In their first playoff game since 2008, the Toronto Raptors struggled on the offensive end against the Brooklyn Nets before an electric home crowd at the Air Canada Center on Saturday afternoon, and despite a final score that indicated a much closer contest, the home team trailed for almost all four quarters in the series-opening loss.
On top of DeMar DeRozan‘s slow start which limited the All-Star to just 14 points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field, both Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross were nowhere to be found at times, combining for only five points, six rebounds and a steal.
Not even the 16.7 percent that Brooklyn shot from beyond the arc could help the Raptors, who were a dismal 34.8 percent from long range themselves. And while the visitors were kept well under the dreaded 50 percent mark from the field, the hosts answered with a shooting performance that was even less impressive at 39.4 percent on their home floor.
With just one game in the books, the Raptors have displayed the deficiencies that made them such a desirable opening-round opponent to the Nets, and Toronto’s inexperience has played directly into the hands of the Raptors’ veteran-led rivals. It wasn’t all bad for the Raptors, who were guided on the offensive end by Kyle Lowry‘s well-rounded effort of 22 points, seven rebounds and eight assists, and Greivis Vasquez was once again a valuable weapon off of the bench with 18 points of his own.
Without question, the play of second-year center Jonas Valanciunas kept the Atlantic Division champs in the game early, and after closing out the regular season on a tear, the resilient young import continued his run of dominance in the low post, finishing with 17 points and 18 rebounds in his postseason debut.
With a pair of victories over the Nets during the regular season and an unequalled level of familiarity with their current opponents, the Raptors are extremely aware of what it will take to win this series even if they haven’t been here before, and labelling Saturday’s loss as a learning experience is nothing more than an inaccurate cliche.
Understandably, the pregame warfare between these two franchises, which included some interesting local headlines and an overly excited GM, only escalated a feud that’s been brewing since the beginning of the season, and the remainder of the series should be intriguing at the very least.