Published On: Sat, Jan 12th, 2019

Raptors’ starters get their work done early in rout of improving Nets

It ended with the Toronto Raptors’ starters sitting on the bench and cheering, their work long done before the final buzzer at the Scotiabank Arena on Friday night.

It was a tidy win, a professional outing, a lopsided affair that afforded the team’s top players some rest.

Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard celebrates two of his team-high 20 points Friday. Eight Raptors scored in double figures.
Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard celebrates two of his team-high 20 points Friday. Eight Raptors scored in double figures.  (Frank Gunn / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

They had done their work early to power Toronto to a 122-105 pasting of the Brooklyn Nets. Kawhi Leonard had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Pascal Siakam 16 points, Serge Ibaka 14. Kyle Lowry four points and eight assists. Danny Green had eight points and four assists. None played more than 27 minutes.

So there they sat, watching the deep bench guys mop up win No. 32 on the season, a relatively relaxing night for the team with the NBA’s most victories.

The game turned when Toronto turned on the defence. The Nets made six three-pointers and scored 35 points in the first quarter before the Raptors buckled down and took control.

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“Our transition defence started out kind of poor and we started showing a little bit more length and deflections,” Nurse said. “We got a lot of tip-outs and run-outs from primarily playing good defence. 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.”

Toronto led by 11 at halftime, and by 24 after three quarters. The fourth was basically a contest between backups looking to impress the coaches.

It didn’t go too well for the Raptors who were in that role when the Nets went on a 14-0 run to get within a manageable 13 points with about five minutes left. But Toronto settled down without having to put a starter back in and won going away.

D’Angelo Russell had 24 points to lead the Nets.

  • Still red hot: The Raptors made 11 three-pointers in the game, giving them more than 10 for the fourth straight game.

For a team that was mired in the bottom four of the league in three-point efficiency just over a week ago, it’s a stark turnaround.

“We think we stay with it, you keep giving guys confidence, you look at the shots and you evaluate them pretty closely and they look like they’re pretty good,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game.

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“You tell those guys to make ’em and keep taking ’em, let’s make sure we’re taking the right ones and most of ’em are the right ones.”

  • Double the fun: Eight Raptors scored in double figures, including five reserves: OG Anunoby (on 5-of-6 shooting) and Norm Powell had 13 points, Delon Wright had 12, and Greg Monroe and Fred VanVleet added 10 each,
  • Nurse is a fan: The Nets were one of the hottest teams in the NBA heading into Friday’s game and had climbed to sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Nurse appreciates what they’re doing.

“It’s a good team, man, 13-4 in their last 17 (before Friday),” the coach said. “Somebody should talk about that. Everybody should talk about it, 13-4 in their last 17. I’ve been hearing about Boston’s 15-5, Boston’s 15-5; 13-4’s pretty good, too.”

  • No warm welcome: It’s been a season and a half since Nets forward DeMarre Carroll played for the Raptors and the criticisms he levelled at the organization after his departure had some merit. Still, there were murmurs of booing every time he touched the ball in the first half Friday night
  • Up next: The road beckons with a rare Sunday matinee away game, 1 p.m. in Washington against the Wizards.

Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps

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Raptors’ starters get their work done early in rout of improving Nets