August 18, 2018

VIDEO: Dwane Casey talks about changing the mindset of young Toronto Raptors players

In this video, prior to the Toronto Raptors taking on the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Toronto Raptors head coach, Dwane Casey, spoke with reporters about:

  • Changing team philosophy – improve, new ways to be better
  • Trusting the process to break through the ceiling
  • Doing the little things
  • Jonas Valanciunas maturing as a player
  • Understanding his mission in Toronto

Nets get a red-hot burst of 24 points from D’Angelo Russell in the first quarter, but could not overcome Raptors’ energy force in second-half

For Brooklyn Nets fans, Tuesday night started off with a D’Angelo Russell show. Russell, with a little help from his teammates, scored 24 points in the first quarter against the Toronto Raptors, on 7-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. Russell was on fire!

And, of course, postgame, D’Angelo Russell’s assessment of his first quarter performance was what inquiring minds wanted to know

“My teammates, they got me open,” Russell told the media postgame in the Nets locker room. “Transition – they found me, they made the extra pass to me. Give a lot of credit to them.”

Shout out to Spencer Dinwiddie, as three of his five assists went to Russell during the first quarter.

Brooklyn made nine threes in the first quarter, which marked a new franchise-record for 3-pointers made in a quarter. The Nets ended the first quarter up by eight points 40-32, and Brooklyn closed out the first-half up by 10 with a score of 67-57. The 67 points marked the most points scored by the Nets in a first half this season and the most points the Nets have ever scored in a first half against the Raptors.

But, then came the third quarter when the Raptors added 30 points to its ledger and the Nets only added 18 points, putting Toronto in the lead by two, 87-85. A two-point deficit at the end of the third stanza for the Nets, that’s not so bad. But then the Nets had few answers in the final quarter, and the Raptors just ran away with the game, gaining their ninth straight win, 116-102.

So, what did Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson have to say about the Raptor’s turnaround in the second-half?

“I thought (Fred) VanVleet came in and changed the game,” Atkinson responded. “I just think his pressure, his aggressiveness, his grit, he really changed the game. I think behind him, they have two big-time rim protectors in (Serge) Ibaka and (Jonas) Valanciunas, which allows them to be aggressive on the perimeter and that’s why they are a heck of a defensive team. I think a sign of a great team is a team that can beat you in different ways. I thought we did a good job on (Kyle) Lowry and (DeMar) DeRozan considering the great players they are, and Valanciunas had a great game. I thought CJ Miles – those three threes. We foul him once, give three free throws and then he hits two threes. That got the separation there.”

Kenny Atkinson's Assessment of the Nets' Performance against the Toronto Raptors

“I thought our guys, I thought we were aggressive,” Atkinson continued. “I thought we competed, I thought we were in it and it just slipped away at the end. We missed some shots, some bunnies, some shots I thought we had a good shot at making and they come down and they made their shots. That’s how the separation – I’m a little disappointed the score says what it says because I thought the game was closer than that. I thought we were in it pretty much the whole game and then, bang, that’s how explosive they are.”

Indeed, the Raptors were explosive. They had no other choice, as they are trying to hold on to their first-place standing in the NBA Eastern Conference.

For Toronto Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey, the second-half defensive adjustments were critical and necessary, and he didn’t mince any words

“It’s something called hard play,” Casey told reporters postgame about his team’s second-half adjustments. “It’s amazing how those two words impact the game. That’s the thing we need to start the game with. Our disposition to start the game was not good. We just talked about it in there, our starters need to come out with a better disposition, a hungrier mentality and understand they are going to get the other team’s best shots. Those shots that D’Angelo Russell made at the start of the game, we can’t let somebody come in and get hot like that. It starts from the first play. We can’t play our way into the game and put taxing minutes on our bodies trying to come back. We have to do better.”

And, Russell agrees that Toronto made those necessary adjustments after the break to contain him and the Nets.

“They trapped me, forced me to pass it,” Russell said explaining the Raptors’ defensive adjustments in the second-half. “We just missed shots down the stretch. I think if we make those shots it might be a different game.”

