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DLo gets hot early but Nets fail to contain Toronto late, 116-102

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — “I just feel like we got to treat everybody like Golden State,” said D’Angelo Russell after Brooklyn’s 23-point loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.

They may not be the Warriors, but the Toronto Raptors are the no. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Russell took it upon himself to step up early. He hit seven of his first eight 3-pointers and scored 24 of Brooklyn’s 40 points in the first quarter. Yikes!

To make matter’s even better, the Nets hit nine 3-pointers in the first quarter, a new franchise record, and led 67-57 at half. It was the most they’ve scored in a first half this season.

But then the third quarter happened.

The Raptors went on a 19-2 run early in the third and regained the lead entering the fourth.

The two teams found themselves in a tight battle down the stretch, but the Raptors ultimately prevailed following a 9-0 run to go up by 12 with two minutes remaining. They held DLo to just six points on 3-of-14 shooting after his first quarter outburst. He finished the night with 32 points and six rebounds.

In the meantime, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (19 points) did all he could to keep the Nets afloat, but the Nets couldn’t make stops nor find the offense without Russell. They scored a total of 35 points in the second half.

Final score: Raptors 116, Nets 102.

Via Elias, Russell’s 24 points in the first quarter marked the most points scored by a Net in an opening period since former Net Vince Carter scored 24 points in the first on April 9, 2005 vs. Boston. The seven threes are the most any player has hit in a quarter this season and tied for the fifth-most by any player in a quarter in NBA history.

It was fun while it lasted, but it wasn’t sustainable. Kenny Atkinson took DLo out after seven minutes in the first and he never got “it” back. Sure, Toronto adjusted, but when one of your best offensive weapons is 7-of-8 from 3-point – in any situation – it’s hard to justify sitting him. Even if it was for only two minutes. Momentum and confidence are crucial for basketball players ... or athletes in general.

The Nets have a methodical rotational system, but it’s a tough adjustment for any player on a heat check.

Of course, the Raptors DID make adjustments that altered Russell’s game, specifically Fred VanVleet who swarmed him. However, It’s just a constant trend we see where a player gets hot and will then be yanked.

The coaching staff isn’t to blame, but it’s food for thought.

“No, it’s been the same rotation for the last few games,” said Russell when asked if he wanted to stay in the game after his hot start. “Coach makes the decision. I just try to adjust with it.”

“I thought he was unbelievable,” said Atkinson. “That was an elite performance in the first half.” -

Add Jonas Valanciunas to the list of bigs who have killed the Nets this season. He finished the night with 26 points and 14 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan was somewhat held in check with 15 points.

The Nets shot 15-of-36 (42%) from 3-point, but they were absolutely annihilated down low. They were out-rebounded by 15 and outscored by 26 points inside the paint.

This was in large part due to the absence of Jarrett Allen (sore left foot), and the Nets’ biggest player on the floor —all night— was 6’8”. Jahlil Okafor and Timofey Mozogov were both on the bench. Any size would’ve helped.

“Our chance of beating them was to spread them out,” said Kenny Atkinson after the game. “And it worked for most of the game and then it’s pick your poison. Obviously, he’s [Jonas Valanciunas] a big guy in there but he does that to big guys. He just had an excellent game.”

WHY NO JAH?

“It crossed our mind and I did think Dante [Cunningham] was good when he was in there,” said Atkinson. “It’s speed versus size. We could’ve made the move but didn’t. Obviously with Jarrett [Allen] out we decided to go with Dante, Rondae, DC [DeMarre Carroll] and those guys – I thought Q [Quincy Acy] gave us good minutes.”

And so, it appears that those who suggested the Nets traded Trevor Booker to the 76ers of the 2019 Knicks pick —and not Okafor and Nik Stauskas— were correct.

For a different perspective head over to Raptors HQ.