TORONTO — The Nets got their first glimpse of Jahlil Okafor and Nik Stauskas on Friday night at Air Canada Centre, and for a while in the first half, the results looked promising. Stauskas made his first five shots, including four three-pointers, and scored 15 of his 22 points as the Nets surged to a four-point second-quarter lead.
But that wave of euphoria evaporated quickly in the second period when Okafor was on the floor for an epic defensive meltdown that allowed the Raptors to take full control on their way to a 120-87 victory.
DeMar DeRozan was virtually unstoppable for the Raptors (19-8), scoring 31 points and shooting 14-for-19 in the three quarters he played. Serge Ibaka added 18 points and Kyle Lowry had a modest triple-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists. The Raptors shot 55.7 percent, scored 35 points on 24 Nets turnovers and dominated points in the paint 74-44.
The Nets (11-17) were led by Stauskas’ 22 points and seven rebounds and got 13 points from Isaiah Whitehead but trailed by as many as 37 points in their worst loss of the season. Okafor had 10 points and four rebounds.
Of the new guys, coach Kenny Atkinson said: “They don’t know our system yet. But there definitely were a few bright spots, especially on offense. Stauskas showed some real pop in the pick-and-roll, hit some good shots for us. It’s an expected debut. It’s going to take them time to integrate.”
Okafor and Stauskas played for the first time in eight days since being traded from Philadelphia. Shortly after Okafor hit a layup on his first shot, Stauskas banged in a three-pointer on his first Nets shot.
Maybe it was the comfort level of playing in his native Canada, where he is a member of the men’s national team, but Stauskas quickly caught fire. He made the first four three-pointers he looked at and added a three-point play on a drive to score 15 points in a 17-2 run that gave the Nets a 34-30 lead.
“For me, it was more excitement to be back out there,” Stauskas said. “I don’t think I played more than seven or eight minutes this year in a game in Philly. Just to play meaningful minutes in a game back home was really exciting. Once I saw the first one go down, that’s when my confidence started growing, and I just let them fly from there.”
Shortly after Stauskas sat down, Okafor returned with the Nets holding a 40-39 lead. Jonas Valenciunas scored over him on two straight possessions to begin a 19-5 run.
“It was amazing to finally be out there,” said Okafor, who played 25 minutes in two games earlier this season. “I had some cobwebs on me, but just to be out there running up and down and playing basketball was great. That obviously was a tough one for us all tonight, but for me personally to finally be on the court after not playing for so long, it was good.”
Okafor said he never caught a rhythm and has to get in NBA condition but added that it felt exciting just to be a real player again. “The jitters and the nerves that you get, that’s my first time having that in a while because I knew I wasn’t going to play, so I was just chilling before the game,” he said. “To have that, having to focus and feel that again was great.”
It was a first step back.