Russell scored a game-high 32 points (10-of-22 FG, 7-of-12 3FG, 5-of-5 FT) with a team-high-tying seven rebounds, one steal, and two blocks in 35 minutes against the Raptors on Tuesday. This was Russell’s third game of 30-plus points this season, and his 32 points on Tuesday against the Raptors marked the second-most points he has scored in a game this season. He scored a season-high 33 points on Halloween 2017 against the Phoenix Suns.

Other leading scorers for the Nets on Tuesday night against the Raptors were Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert, and Dante Cunningham. Hollis-Jefferson totaled 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 27 minutes off the bench. LeVert recorded 11 points, three rebounds, a team-high seven assists, and three steals in 29 minutes off the bench tonight. Cunningham tallied 10 points and four rebounds in 24 minutes. He scored in double figures for the third time in his 12th game for the Nets. This was also Cunningham’s first start for the Brooklyn Nets.

For the Raptors, three of its five starters scored in double digits: Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry. Valanciunas had a team-high 26 points and 14 rebounds; DeRozan tallied 15 points and seven rebounds, and; Lowry recorded 11 points and 11 assists. From the Raptors second-unit, VanVleet had 15 points, four assists, and two steals; Miles contributed 12 points and three rebounds, and; Delon Wright chipped in 10 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

Next up for the Toronto Raptors, as they try to hold onto the No. 1 seed position in the Eastern Conference, are the No. 3 seed Indiana Pacers on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at Indiana.

Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets have another date with the Philadelphia 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday, March 16, 2018.

An Allen Crabbe layup sends game into overtime; Spencer Dinwiddie led all Nets scorers with a career-high 31 points

It was a one-point heartbreaking 114-113 overtime loss for the Brooklyn Nets as they fell to the Toronto Raptors, the second-seeded team in the NBA Eastern Conference. This loss was on top of the Nets’ two-point loss (87-85) to the Boston Celtics, the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference on Saturday evening. The good news is that for the Nets to go toe-to-toe with these teams and to lose by a basket says that the Nets can play with anyone.

The Nets tied the game at 107-107 on an Allen Crabbe layup with 9.8 seconds remaining in the game to send the game into overtime, but the Raptors edged Brooklyn 7-6 in the extra frame for the win. In the loss, the Nets edged the Raptors 55-51 on the glass, 22-19 in assists and 31-26 in bench points tonight.

Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie led all Nets scorers with a career-high 31 points (on 10-of-24 FG – with both 10 FGM and 24 FGA marking career highs – and 8-of-9 FT). He also posted five rebounds, eight assists (with just one turnover) and two steals in a career-high 42 minutes. At the end of regulation, Dinwiddie had scored 27 points and 17 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter.

In responding to a reporter’s question regarding Dinwiddie’s scoring, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said, “I said this earlier, that’s the best bargain in this league. That young man has really improved his game. I tell young players all the time, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity. He’s playing well. He’s producing. He’s playing like a big-time point guard. My hat is off to this team. They’re scrapping. Coach (Kenny) Atkinson has them playing hard every possession, and that’s all you could ask for from his team with as many injuries as they have.”

Crabbe recorded 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 34 minutes tonight for the Nets, his fourth 20-point game of the season. Crabbe absorbed contact on a drive in the closing minutes of the fourth, left the game in pain, but came back in overtime.

“I just came down pretty awkward on my left leg, but I’ll be alright,” Crabbe told the media in a postgame presser. “Other than that, it just sucks that I missed most of overtime and couldn’t be out there to help get a win with my team. But I loved the effort tonight. I feel like we’re going in the right direction, and we just need to continue to build off a miss.”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had a big night. Hollis-Jefferson posted 14 points, a career-high 17 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Other Nets scorers in double digits were Jarrett Allen, who tallied 14 points (5-of-5 FG, 4-of-6 FT) and five rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench. Allen scored in double figures for the eighth time this season. Joe Harris, making his fifth start of the season, recorded 12 points and six rebounds.

