Raps get re­venge on Nets

The Sudbury Star - - SPORTS - RYAN WOL­STAT

Brook­lyn might be on the rise, but the Nets were no match for the red hot Toronto Rap­tors on Fri­day night.

Led by Kawhi Leonard, Pas­cal Si­akam, Serge Ibaka and a re­vi­tal­ized bench, the home side ran over a Brook­lyn team that had been rock­et­ing up the stand­ings since stun­ning Toronto in over­time back in De­cem­ber.

Leonard had 20 points, Si­akam 16, Ibaka 14 and eight Rap­tors reached dou­ble fig­ures in the 122105 romp.

Leonard had been spot­ted out­side the arena with­out a win­ter coat by a re­porter ear­lier in the day, but he was any­thing but cold in this one. He took a ton of shots in the first quar­ter to get into a rhythm, im­por­tant since Brook­lyn’s best per­for­mance of the game came early, as the vis­i­tors jumped out to a 35-28 lead.

The Rap­tors looked lost de­fen­sively, but pulled it to­gether and held the Nets to only 18 points in the se­cond quar­ter, with Leonard tak­ing over

The third frame was much the same, with Leonard still get­ting wher­ever he wanted to and Ibaka find­ing the touch from short range.

“I think we started get­ting back a lit­tle bit bet­ter, our tran­si­tion de­fence started out kind of poor and we started show­ing a lit­tle bit more length and de­flec­tions,” said head coach Nick Nurse.

“We got a lot of tip-outs and runouts from pri­mar­ily play­ing good de­fence.”

Point guard Fred VanVleet, a big part of the ex­tremely ef­fec­tive bench group, agreed with his coach.

“De­fen­sive pres­sure. Made some ad­just­ments, started switch­ing, get­ting a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive and ob­vi­ously the same for­mula we al­ways try to do: Cre­ate havoc on the de­fen­sive end, get out in tran­si­tion, get easy points,” VanVleet said.

Even with Kyle Lowry slowly find­ing his way since re­turn­ing from in­jury (Lowry only attempted three shots, scor­ing four points, though he added eight as­sists), Toronto has now won six-of-seven games, in­clud­ing four straight and leads the NBA with 32 vic­to­ries.

“We started get­ting to the rim a lit­tle bit more, we started mov­ing the ball. I think we ended up with 32 as­sists tonight, which is a big num­ber,” Nurse said of the sud­denly surg­ing of­fence.

After Nurse pulled his starters Brook­lyn went on a 13-0 run in the fourth quar­ter. How­ever, Toronto’s 26-point lead was too large to rally all the way back from and Nurse was not forced to bring his first group back into the fray.

D’An­gelo Rus­sell again piled up the points against Toronto (24, along with nine as­sists), Shabazz Napier added 16 off of the bench, but usual Rap­tor-killer Spencer Din­wid­die shot just 1-for-7 from the field as Brook­lyn dropped to 21-23.

NEW RAP­TOR IN­TRO­DUCED

The Rap­tors of­fi­cially wel­comed swing­man Patrick McCaw, even though he wasn’t in the lineup against the Nets.

McCaw said that when the Rap­tors reached out to him after he was re­leased by Cleve­land, he made the easy call to sign, feel­ing Toronto was a great fit.

“I just kind of felt like it was right and I could fit in right away so I went with Toronto,” McCaw said be­fore the game.

“I’ve been watch­ing the team play all year. They get after it on both ends of the floor de­fend, play mul­ti­ple po­si­tions.”

Rap­tors head coach Nick Nurse isn’t en­tirely sure what McCaw’s role will be, but likes that he has big-game ex­pe­ri­ence, hav­ing been a part of Golden State War­riors cham­pi­onship teams be­fore a scary back in­jury put him in bas­ket­ball limbo.

“He’s what about 6-5, 6-6, so that puts him on the perime­ter for us, and after that we don’t re­ally know,” Nurse said.

“Hope­fully he can space and at­tack and han­dle the ball and he can de­fend. Those are the things he’s sup­posed to be able to do. Pretty in­ter­est­ing de­fender. I think he sees the game pretty well from what I’ve watched, film­wise. He’s a lit­tle bit of a risk-taker de­fen­sively, but that’s OK,” Nurse said.

“We like that, we like that, too. So we’ll just see. We’ll throw him in there, play the one, two, three, wher­ever he fits in.”

NO HARD FEEL­INGS

The sit­u­a­tion be­tween McCaw and the War­riors seemed a bit bizarre from the out­side look­ing in — he was off for ages un­til Cleve­land gave him an of­fer sheet that Golden State de­clined to match, than the Cavs let him go after only a cou­ple of games — but McCaw played down any of that talk.

“Noth­ing went side­ways. It was just a personal de­ci­sion for me to move on,” McCaw said.

“I loved my time there. The or­ga­ni­za­tion, coaches, play­ers helped me grow and de­velop as a young man com­ing in at 21 years old to the NBA. There was no bet­ter sit­u­a­tion for me to learn and grow. It’s no bad blood, it’s noth­ing but love for Golden State and what they did for me.”

FRANK GUNN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Toronto Rap­tors for­ward Kawhi Leonard cel­e­brates after mak­ing an off bal­ance bas­ket against the Brook­lyn Nets on Fri­day in Toronto. The Rap­tors beat the Nets 122-105.

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