Nets 102 Raptors 100
TORONTO — The Brooklyn Nets limped into Toronto missing several key players.
But the Raptors may as well have been missing a few of their own.
DeMar DeRozan poured in 27 points while Kyle Lowry had 24, but — until the final frantic few minutes — the two had little help from their Toronto teammates in a 102-100 loss to the Nets on Tuesday.
“We didn’t play with that desperation attitude and we’ve got to have that every time we walk out because we’re not going to out-talent anybody,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We’re a team that’s got to be scrappy and again, we didn’t play that way until the last five minutes.”
Andray Blatche had 24 points to top the injury-depleted Nets (4-10), who came into the game on a five-game losing streak, last in the Atlantic Division, and with the third worst record in the NBA. Joe Johnson had 21, while Paul Pierce had 16 points and Kevin Garnett has 12 points with six rebounds.
The Nets were missing Deron Williams (sprained ankle) Andrei Kirilenko (back spasms) and leading scorer Brook Lopez (sprained left ankle).
But it was the Raptors (6-8) who could have used some more help. Steve Novak was the only other player to score in double figures with 12 for the Atlantic Division leaders, who lost for the first time in three games. Rudy Gay had nine points, while Tyler Hansbrough and Jonas Valanciunas had seven rebounds apiece.
“We definitely didn’t (score) in the paint too much, second-chance points, we missed a couple of rebounds that we should’ve had, they were just trying to bully us,” DeRozan said.
“We waited too long to lock down and throw a punch back.”
The Raptors trailed 81-76 heading into the fourth quarter of a game that saw neither team — save for a handful of individual performances — play particularly well.
The Nets had assembled a 15-point lead with a little more than five minutes to go and the game seemed out of reach, but the Raptors came to life in the final two minutes. Gay drained a three with 24 seconds to pull the Raptors to 101-100.
Shaun Livingston missed one of two free throws with 11 seconds left, but Gay passed off to an open Amir Johnson in the corner whose three-point attempt clanged off the rim.
“Rudy could’ve should’ve had a shot, he didn’t take it,” Casey said. “Amir had a clean look, it was straight, right on line, and he works on that shot every day in practice. But (Gay) made that decision and I trust Rudy in that situation.”
The Raptors had one of their worst defensive efforts of the season, allowing the Nets to shoot 51 per cent from the field. The Raptors shot 44. Brooklyn outscored Toronto 48-28 in the paint, and outrebounded the Raptors 39-34.
“They did whatever they wanted, whether it getting to the rim, jump shots,” Casey said. “There was no redeeming qualities with our defence until the end, we got scrappy at the end.”
Nets coach Jason Kidd, who played for the same 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks team that Casey was a coach of, rubbed his hands over his face in sheer relief after Johnson’s miss at the buzzer.
“Those guys in that locker-room, I think they finally said they had enough,” Kidd said. “They were talking for 48 minutes. The schemes defensively and offensively weren’t always perfect but those guys stayed the course.
“There’s a bunch of guys in there with pride and they understood what they had to do tonight against the division leading Raptors. A big win on the road.”
Casey had kind words for Kidd before the game, saying he was “a reason why a lot of us (Dallas coaches) are around, his play as a player. We owe him a lot, just for what he did for us in Dallas as a player.”
But Casey said he wouldn’t spend any time Tuesday catching up with Kidd, saying “Friendship is for the summertime.”
DeRozan got off to a strong start, making all five of his shots — including three three-pointers — in the opening 10 minutes, to put Toronto on top 28-26 heading into the second quarter.
The Nets shot 55 per cent against Toronto’s lackadaisical defence in the second quarter, and seven straight points by Joe Johnson put the Nets up by four and the visitors took a 55-51 lead into the locker-room at halftime.
DeRozan carried Toronto with 11 points in the third, but the Raptors couldn’t make up any ground on the Nets, and a driving jumper with three seconds left in the quarter put Brooklyn up 81-76 with a quarter left.
The game was the second of a four-game homestand for the Raptors, that has Toronto hosting the Miami Heat on Friday and Denver on Sunday.
NOTES: The Nets roster features former Raptors Reggie Evans and Alan Anderson. . . Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic was at the game and helped chuck balls up into the crowd during a timeout.