For Toronto, Demar DeRozen led all scorers with 35 points. Kyle Lowry led all players in assists with 11.

The Nets have now played a franchise-record five straight games decided by three or fewer points, of which the Nets won three of the five games.

Regarding tonight’s loss, Nets guard Caris LeVert said, “This is extremely heartbreaking for us. We felt we fought hard and we deserved to win the game, but we’ve just got to play better down the stretch.”

The Nets will have another opportunity on Wednesday when they play the Detroit Pistons.

Deron Williams throws a bad pass to Joe Johnson, and Paul Pierce is not happy; Kevin Garnett plays mediator

Jason Kidd pointed out that mistakes happen all the time when asked about Williams' turnover that caused the Brooklyn Nets team to walk back to their locker rooms somber and blue.

Okay. So back-pedal to the last 20 seconds of the game. Williams had just taken an offensive charge after Kyle Lowry went up for a hard layup. Brooklyn was already up 101-100. After a timeout was called, Williams attempted to throw the ball inbound. He had two choices--throw it to Paul Pierce or force a pass to Joe Johnson. Williams chose to toss it to Johnson, and Patrick Patterson stole the ball and scored.

So there you have it---the seasoned veteran (and choke artist) blew the game.

After the game, a disappointed Williams, who committed two turnovers in the final 22 seconds knew what he had done.

"I turned it over, didn't have any timeouts," Williams said. "I pretty much saw everybody was covered on the first couple of options, kind of saw Joe (Johnson) open but just made a bad pass."

"It's tough. It definitely hurts, but we got three days (before our next game) to think about it, that makes it worse. Nothing I can do now, can't take it back. It's not the first time turning the ball over to lose the game and it probably won't be my last," Williams continued.

Fans on Twitter bashed Williams for making a rookie move.

"Horrible end of the game turnover by Deron Williams....I remember when he could be mentioned with CP3....no more!"

"Kyle Lowry is a better player than Deron Williams. Turnover, or not, I hope this game proved that to everybody."

The Nets' loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Nets who now fall to 10-2 in 2014, thanks to two losses against the Raptors.

Despite the loss, the team is prepared to move on and will support Williams.

"We as players and as teammates, we want to make sure that the confidence is high around here, and you just don't get that sitting in your locker by yourself," Kevin Garnett said. "We talk about the game. We talk about what each other saw, and the perspectives, and next time we're in that position, what can we do to get better? And it was a positive conversation. With Deron, we as teammates are going to support each other, and tonight was no different from that."

Lowry and Valanciunas drop one-two punch on the Nets; Lopez gets 29th game of 20-plus points this season, and Kilpatrick drops 20 points off the bench

It is Super Bowl Sunday and the Brooklyn Nets had a noon-time meeting with the Toronto Raptors. From a distance, it looked ominous because the Raptors were coming into the Barclays Center with a 3-0 record against the Nets this season. However, there was a glimmer of hope because Toronto was without Demar DeRozen, the team’s leading scorer and Kyle Lowry was playing with the flu. The hope continued through the first quarter with the Nets only down by two points 26-24. At the half, the hope was a little more guarded with the Nets down by eight 55-43, because we know this season’s history of third quarter breakdowns and the fact that the Nets shot less than 40 percent from the floor in the first half.

Alas, the Nets took us on a roller coaster ride during the third quarter, down by as much as 17 points. Trying to make a comeback, Brooklyn came within nine but ultimately closed the third with a 12-point deficit, 75-63; and then finishing the game 103-95.

The Raptors’ defensive push forced the Nets to turn over the ball, which stunted Nets’ ability to close the deal; and it wasn’t lost on Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson.

“I think the number one reason is they’re really good at it,” said Atkinson explaining Toronto’s ability to force turnovers. “They strip you, they’re physical, they’ve got really good hands.”

