Game Notes: Nets v. Raptors
Reporting live from London.
by John Hobbs
LONDON — A game between two teams propping up the Atlantic Division wouldn’t bring much attention around the States during the regular season. But to the sell-out crowd at London’s O2 Arena Friday night, it was the opposite. 18,689 fans looked on and cheered as the Toronto Raptors took on the New Jersey Nets.
Toronto’s dressing room was settled, relaxed, and most importantly focused on the task at hand. Most refusing to talk to the stream of media, apart from Kansas grad Julian Wright, who wasn’t thinking of history – just focusing on the task at hand.
“We still going business like,” Wright said. “We just want to take care of business, play our game and that’s all. The guys have adjusted to London time and we have a good feeling, it’s all positive.”
Wright ended the game with a DNP next to his name.
Chelsea soccer star, Didier Drogba brought the game-ball down to the centre-spot to a chorus of boos, as fellow soccer stars David Luiz (Chelsea) and Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur) looked on.
Deron Williams, as you would expect got the loudest response in the introductions, as the former Jazz point guard strolled onto the hardwood. Despite that though, the crowd was in Team Canada’s corner.
The first quarter saw both teams eager to shake any jet-lag they might have had, as they scored frequently, DeMar DeRozan hit Toronto’s first two buckets quickly, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphreys responded in kind for the Nets. The first period was lively; the crowd was exercising their vocal-chords, as DeRozan hammered down a transition dunk, which forced a Nets timeout – and straight after, Brook Lopez answered back with a hammer-down of his own – which brought the crowd in London to its feet.
The action was free-flowing, as the Nets edged the opening 12 minutes, 27-23. But were on the receiving end of a 10-0 start to the second from the Raptors, as they established a 33-27 advantage, before Travis Outlaw broke the streak with a two-pointer.
A Mexican Wave was started as the Raptors began another scoring run – this time hitting seven points without reply. Despite having a quiet first half, Williams won the award for play of the night mid-way through the second by crossing Sonny Weems to the floor, before lobbing a pass to Lopez for the slam. Back-to-back buckets from Sonny Weems though gave Toronto a 51-47 lead at the interval.
The third was a back-and-forth affair. Both sides fighting tooth-and-nail, jostling for a fourth quarter gain. But neither finding it – leading to a grandstand final stanza finale.
Consecutive triples from Jordan Farmar in the final period, restored New Jersey’s grip on the contest, and then Deron, went into takeover mode, as he single-handedly brought the Nets back into the contest and pushed his side into the lead, as Toronto lost their composure and surrendered the contest, as a whole. D-Will scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half as the Nets prevailed victorious, 116-103. After the game, the two coaches sat down and spoke to the assorted media on hand.
Nets coach Avery Johnson was happy as you would expect.
“It was a pretty exciting win for us, it was Deron Williams first victory in a Nets uniform and we told him that it must have been the headband,” Johnson joked with media afterwards.
“We were playing against a good, young team, which is in pretty much the same vicinity with us, and we had to make some plays and they (Raptors) are tough to handle. (Andrea) Bargnani and (DeMar) DeRozan really hurt us tonight,” the head coach added.
Despite defeat, SLAM asked Raptors coach Jay Triano what positives he took out of tonight’s game.
“I thought DeMar (DeRozan) had a solid game, I thought Ed Davis played very well, and Andrea (Bargnani) will find ways to score, but, hey, we’re a young team, our margin for error is small, but what we need is for more players to step up and contribute more if we’re going to be successful.”
Brook Lopez led the New Jersey scoring with 25 points, while Kris Humphries enjoyed his 36-plus minutes with a healthy double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds; Deron Williams landed a double-double himself with 16 points and 11 assists. Whilst in vain, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan led all scorers on the night with 30 points. Andrea Bargnani contributed 23.
Follow John on SLAMonline and Twitter (@johnswisshobbs) for Raptors coverage in London.