BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Caris LeVert dribbled into a defender, stepped back and nailed a 3-pointer to put the Nets up by one late in the third quarter. In Brooklyn, a sold-out crowd, filled with hyped-up Nets fans, yelled and cheered for LeVert who suited up for the first time in over seven weeks after thumb surgery.
That was the high point of the evening.
The night was perhaps the most bittersweet of the year for the Nets and its fans. LeVert was back and playing well, but superstar point guard, Kyrie Irving, spoke to reporters before the game about the possibility of season-ending surgery if things don’t get better with his shoulder.
But LeVert’s return shifted from a bittersweet day to an utter nightmare, perhaps losing Kyrie for an indefinite amount of time while also losing their fifth straight game 121-102 to the Toronto Raptors, Saturday night. The Raptors played without Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell.
The Nets have lost six of seven and dropped to 16-18 on the season. Furthermore, they’ve lost 17 games out of the last 18 against Toronto.
So, NOW that we know the news, it’s safe to say Kyrie (and Kevin Durant) will not be here to save the day anytime soon. These are the guys they have to rock with. No more excuses.
The Nets once led by 16 points in the second quarter following a 16-5 run, but Toronto answered with a 15-0 run of their own, bridging from the second to third quarter, turning a 16-point lead into a three-point deficit entering the fourth quarter.
To be clear, Toronto finished the first half on a 12-0 run. No timeout from Kenny Atkinson. The Nets couldn’t come up with a stop and couldn’t hold on to the ball.
A foreshadow for the rest of the night.
Since falling down by 16, Toronto went on to hit 18 of their next 34 shots. It was a 17-6 extended run that gave them a 12-point lead in the fourth, yet another hole for Brooklyn to dig themselves out of.
Fred VanVleet hit a three to put Toronto up 108-97 with 3:18 left; Serge Ibaka converted an and-one with 2:21 left to go up 15. And, to cap things off, Kyle Lowry nailed a three-pointer and did the JET celebration on Barclays Center court, as he and the Raptors capped off a 10-0 run with 2:07 remaining.
Game over. Insult to injury.
Lowry dropped 20 points in the second half, while Fred VanVleet dropped 22 in the second half. Lowry had just six in the first half and VanVleet had only seven.
The Nets committed 24 turnovers which led to 32 points for Toronto; They were outscored 73-40 in the second half — 85-50 in the final 27:36 of the game. After hitting their first 6-of-10 three-pointers, the Nets finished 13-of-35 — 7-of-25 in the final three quarters.
Spencer Dinwiddie (team-high 23 points) has scored 20+ points in 11 straight games at Barclays Center (dating back to 11/18 vs. Pacers). That’s longest streak of 20-point games at home for a Net since Vince Carter did it in 13 straight games in 2005-06 season.
Kyrie Irving and/or Kevin Durant ain’t walking through that door anytime soon.
It is what it is.
KYRIE IRVING UPDATE
After nearly eight weeks of being sidelined due to shoulder impingement, the Nets finally had Kyrie Irving take the stand and give an update on his injury. The Nets had gone silent about the severity, and remained awfully vague with his recovery.
Kyrie Irving has bursitis in the shoulder and has taken cortisone shots to try and avoid in-season surgery, which would keep him out 3-4 months.— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
If cortisone doesn't work, arthroscopic surgery will come.
The last cortisone shot Kyrie Irving took was December 24. Now, it’s a matter of whether he can play through it, citing difficulty getting his arm up to shoot. #Nets— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
I spoke about the importance of the Nets being transparent about the injury last night. Thank you, Nets.
Thank you, Nets. https://t.co/TaRN381RkG— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
It doesn’t sound like Kyrie will be back any time soon. So, it is what it is.
Watch the full stream here:
Kyrie Irving speaks to the media. He’s missed the last 7+ weeks. https://t.co/6c9el4f9QS— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
Caris LeVert returned to a loud ovation from the Brooklyn crowd, entering the game at the 4:53 mark of the first quarter. He finished with 13 points in 16 minutes on 5-of-7 shooting. He looked like his old self with that quick first step and herky-jerky style of play.
Good to see him back.
Caris LeVert checks in for the first time in 7+ weeks. Nice ovation from Brooklyn crowd pic.twitter.com/yuNliDIJ98— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
NETS MAKE IT OFFICIAL WITH CHRIS CHIOZZA
One day after waiving two-way Henry Ellenson, the Nets announced they had signed Chris Chiozza, a 5’11” point guard off the Capital City Go-Go, to a two-way deal.
In 10 games (nine starts) this season for the Go-Go, he averaged 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 2.6 steals in 31.1 minutes per contest. Chiozza signed a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards earlier this season on Oct. 21, and appeared in 10 games for the Wizards, averaging 2.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals in 12.3 minutes per game. The Nets are expected to add shooting guard Justin Anderson, a 6’5” shooting guard to a 10-day deal.