“But I also think a fair amount of our turnovers were on the transition – advantage situations where we’re still not making the simple pass, you know, simple play,” Atkinson stated as he expanded on what he attributes to the Nets’ turnovers. “I thought in the second half we improved and that’s why we gave ourselves a chance because our defense was not great but decent enough to have a chance to win the game. So I’m glad we improved the turnover thing. We talked about it at halftime and so I’ll add to the turnover situation in the first half, I’ll add bad shot selection. It’s just that simple. I thought we took a lot of bad shots, a lot of quick shots and we were driving into a crowd a lot. The ball wasn’t moving side to side and then a drive when there’s an open hole. I think a lot of these turnovers are decisions, and our decision making wasn’t up to par in the first half. And again, the second half I thought that we improved.”

Although Jonas Valanciunas led all scorers with 22 points for the Raptors, Lowry, battling the flu, was a real spark for Toronto finishing with a triple-double scoring 15 points and 11 rebounds and assists. Terrence Ross added 17 points, DeMarre Carroll had 15 points and five rebounds, and Norman Powell and Fred VanVleet each scored 10 points, and Powell also added six rebounds.

For the Nets, Brook Lopez totaled a team-high 20 points, seven rebounds, and three assists. This is Lopez’s 29th game of 20-plus points this season. Sean Kilpatrick added 18 points and five rebounds off the bench, Trevor Booker earned a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 13 points.

Although the Nets fell to 9-42 overall and 7-20 at home with today’s loss, Lopez sees the team’s growth that may not be obvious to the casual observer.

“We obviously can look at personal growth, personal improvement, and team growth, and I think we obviously incrementally improved,” Lopez told the press in the locker room after the game.” It’s just a matter of, again, I’ve said it, but just being better for longer and being more consistent. It’s tough. We have a lot of young guys, a lot of guys who haven’t had a lot of experience in the league, and that’s why the things that really separate the great players, great teams, in this league is just coming out every night and performing at the same level. And again, I’ve got to do better at that, I’ve been guilty of that and I think we agree that we can be better when it comes to that.”

The Nets are on the road to play Charlotte on Tuesday and then come home to the Barclays Center to face the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

Raptors Backcourt, Minus Lowry, Sends Nets To 11th Straight Loss

The Brooklyn Nets hosted the Toronto Raptors, Tuesday evening, for the second time in less than a week. In the last contest, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan would combine to score 48 points, leading Toronto to a 19-point win, 132-113. Unfortunately for the Nets, they would endure the same fate, this time around, losing 119-109, but instead of DeRozan teaming up with his usual backcourt mate in Lowry, and unlikely hero came off the bench to start and torched the Nets perimeter defense.

Corey Joseph, who started in Lowry’s place (rest), scored a career-high 33 points, supplemented with DeRozan’s monster performance of 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to lead the Raptors to their third straight victory over the Nets for the season.

At halftime, Joseph scored nearly half of his game total, with 18 points, but in the third quarter, the Raptors, thanks to their fifth year guard, would start to pull away after a competitive first half.

Toronto (28-13) would trade baskets with the Nets for the first six minutes of the third, and after Jonas Valanciunas’s layup, which put the Raptors up by two, 73-71, Joseph went on a mini-scoring run all by himself. He would score five straight points, including a desperation three, at the top of the key, with the shot-clock expiring.

“(Kyle) provides a lot of scoring for us,” Joseph said post-game. “I knew that slot would be missing today, so I took it upon myself to try to be more aggressive, try to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me.”

It was only five points and put the Raptors up 78-73 at the five-minute mark, but following that make, Toronto would get into a groove defensively, forcing three turnovers in the next two and a half minutes. Their five-point lead became nine, as the Raptors would transform those turnovers into points, capped off by a breakaway fast-break dunk by Valanciunas, off of a Randy Foye turnover.

In the final period, Joseph would continue terrorizing the Nets, scoring 13 points, blowing by his defenders, making them look silly. But this particular fourth quarter, where games are decided, belonged to DeRozan.

