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Nets hang on against Raptors, winning 114-105

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Kyrie Irving was brilliant. T.J. Warren didn’t miss a beat after 703 days away from the game. It was quite the night for the Nets.

After leading by as many as 36 points, the Nets hung on to win 114-105 to improve to 13-11 on the year. Brooklyn is now 3-0 against the Raptors, as well as 8-4 at home. The Nets are also currently on a four-game win streak — currently the longest in the NBA — and have won five in their last six. seven in their last nine.

“All in all, I think we’re moving the basketball well, we’re covering for each other on the defense side of the ball,” said Kevin Durant about his Nets. “And we’re playing as a unit on both ends. So we continue that and we’ll be trending in the right direction.”

Irving was the star of the show, dropping 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting and 5 assists.

Warren was exceptional in his Nets debut, dropping 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting in his first NBA game since December 2020. He also gathered four rebounds and grabbed a steal in 17 minutes of play.

“Yeah, like I was telling somebody in the back, it almost felt like a dream. Just like as soon as I checked in it kind of hit me like this is real,” said Warren about his debut. “Like I said once I got up and down it was just like alright this is basketball so it was just super fun to be out there competing with the guys.

Joe Harris strung together yet another strong performance, his third straight with at least 14 points, dropping 17 on 5-of-7 deep before fouling out in the fourth quarter. He’s now 9-of-13 from three in the last two games.

Toronto’s star, Pascal Siakam, had a nice showing with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. His running mate, OG Anunoby, also tacked on 21 points and 6 rebounds.

“I think they throw a lot of different defenses at you,” said Durant about the Raptors. “They might box-and-1, triangle-2, press you all game, press you for a few minutes at a time, full-court trap, so they just try all types of stuff I think we just stay poised through it all. We’re used to teams throwing all types of defenses at us, so we go through it in film, we practice it, so we were able to hit the extra pass tonight, make some great looks.”

Both teams were fairly even in all counting stats—rebounds, fastbreak points, and points in the paint. In fact, the biggest discrepancy between both teams was their shooting. Toronto shot just 43.7% from the field and 29.2% from three, whereas Brooklyn was a much better 53.7% from the field and 34.4% from three.

“We were really covering for each other,” said Vaughn about the Nets’ defensive approach. “Really getting the ball in the hands of the people who we wanted to shoot and then showing a crowd when they got the ball in the hands of the guys that they were trying to get the ball to. So overall, really locked in, that’s what we showed them at halftime, we were really locked into the gameplan, and nicely done by the guys.”

Brooklyn looked the part of the #4 defensive team in the league since Jacque Vaughn took over, filling the stat sheet with two early blocks and one steal through the first four minutes of play. On the other end, Harris hit two 3-pointers, and Irving hit a tough and-1 layup after Royce O’Neale pierced an early Raptors zone defense look to give the Nets an early 19-10 lead.

Brooklyn only continued to pile it on. A ziplock-tight defense forced Toronto into a series of bad looks, and Brooklyn couldn’t miss from the other end. Harris hit his third three, and O’Neale splashed in one of his own. Then, T.J. Warren checked in at the 4:14 mark of the first quarter and almost immediately dropped in a one-dribble midrange shot after attacking the closeout for his first points as a Net. Brooklyn’s 13-0 run gave them a 32-10 lead.

Though Toronto responded with a 7-2 run, the insertion of Edmond Sumner—who hounded Scottie Barnes into a turnover and then made a two-point shot shortly after—gave the Nets the 41-17 advantage through the first quarter.

Brooklyn kept their foot on the petal in the second quarter, following up an impressive first period of play with an 8-4 run. Irving was Brooklyn’s engine, dropping in a variety of balletic at-rim finishes—shots that had not fallen in previous games—for 17 early points on 6-of-8 shooting.

Warren, meanwhile, continued to contribute, first making a layup through contact after driving a closeout from the right corner, another one-dribble pull-up from the left wing, and then a tip-in layup off an offensive rebound. Brooklyn’s lead grew to 34 behind the efforts of the two scorers. Brooklyn entered the half ahead, 72-49.

Toronto woke up in the third quarter, kickstarting things on a 15-7 run. Brooklyn’s lead was whittled down to 13 points in just five minutes of play. Fortunately, behind some shotmaking from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, and a three from Royce O’Neale, the Nets regained the 20-point lead. Brooklyn finished ahead, 93-72, through three quarters.