Next question for Nets will be whether to give Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot a standard NBA deal. Right now, he’s on a two-way deal but has worked himself in Brooklyn’s rotation. Under league rules, a team must decide what to do with a two-way contract once the player reaches 45 days with the parent club. Sarah Kustok said Saturday that TLC has now racked up more than 30 days meaning the Nets will have to move soon.
CLAXTON BACK ‘VERY SOON’
Kenny Atkinson said another of the Nets walking wounded, rookie Nicolas Claxton, would be returning “very soon” from his hamstring soreness. Early in the week, Alex Schiffer reported that the 6’11” big was one to two weeks away.
The Nets plan to have Claxton play himself back into game shape by giving him minutes with Long Island. The Nets G League affiliate could use another big man after the Nets waived Henry Ellenson.
Former Net favorite Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was back in Brooklyn on Saturday, once the glue guy for the Nets organization. He was welcomed back with open arms...
Brooklyn welcomes Rondae Hollis-Jefferson back with an ovation. pic.twitter.com/5iZkYGI3OZ— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
In the middle of Hollis-Jefferson’s rookie season in 2015-2016, the Nets fired GM Billy King and head coach Lionel Hollins. Rondae was the only one from the King era to make it out – and last a three years under Sean Marks. Marks kept RHJ and gave him a shot, despite Kenny Atkinson’s offensive scheme which simply didn’t match his game.
But, Rondae had a solid showing in his second year under Atkinson. He was the primary starter at the 4 and had a breakout year, averaging 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. However, entering this past season, Hollis-Jefferson was hobbled after straining his hip in Jeremy Lin’s charity basketball game in China.
He fell in and out of the rotation. The Nets had expanded their depth and inserted guys that played the style of ball they wanted to play. Still, his work ethic and high character fit the Brooklyn culture and he helped build on it by being the “glue guy” around the locker room ... and one of the better dancers on the bench. Between the Nets’ analytical-heavy approach and their desire to clear space for free agents, the writing was on the wall.
All the best to him in Toronto.
Good to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson back in Brooklyn. pic.twitter.com/KiyoACaDsg— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) January 4, 2020
For a different perspective, head on over to Raptors HQ, our Raptors sister site on SB Nation.
NEXT UP: Orlando Magic on Monday in the Magic City
- Box Score: Toronto Raptors 121, Brooklyn Nets 102 - NBA.com
- Recap: Toronto Raptors 121, Brooklyn Nets 102 (Video) - NBA.com
- Nets Postgame Plus (Video) - Bob Lorenze & Frank Isola (Video) - YES Network
- Kustok, Ruocco on Nets’ five-game skid (Video) - Sarah Kustok & Ryan Ruocco - YES Network
- Atkinson on 121-102 loss (Video) - YES Network
- LeVert on his first game back (Video) - YES Network
- Wear Brooklyn At? (Video) - YES Network
- Atkinson previews game vs Toronto (Video) - YES Network
- Irving rehabbing shoulder after shot, still may need surgery - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Raptors rediscover offense, beat slumping Nets 121-102 - Brian Mahoney - AP
- Raptors rally from down 16 to crush Nets - Larry Fleisher - Reuters
- Nets’ Kyrie Irving holding off on shoulder surgery for now, but will re-evaluate - Malika Andrews - ESPN
- Caris LeVert scores 13 in return, but Nets drop 5th straight - Malika Andrews - ESPN
- Kyrie Irving Says He May Need Shoulder Surgery - Sopan Deb - New York Times
- Nets blow lead in loss to Raptors, spoiling Caris LeVert’s return - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Caris LeVert looks back to his old self in return for Nets - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Kyrie Irving breaks silence: Nets injury nightmare could end season - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Caris LeVert returns for Nets, but it’s not enough in loss to Raptors - Laura Albanese - Newsday
- Season in jeopardy for Nets’ Kyrie Irving - Laura Albanese - Newsday
- Kyrie Irving admits his season is in jeopardy as Nets losing streak grows to five - Kristian Winfield - New York Daily News
- Here’s how Caris LeVert played in his first game back for Nets since thumb injury - Coby Green - SNY
- 5 Takeaways from Nets’ Kyrie Irving’s press conference, including opting for a cortisone shot over surgery - Alex Smith - SNY
- Caris LeVert’s return and the plays that highlighted his night for the Nets - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- Shots, surgery and waiting out the pain: What we learned about Kyrie Irving’s injury - Alex Schiffer - The Athletic New York
- RAPTORS 121, NETS 102: TORONTO HANDS BROOKLYN FIFTH STRAIGHT LOSS - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- BROOKLYN NETS GUARD KYRIE IRVING TALKS SHOULDER INJURY - Tom Dowd - Brooklyn Nets
- GALLERY: NETS VS. RAPTORS - Brooklyn Nets
- Raptors rebound on the road — and continue to absolutely own the Nets - Laura Armstrong - Toronto Star
- Raps find the range and get a little feisty in comeback win over Nets - Mike Ganter - Toronto Sun