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Hit After Hit: Nets tough Monday ends with a Raptors stomping, 133-97

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The depleted Nets were down before the game started, losing Steve Nash to the league’s COVID health and safety protocols and before that, hearing Mayor Eric Adams basically rule Kyrie Irving out of home games. Then, it didn’t take long at all to know Monday night was going to end with another low note, a blowout defeat to Toronto on Brooklyn’s home floor.

The final score: 133-97. The crushing defeat means Brooklyn is only two games above .500 (32-30) and lowered their under .500 home record to 13-17. Meanwhile, the Raptors big win bumps them two games up above the Nets in the Eastern Conference standings.

“It’s huge. We’re two games back now for the seven spot. It’s huge. We got to get this win,” said Bruce Brown looking ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Raptors in Toronto. “Especially since they came here and did what they wanted in our gym. It’s unacceptable so we got to go out there and take care of business.”

LaMarcus Aldridge led all Nets scorers with 15 points (5-of-8 shooting from the field and 1-of-3 shooting from 3-Point range), three boards, and an assist in 20 minutes off the bench. Bruce Brown and Cam Thomas both finished with 14 points each while Seth Curry registered 11 points in 23 minutes. Brooklyn concluded the defeat with 23 turnovers (31 points for Toronto). No Net registered more than 25 minutes of playing time. At one point, Vaughn played all four Nets rookies and Nic Claxton.

“That’s the way they play. They’re a very aggressive team. They’re not shy about it,” said Vaughn on the 23 turnovers. “We have to be extremely physical on both ends of the floor, so the physicality comes from whether it’s better screens, better cuts on one end. The defensive piece of being able to accept that physicality and hit first. You have to take the first punch against this team or they’ll make you pay for it.”

The Nets opened the contest with Patty Mills, Seth Curry, James Johnson and Andre Drummond. Brooklyn even had an injury scare early in the first. Drummond suffered an awkward fall on the right wing and immediately grabbed his knee but returned to play after a timeout with 8:15 left. Jacque Vaughn, who served as the head coach for the Nets Monday night, said the big man will be looked at by the training staff Monday night and is hopeful Drummond will be available Tuesday.

The Nets offense shot 40 percent from the field and from deep early but it was the defensive woes and mental miscues that got Brooklyn behind and fast. Toronto found a rhythm from deep, going 6-of-9 from 3-Point range in the first to propel them to a 15-point lead (42-27) after one.

“A lot of shots was going in for them, a lot of miscommunication was happening on our end. It just ended up being a snowball effect,” said James Johnson. “I feel like towards the end of that first quarter, it was hard to come back at that.

The Raptors, led by Scottie Barnes (24 points on a perfect 11-of-11 shooting from the field and nine rebounds at the half) and Malachi Flynn (11 points), continued to carve up the Nets’ defense, finding open driving lanes and getting to the basket with little resistance. Toronto’s onslaught on both ends of the floor made things progressively worse as the second quarter dragged on. Brooklyn had coughed up 14 turnovers by the 2:55 mark of the frame (67-39). By the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the Raptors held a dominant 71-48 lead.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The second half was a similar showing from the second quarter. Although they shot 36.7 percent from the field and 33.3 from deep, the Nets had little to no answers for Toronto’s size and length down low. The Raptors pushed the pace in transition and continued to get under the basket with little resistance, grabbing their biggest lead of 31 (100-69), the score after three quarters of play. The final score again: 133-97.

“Right now every game is important. We know how it goes. We need to get an offset and that’s the bottom line,” said James Johnson. “I feel like once we get in there, I like our chances verse anybody.”

Milestone Watch

Cam Thomas led all rookies in scoring for the month of February, averaging 16.7 per game.

Jalen Green of Houston was second at 16.5; Josh Giddey of OKC third at 16.3; Cade Cunningham of Detroit fourth at 15.7 and Franz Wagner fifth at 15.5. Thomas was taken at No. 27 in the 2021 Draft, the other three were top 8.

The Film Room

What happens when you put together an outlier shooting night from the opponent and a piss poor outing of taking care of the basketball? Well, this... apparently.

There’s not all that much you can do when Thaddeus Young, Precious Achiuwa, and Chris Boucher shoot 8-of-12 from deep — none of whom shoot better than 33.5% from distance on the season.

Turning the ball over 20 times is just unacceptable, especially with Toronto turning in 29 points off of those giveaways. This was a match made in hell for the Nets; with none of their ball-handling stars available, Brooklyn had to turn to other options to handle the rock. Patty Mills got the occasional pick-and-roll rep. James Johnson was tasked with running a lot of the offense. Brooklyn even ran a couple of Andre Drummond post-ups (yuck).

Toronto took advantage, swarming and trapping the limited ball-handling talent the Nets had. It didn’t help that Brooklyn was abnormally careless with the basketball. James Johnson turned it over after the tip-off for crying out loud! Below is another great example.

Onto the next. Please.

As Sponge Bob might say...

What’s next

If it wasn’t bad enough, the Nets are traveling to Toronto to face the Raptors Tuesday night. The second game of the back-to-back mini-series is slated to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

For a different perspective on Tuesday night’s matchup, check out RaptorsHQ — our sister site covering the Raptors.