An injury-ravaged and depleted Raptors team fell to the Brooklyn Nets 94-88 on Wednesday night to fall to an ugly 4-19 on the season. Still, it was a loss that looked different than those that came on the 0-5 road trip the team had returned from. Using just eight players — there were nine in uniform counting Quincy Acy who flew in from a D-League assignment in Bakersfield to arrive in Toronto shortly before the tip — the shortened rotation led throughout the first half. While they would eventually succumb to fatigue, still road weary from the five-game trip, the players on the floor did not stop fighting.
Ultimately, it was the third quarter that did the Raptors in, getting outscored 31-19 and giving up six three-pointers in the period. After starting the fourth quarter trailing by four, the deficit would grow to as many as 15 before Toronto scratched and clawed its way back to lose by six.
In a game where Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza were out with injury and Amir Johnson was serving a suspension the guys in uniform put up a fight. They showed that they did indeed care after having media and fans alike question their resolve and desire on the heels of that awful road trip and a 4-18 record. Every player in the locker room would say that they don’t care about moral victories, but with the aftertaste of that awful road trip still lingering, a hard-fought game was necessary to try and turn the page.
* Ed Davis. The team announced during the game that Bargnani has a ligament tear in his right elbow and a strained right wrist and will be out indefinitely. While they did not give a timeframe, a ligament tear isn’t going to heal overnight and the team will be without him for the immediate future. That absence will give Davis a chance to step up and show why he is deserving of more time. Against the Nets, Davis was fantastic, playing nearly 45 minutes and tying a career-high 24 points on 11-for-13 shooting. He also pulled down 12 rebounds and added three steals. After the game, Dwane Casey praised his play, saying, “Ed was big time. He did not shy away from the contact. That is a big step for him in his growth process. I was really proud with the way that Eddy played.”
* The persistence to fight back. It seems weird to credit an NBA team for showing fight in a game where they came out on the losing end, but after the past 11 days that the team has had, it was a welcomed sight. With chatter centred on the franchise about players, coaching staff and front office staff, the eight guys who played against the Nets did a good job of blocking out all outside pressures and distractions and put together a solid effort against a very good Brooklyn team. While it was the third quarter that broke them, they fought back in the fourth, unlike those five games on the road.
* With the injury to Bargnani and the team undermanned because of injury, there will be some lineup shuffling and more opportunities for guys like Davis, Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross. When you have a young team it’s important to develop the talent and it looks like the basketball gods have made the stars align for some of this talent to get their time to shine (even if they haven’t been particularly kind to the Raps franchise so far this season). It also looks like Alan Anderson will be back in uniform for Friday’s game against the Mavericks.
* While injuries will give an opportunity to some of the younger players on the team, it still is going to hurt as the Raptors try to turn things around during this home stretch. Bargnani is out indefinitely and Lowry is expected to be back in 10 days after partially tearing his right triceps muscle. Landry Fields will have a second follow-up with his doctor in New York to see how his right elbow is progressing, but a timeframe for his return has not been given. Mickael Pietrus and Kleiza have both been dealing with sore knees and have rotated in and out of the lineup for the past few games. It’s hard to make a push when half of the team is in street clothes.
* Defending the three. The Nets shot 45 per cent for the game against the Raptors, but 53 per cent from beyond the arc where they connected on 10 of their 19 attempts. Reserve guard C.J. Watson was a Raptor killer, finishing with 16 points off of the bench, hitting all four of his three-point attempts. Giving up better than 50 per cent from deep, the Raptors were unable to reciprocate, making just four of their 18 attempts from downtown.
* Mickael Pietrus. Pietrus had a rough outing in his sixth game in a Raptors uniform. In his second game back from sitting with left knee tendinitis, Pietrus shot just 1-for-6 from the floor, missed all four of his three point attempts and grabbed just one rebound in 19 minutes of action. Even if he can’t score, the team is helpful that he will be able to help out in other ways. Against the Nets, Pietrus struggled to get going.