For the first time in their opening round series with the Brooklyn Nets, the Toronto Raptors found themselves trailing their opponents by double digits late in the game. Despite a fourth-quarter comeback attempt, the Atlantic Division champs were once again plagued by their own error-filled effort.
Now down 2-1 in the series, Friday’s loss featured the familiar combination of allowing Brooklyn to shoot over 50 percent from the field for much of the game and committing far too many turnovers. However, it also included a first-hand look at why the Nets owned one of the league’s best home-court advantages during the second half of the regular season.
Fuelled by an emotional crowd at the Barclay’s Center, Joe Johnson continued to be Brooklyn’s most dangerous offensive weapon against Toronto, and the fact that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had been here many times before was obvious from the start. Even as DeMar DeRozan left yet another mark on franchise history by becoming the first Raptor to score at least 30 points for the second straight game in the playoffs, the Nets controlled much of the contest and played like the seasoned veterans that they are.
To make matters worse, Terrence Ross was offensively invisible for the third straight game and has yet to contribute more than five points in a single postseason contest. But despite his struggles, head coach Dwane Casey seems set on starting the young guard, who rarely does anything beyond his 10.9 ppg average on his best day.
Going forward, a failure to accept that Ross may not be ready to start in the playoffs could easily continue to hurt this team, and even if he finds his offense in Game 4, the damage has already been done.
While the Raptors won the rebounding battle, their hosts dominated them in the paint; and when the Nets fell short from both long range and at the charity stripe, the Raptors answered with shooting troubles of their own. This is why Brooklyn pulled the trigger on a draft-day deal that sent a group of relative disappointments to Beantown in exchange for a pair of future Hall of Famers, and this is what fans throughout the basketball-breathing borough have been waiting for since the NBA returned to one of the game’s most passionate markets.
In spite of the fact that the Raptors technically lost their 16th straight postseason contest away from home, the previous records set by a team that no longer exists have nothing to do with this current group of hopefuls, and therefore shouldn’t hold any weight with the devoted Raptors fans. Regardless of the outcome, there should be no doubt that this is the best team Toronto’s ever produced, and the future of NBA basketball looks extremely bright north of the border.
But unless the Raptors can find an immediate solution to the problems that have led to them committing twice as many turnovers as the Nets, the most significant campaign in franchise history will be over by Wednesday.