Things got worse for Toronto when Scottie Barnes, the reigning Rookie of the Year, grabbed at the back of his leg after taking an awkward jump shot. Barnes was unable to move on the defensive end and was subbed out quickly after. He returned later in the quarter. His Raptors kept battling, though, going on an 8-0 run to get things down to 15 points. Then, Gary Trent Jr. went on a mini 6-2 run. Fortunately, Nic Claxton stabilized things with two huge tip-in layups off offensive rebounds.

The Raptors kept coming. Trent Jr. poured in a two-pointer and then a heavily contested three to get Brooklyn’s lead down to single-digits for the first time since the 6:38 mark in the first. Thankfully, though, the Raptors ran out of time in their comeback crusade, and the Nets picked up their 13th victory of the season.

The Film Room

For today’s edition of your favorite recurring film breakdown series, we’ll be taking a look at T.J. Warren’s Nets debut. Duh, who else would it be about?

For starters, Warren, one of the most prestigious midrange shotmakers who last shot 47% from the in-between zone (92nd percentile) in 2019-20, looked right at home in Brooklyn’s offense. When Toronto ran him off the three-point line, Warren responded with cool and collected one-dribble pull-ups. He even hit a light escape dribble in the second clip from the video below.

Warren’s at-rim finishing was a little more of a mixed bag. Though he was never much of a leaper in Indiana, it doesn’t appear as if he fully has his lift back—to be expected after the long layoff. As such, he got his layup attempt sent into the first row in the first clip from the video below. Still, Warren was a 73% rim finisher as a starter in Indiana, so expect that to tick back up as he gets more comfortable physically.

Warren went 0-of-2 from the three-point arc and looked fairly hesitant about hoisting them up. Below, he has a wide-open three-pointer on the pass after Juan Hernangomez takes a bad angle, but T.J. instead pump-fakes and allows Hernangomez to recover and contest the eventual three-point shot. Again, expect that to change as Warren gets more reps under his belt; he shot 40% in each of his two most recent full seasons of NBA play.

Granted, it was good to see Warren finish through contact after being run off the line in the second quarter. This wasn’t always a strength for him, as he shied away from contact in certain spots as a Pacer, yet Warren looked especially adept at attacking closeouts from the corners the entire night.

And then maybe most important of all, he rebounded! Warren, not historically known for his ability to pound the glass, grabbed 4 rebounds in the night with three of them coming on the offensive side of the ball. His rebound from the weakside corner from the first clip in the video below was especially promising. We just haven’t seen a lot of guys do that for the Nets this season!

“I loved his minutes,” said Durant after the game about Warren. “He has a knack for finding the basketball and cutting to the rim well, offensive rebound a couple of times, running the floor. So it’s only gonna get better for him as he get more reps under him. I’m looking forward to him playing out there with us, just really solid defensively. So just gives us another big body.”

Post-game, Warren tweeted out his response to Nets fans’ welcome when he entered the game...

All in all, it’s tough to not be impressed with T.J. Warren in night one. Remember, he can only get better.

Milestone Watch

Not much, but a few things:

The Nets lead over the Raptors (41-17) after one quarter represented ...

— the most points scored in any quarter this season.

— the biggest positive point differential in any quarter this season.

— the biggest positive point differential in a first quarter since March 8, 2013 vs. Washington (38-14).

Over the past two games, Joe Harris is shooting 9-of-13 (69.2%) Over the past three, it’s 11-of-21 (52.4%). In the previous four games, the Nets sharpshooter was 3-of-22 (13.6%). It’s still a small sample but Joey Bucks seems to have renewed confidence. What happened? It may have been his re-insertion in ot the starting lineup with Ben Simmons out.

Kyrie Irving introduces kids, who promptly steal the show

A moment: Kyrie Irving brought his two children to the post-game and being kids they were unaffected by all the attention. They just wanted to have some fun and they did...

Sir Charles vs. KD ... again

It is, by now, quite obvious that Kevin Durant and Charles Barkley do not like each other, despite what Sir Charles told Taylor Rooks. It’s no shtick.

So when Barkley told Rooks that he believes that Durant has issues with insecurity, Durant was ready. About an hour after the game ended, KD responded online...

Durant, as evidenced by his play and his online presence, is not about backing down and Sir Charles, as evidenced by his play and broadcast presence, is unreservedly, unapologetically pugnacious. Don’t expect a truce anytime soon.

Meanwhile, KD made a member of the Brooklyn Brigade happy...

What’s next

The Nets host the league-best 18-5 Boston Celtics in what’ll assuredly be Brooklyn’s biggest test of the year. Coverage for the showcase between MVP candidates Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum begins at 6 PM EST on the YES Network.

For a different perspective of tonight’s game, head to Raptors HQ, our Raptors sister site.