Joseph scored more than his All-Star teammate’s 10 points but the difference is, it seemed like DeRozan made shots exactly when Toronto needed them. When Sean Kilpatrick cut the deficit to six points on two made free-throws, 99-93, DeRozan answered on the other end converting a floater, spinning off of his defender, to put the Raptors back up by eight for the second time in the quarter, with 7:54 remaining.

With the Nets threatening to cut into the lead, once again, down nine at the 6:50 minute mark, 103-94, DeRozan would hush the crowd again. He drained a 10-foot jumper at the free-throw line increasing the Raptors lead to 11 and on their next offensive possession, DeRozan struck again, hitting a floater over the defense, which put Toronto up 13, 107-94 with six minutes left in the quarter.

Prior to DeRozan’s big second half, he struggled early, shooting three of 14 from the field for 16 points heading into the half.

“I just kept playing the same way,” DeRozan said post-game. “You know, getting good looks and just going out there and I know it’s going to come, it’s just more so being patient, not really worrying about the misses.”

For the Nets, Brook Lopez led all scorers with 28 points and Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert, all scored in double-figures chipping in 11 and 14 each respectively.

In the first half, the Nets were clicking on both sides of the ball, led by Lopez and Jefferson. Lopez scored 19 of his 28 points in the first half, highlighted by a couple of spin, step-through layups in the post that were Hakeem Olajuwon-esque on Valanciunas. Jefferson had some nice moments, taking his defender off the dribble, scoring 10 points at the half and as a group the Nets were looking good up 61-58.

In the third and fourth quarters, things went downhill for the Nets on offense due to the Raptors increased defensive pressure on Lopez. Toronto keyed in on the big-man, sending extra defenders and made sure to get the ball out of his hands. On several occasions, turnovers ensued and the Nets, collectively, just couldn’t find a rhythm on offense to prevent their 11th straight loss.

Despite their issues, the Nets know the season is far from over and can only do one thing: keep playing.

“You got to keep going,” Lopez said post-game. “We have a young group and we’re learning a lot on the fly so you got to just stay positive. We’re doing a lot well, just has not translated in the win column. I think we’re definitely going to break through soon. We just got to give ourselves a chance every night.”

One of the bright spots on the Nets has been LeVert’s play as of late. The rookie who missed most of training camp, scored 14 points with four assists and took the challenge of going up against DeRozan, at times, on both ends. His play has sparked the debate of whether he should be taking teammate, Joe Harris’s minutes and head coach Kenny Atkinson acknowledged that it is something that he has to mull over going forward.

“He’s getting more confidence,” Atkinson said regarding LeVert’s play. “He’s got the athleticism at that position that we need and the size and the quickness. I think, again, once the game slows down a little more, he’s even going to get better.”

The Nets are now 8-33 on the season, and haven’t won since last year in late December against the Charlotte Hornets.

In final game of the season, Nets general manager gives strong signal that Tony Brown won’t be back

Today was the last game of the season for the Brooklyn Nets. They hosted the Toronto Raptors at the Barclays Center, a team the Nets bounced out of the playoffs in the first round in 2014.

I thought there was an outside chance that the Nets could close out the season with a win, particularly since Toronto head coach Dwane Casey told the media in a pregame press conference that the Raptors would be without DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas. And, adding to the missing key Toronto players, the Nets started the game with a 21-4 run, which made me hopeful.

However, the 17-point lead seemed to vanish in an instant. By the end of the half, Toronto led Brooklyn 49-47; at the end of the third stanza, Toronto had a 12-point lead 78-66. When the music stopped, the Nets had lost to the Raptors 103-96, and in so doing, finished the season with a 21-61 record, the 3rd-worst in the league.

In the loss, Bojan Bogdanovic came up big for the Nets, scoring 29 points on seven 3-pointers. Sean Kilpatrick, a fan favorite, as they are still calling his name when he steps on the hardwood, added 12 points and tied his three career assist record. Donald Sloan scored 11 points, and Henry Sims chipped in 10 points and tied his career-high three blocked shots.

