Nets can't hold on and lose to Raptors in back-to-back games
There were so many words to describe what went wrong the last time the Nets faced the Raptors, which, incidentally, was only Monday.
They struggled in transition. They committed far too many turnovers. And they lacked communication, ball movement, or the ability to recover from the Raptors breathless, incessant attack.
There was also only one word to describe it: "Unacceptable," Bruce Brown said after that game.
They might have to add a new word for Tuesday’s loss to the same team: Unimaginable.
In a game with playoff implications, the Nets withered when it counted the most, squandering an eight-point fourth-quarter lead, failing to get key stops, and committing two defensive three-point violations in the span of a minute, all to the tune of a 109-108 loss to the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.
"We should have won," said LaMarcus Aldridge, the veteran surprisingly dinged with both violations in the final three minutes. "We had control, had a little bit of an offensive drought, had some turnovers and they made some tough shots, tough calls down the stretch and that’s the game."
The Nets (32-31) remain in eighth but move three games behind the Raptors in the standings with 19 to play and, pivotally, the season series will end tied at 2. And though the makeup of the team will change drastically when Kevin Durant returns from an MCL sprain – the Nets hope it’ll happen as soon as Thursday – they still have a host of other questions to answer as the playoff picture becomes tighter. First off, they have to hope that Kyrie Irving will soon be allowed to play home games, and then there’s no timetable on Ben Simmons (reconditioning) joining the team.
"It is a sense of urgency for sure," said Jacque Vaughn, coaching for Steve Nash, who entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols Monday. "We talked about it before the game. We talked about it after the game. We’ll talk about it when we get home. There is an urgency. It has to be with this group. They have to feel it, they have to sense it and embrace it and walk right through that door. There is a sense of urgency with this group."
Seth Curry hit a 28-foot three from the top of the key to tie the score at 103 with 50.8 seconds to go, but he then fouled Gary Trent Jr., who made both of his free throws. Scottie Barnes rejected what would have been Curry’s game-tying floater and Curry’s jumper soon after rimmed out. The Nets were forced to foul Trent twice more, essentially icing the game. James Johnson hit a three at the buzzer for the final margin.
Trent led five scorers in double digits with 24 points, and Barnes had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors (34-27). Johnson led the Nets with 19 points and Curry had 18 points and six assists.
The Nets led 89-81 going into the fourth, but managed just two points in the first six minutes and were outscored 28-19 in the quarter. The Raptors eventually put together a 10-0 run, and Barnes’ floater with 4:06 left gave them a one-point lead, their first since the final 3:18 of the third. They carried the advantage until Curry’s game-tying three, but the Nets never led after Barnes’ shot.
Aldridge scored 16, and his two three-second violations came with 3:05 left and 2:10, leading to two extra points.
"One was probably legit and then one wasn’t legit," he said. "I was in the pick-and-roll so I could be in the paint and then, as I recall — I don’t know, I haven’t watched it yet — but I think I was touching Thaddeus (Young) as he was clearing the lane so I think that’s tough to call down the stretch."
Added Curry: "I’ve never seen that before . . . That was shocking. LA was saying, if he’s in there, usually the refs warn him or tell him to get out of the lane but there was none of that.
"Two points at the end of a close game is crucial. It’s tough to overcome."