By Ian Parfrey @Ianparfrey
It was the schedule that did them in. You could hardly expect the Nets to beat Miami in double overtime, in a game where three of their starters logged more than 44 minutes, then hop on a plane and beat the much improved Raptors less than 24 hours later.
The Nets opened the third quarter on an 18-3 run, getting a pair of threes from both Paul Pierce (15 points) and Alan Anderson. It turned out to be the last bit of energy the Nets had. They led by as many as 10, but got stuck on 64 points for a 7-minute span, during which the Raptors scored 18 unanswered points to take control of the game.
The Nets’ small lineup had managed to hold its own over the previous five games, but the Raptors got 16 offensive boards and got to the free throw line 28 times. It would normally be a cause for concern, since the Nets have lost many games on the glass and at the line. But this was an exhausted team that was without three starters, as Kevin Garnett (rest) joined D-Will and Brook Lopez on the sidelines.
Mason Plumlee made his first career NBA start, and contributed 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 blocks in 28 minutes. The Nets got another worrisome effort from Andray Blatche, who committed 5 fouls in 9 minutes. Blatche was the expected beneficiary of Lopez’s minutes, but he’s done very little to take advantage so far.
While the starters had logged heavy minutes, it was the bench who got thoroughly outplayed. Patrick Patterson, not exactly known as a ferocious rebounder, gave Toronto 14 points and 12 rebounds off the bench; and John Salmons hit all five of his shots en route to scoring 13 points.
The Raptors also got a game high 26 points from their big gun, DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan also scored 9 consecutive points in the pivotal second half run, including a back-breaking three just before the third quarter horn.
The loss drops the Nets 4 games behind the Raptors for the division lead, and drops them back into the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference, a half game behind the Detroit Pistons.
The Nets’ next game will be in London against the Atlanta Hawks Friday afternoon.