The Nets are a team lost — a team of lost rhythm, lost consistency and, if this keeps up, lost confidence.
“There’s a lot of stuff that we just have to tweak,” Thaddeus Young said Wednesday night after their 91-74 loss to the Raptors at the Barclays Center. The Nets’ eighth straight home defeat dropped them to 10-25.
“There were just a lot of unforced turnovers, a lot of uncertainty out there,” Shane Larkin said.
And straight from coach Lionel Hollins: “It was a disappointing game. We need to play better.”
The good news perhaps is that the Nets kept it close for at least half of the game, and the better news is the team’s steadfast belief that somehow this all will turn around. Despite trailing for almost the entire game, the Nets took a lead in the second quarter, got within two points in the third, but weren’t able to capitalize as the Raptors outscored them 46-38 in the second half.
Brook Lopez scored a game-high 24 points with 13 rebounds, while Jonas Valanciunas had 22 for the Raptors. Kyle Lowry had 17 points and DeMar DeRozan added 15. The Raptors’ bench outscored the Nets 23-13, and Toronto (22-15) was 17-for-18 from the line, while the Nets were 7-for-12. The Raptors also outrebounded the Nets 49-39. The Nets shot only 39.7 percent and committed 19 turnovers that led to 17 points.
“We were getting shots, we just weren’t making them,” said Larkin, in his second straight start at point guard after Jarrett Jack went down with a season-ending knee injury Saturday. “They didn’t even pressure the ball that much. We’ve just got to go out there and play with confidence, play together. I think a lot of our turnovers came when people were unsure of what cuts people were going to make or where they wanted the ball. That’s just the process. We’re going to get better at that.”
Even though the Nets are near the Eastern Conference basement and the Raptors are among its elite, the two have a storied, almost uncanny history of matching each other, basket for basket, breath for breath. The all-time series record is 39-39. In their previous 15 games, each team scored 1,504 points. They split the season series last year, and both lost in the first round of the playoffs. And even Wednesday night, there was the sense that these Nets were one good run away from toppling Toronto, or at least getting the edge.
The Nets trailed by seven after the first quarter but managed to take a brief lead midway through the second. Wayne Ellington’s three tied it at 27 with 6:45 left in the half, and Lopez snagged Donald Sloan’s pass under the basket for a layup. Lopez added a short jumper 30 seconds later, and Bogdanovic’s three eventually gave them a five-point advantage. That’s about as much as the Nets would get, though, as the Raptors took off for a 16-2 run to end the half ahead 45-36. Joe Johnson was held scoreless in the half and ended up with five points.
But even when they got close, the Nets couldn’t do much to contain the Raptors’ quick backcourt when it mattered. DeRozan and Lowry totaled eight points in that second-quarter run, and the duo added eight more in a 25-20 third quarter. Leading by only 49-47, the Raptors scored the next six and eventually ended the quarter with a 14-point lead, courtesy of DeRozan’s jumper with 20 seconds left.
For a team without a rudder, that deficit was more than enough.
“Right now,” Young said, “we’re just out of sync.”