to "attack the rim," and the Raptors scored 30 of their 45 first-half points in the paint.
But the second-half surge was something Avery Johnson had sought.
"Independent of the opponent, we've got to be able to shoot like that the next game,'' he said. "We weren't faking ourselves tonight. We were just taking the shots."