Raptors drop Game 3 to Nets in Brooklyn
All season long, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has been preaching “Hit first.”
If there is one message he has brought to Toronto, it is that. Don’t wait. Set the physical tone yourselves. Don’t allow the other team to do that.
On Friday night, in Game 3, Casey’s message fell on deaf ears initially. Because of that, the Raptors find themselves on the short end of a 2-1 series lead that belongs to Brooklyn.
In a physical contest that left Kyle Lowry with a bruised knee, a bruised elbow and a single stitch in a lip he had busted open, Lowry’s post-game body pretty much told the story of the game.
Toronto eventually did hit back, but the response came too late in a 102-98 loss. With 16 seconds remaining, after being down by 14, the Raps actually had a chance to tie the game if Patrick Patterson made good on two free throws. He missed both and the Raptors’ last chance evaporated.
But whether it was Casey or Lowry or Greivis Vasquez talking, the point wasn’t the free-throw misses down the stretch, but the inability to match Brooklyn’s physicality in the early going.
When the Raps were making their own run in those final few minutes, they were the more physical of the two teams. But by that point, it was too late.
“We’ve got to understand how the officials are calling the game and play accordingly,” Casey said. “I just thought that, on the 19 turnovers, a lot of those were us getting backed off our mark and we’ve just got to be tough with the ball or, accordingly, turn around and play the way they are playing. Bumping and hitting in those situations — they are things that are correctable.”
It’s not so much an inability to do that. The Raptors have shown on plenty of occasions earlier this year and in this series that they can hold their own with anybody.
The difference on Friday night was that the Nets figured out earlier on that they could get away with a lot more physically. The Raptors were slower coming to that conclusion.
Casey remains confident in his team.
“I love the fight from my team,” he said. “This team tried to throw haymakers at us and go at us and we did a good job in staying in the game and battling back, staying competitive.”
What he wants in Game 4 is a team that gets there a little quicker.
“If the officials are allowing the physical play, we have to play that way,” Casey said. “That’s the difference in the game and we have to do that.”
The night turned out to be a short one for Terrence Ross, whose struggles in Games 1 and 2 continued in Game 3.
He wound up playing just more than 21-and-a-half minutes, only five of those past the first half.
Casey spent the majority of the night “searching” for someone to give him some offensive productivity out of that small forward position while, at the same time, finding someone who could keep Joe Johnson in front of him.
Casey seemed to be hinting at a potential lineup change going into Game 4.
“There’s nothing in this game that discourages me about this team,” Casey said. “I love them. They compete and, every time you think they’re out, they keep coming back. We’ve just got to get more productivity out of one more position in this series.”
The Raptors owned a definite advantage on the boards in Games 1 and 2, but saw that advantage lessen in Game 3. The Nets lost the battle of the glass by a 35-29 count cutting into Toronto’s advantage.
But while the Raps were giving some back on the glass, the Nets continue to turn the Raptors over at an alarming rate. Another 19 turnovers in this game leading to 16 points is a matter the Raptors are going to have to be taking a hard look at over the next couple of days.
Joe Johnson, who had his way with the Raps in Game 1, was at it again in Game 3, going 11-for17 from the field for 29 points. When he wasn’t lighting up the Raptors, it was Williams who went off for 22.
Finding guys who can handle those two is going to be key for the Raptors as this series moves along.
Lowry, who looked like he had just been in a street fight, said the key in Game 4 will be taking the fight to the start of the game, not waiting to bring it later.
“We have to play physical no matter what. Not figure it out — we have to play physical from top to bottom.”
It sounds like a major brawl is brewing for Game 4.
RAPS STILL SCRAPPY
Down, but not out — and certainly not feeling bad about their position.
That pretty much sums up the Raptors’ feelings after a tough 102-98 loss against the Nets.
Kyle Lowry called it “encouraging, but frustrating” all at the same time.
He’s encouraged because the Raptors have yet to play a full game, but have been in each and almost won all three.
He’s frustrated because they have let the chance to break this series open go by the wayside.
Toronto had Friday’s game going in their direction through the first quarter, but in the second, when the Nets turned up the physicality, the Raptors could not respond.
“It feels good to know that despite the deficit, despite the turnovers, despite the performance that we have had, we felt like we put ourselves in a position to win the game and it was just two free throws and you never know what could happen after that,” Patrick Patterson, the guy who missed those two free throws said.
“We had some resiliency and that is something we can take away coming into this hostile environment and keep it close down the stretch.”