Like the Nets, the Raptors also only had four players in double digits; but they scored more points. Norman Powell led all scorers with 30 points and nine rebounds; Terrence Ross scored 24 points and 10 boards off the bench; Delon Wright added 18 points and seven assists; and Jason Thompson chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds.

Anyone following the Nets this season knows that this season is the team’s worst season in Brooklyn. The downward spiral caused the reassignment of general manager Billy King and the firing of head coach Lionel Hollins on January 10, 2016. Anthony (Tony) Brown, an assistant coach under Hollins was named interim head coach and played caretaker to a team that seemed to be in disarray. As one who followed the team, I don’t think the 21-61 record really reflects the potential of the Brooklyn Nets’ team as it is presently constituted. The team needs a stronger point guard, a defender around the rim, and a coach that has experience developing young players, and particularly millennials. The salary cap is expected to go up to approximately $89 million and with Nets current salary obligations it could have between $42.1 and $48.2 million for free agents. Attracting good free agents to the Nets will depend in part on who becomes the next head coach.

Sean Marks, the Nets new general manager has been in evaluation mode of both players and interim coach Tony Brown. There is no doubt some of the players will not be back next season and certainly Tony Brown won’t be back.

Brown told the media that the Nets’ young players are still being evaluated and was asked if he still believed he was being evaluated by Marks.

“I can’t answer that. I really can’t,” Brown said before Monday’s game against the Wizards. “We’ve got two games left. I feel like the situation has been tough from the beginning, I’ve tried to make the best of it and I’m going to continue to do that the last two games and whatever happens, happens. I’m not worried about my fate with this organization.”

As I watched Brown hustle out the door after the Nets final game against Toronto and there were no final remarks by Nets General Manager Marks, I guess we all have our answer soon enough.

The Nets drop 8th straight at home with 91-74 loss to Raptors

It’s a bit unsettling, but it appears that the Brooklyn Nets are in free-fall motion, losing their eighth straight home game against the Toronto Raptors. 91-74.

The Nets haven’t won at home since they played the 76ers on December 10; which is quite troubling. Also, the team’s 74 points are the lowest points scored all season. Somebody ring the alarm bells.

Toronto came into this game, having lost two games, but are still first in the Atlantic Division and tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with Atlanta. The game started off decently enough for the Nets, considering they are playing without Jarrett Jack and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. They ended the first quarter with only a seven-point deficit (24-17) and 4 of 7 shooting from behind the arc in the first half.

In a game that was tied three times and with three lead changes, it became increasingly clear that the Nets just didn’t have the firepower to keep it close even in defeat. Three Nets players scored in double digits, Brook Lopez led all scorers with 24 points and 13 boards; Bojan Bogdanovic, who is rumored to be on the trading block, scored 12 points, and Thaddeus Young chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds. Newly-minted starting point guard Shane Larkin put up nine points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Four bench players scored a total of 13 points.

Joe Johnson’s level of production has been dismal this season. He seems to have been missing in action in far too many games. At least this game, he had a stated reason for only scoring five points and two rebounds – a bruised left quad. Johnson was scoreless until hitting a 3-pointer in the third quarter.

On the other hand, the Raptors, a team that the Nets have matched pretty evenly in the last several years, bounced back from its two losses rather convincingly. Jonas Valanciunas returning from a broken finger lifted Toronto with his 22 points, 11 rebounds. Kyle Lowry added 17 points from field goal range, along with eight rebounds and six assists, and DeMar DeRozan appended 15.

Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins summed up the Nets loss this way, “Their quickness just dominated. We couldn’t move the ball from side to side; they took away a lot of our ball movement. We had spurts where we were able to do it, but we weren’t able to do it consistently. We missed a lot of easy shots and it got us in a hole and then we battled back and in the second half they just kept grinding us out.”

With Jack out for the season, Hollis-Jefferson out until March, and Johnson providing minimal production, it’s going to be an ugly season for Brooklyn.

The Nets play Orlando on Friday.

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