Nets overcome slow start against Raptors in 115-103 victory

Nets overcome slow start against Raptors in 115-103 victory

With a berth in the NBA In-Season Tournament quarterfinals up for grabs on Tuesday night at Barclays Center, the Nets suffered a sluggish start on offense against a Toronto Raptors team that had already been mathematically eliminated from advancing.

The Nets (9-8) eventually found a rhythm inside the arc in the second quarter of their 115-103 defeat of Toronto but did not make their first 3-pointer until the 7:50 mark in the period, a 25-footer from Lonnie Walker IV.

“Just like the first quarter of the Chicago game, [we didn’t] panic as a team and we [found] solutions,” head coach Jacque Vaughn said.

Aside from a solid defensive effort — the Raptors shot just 38.6% from the field — one of the big differences for Brooklyn Tuesday night was a 15-0 run over the final 3:01 of the first half. Spencer Dinwiddie scored eight of his game-high 23 points during that scoring burst, including a pair of treys, and picked up three of his eight assists. One of his dimes included a lob to center Nic Claxton, who was a game-high plus-20 in 15 first-half minutes.

Dinwiddie’s effort helped the Nets to a 52-44 lead at halftime. That separation proved to be vital, as they shot just 25% from the field in the third quarter and found themselves clinging to a 76-75 lead entering the final frame.

“You never know who’s going to get that game, who’s going to have the hot hand,” Royce O’Neale said. “I think it’s just being smart players and finding that guy.”

In outscoring Toronto 39-28 in the fourth quarter, the Nets consistently found O’Neale, who helped lead the charge with timely shot-making from deep. He went 4-of-6 from distance over the final 12 minutes of regulation, including a massive shot from the left corner to put Brooklyn up 106-100 with 1:55 left. The forward is shooting 12-of-22 from 3-point range over his last two games. This is the first time he has made five or more 3s in consecutive games in his seven-year career.

“We needed them,” Mikal Bridges said of O’Neale’s big shots down the stretch on Tuesday. “Especially at the end, just keeping us in the game and keeping that margain away. I mean, if it weren’t for him, it wouldn’t have been that close and we wouldn’t have been up. Those are just great shots and Royce really shot the heck out the ball. I’m just happy he’s making my job easier, getting me some easy assists.

Bridges added 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in the win. Claxton, back from a one-game absence, had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds and four blocks in 32 minutes. He has had three or more blocks in each of his last three games, as he continues to establish himself as a premier rim protector for Brooklyn.

“You see how beneficial it is,” Vaughn said of Claxton. “He bails us out multiple times throughout the course of a night. And then he’s just a deterrent at the rim. People know he’s back there.”

While the Nets shot just 34.2% from deep as a team (13-of-38), they had a 50-34 edge in the paint and won the glass 59-46.

Despite finishing the In-Season Tournament with a 3-1 record and a plus-20 point differential, the Nets, who have now won three straight games, will not advance to the quarterfinals. They fell just seven points short of the Boston Celtics‘ point differential.

As one of the 22 NBA teams that did not qualify for the Knockout Rounds, they will play two regular-season games on Dec. 6 and 8.

Brooklyn could not earn a Wild Card spot with other 3-1 teams, as the Knicks were plus-42, the Cleveland Cavaliers plus-29, and the Orlando Magic plus-22.

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