Surging Nets defeat Raptors, enter break with a bang
The Brooklyn Nets were sick and tired of playing just well enough to lose to the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors. So on Wednesday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center, they turned their collective game up a notch.
“I think I said it before the game, our compete level, our intensity level has to be three levels higher than them to have an opportunity to win the game,” said Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson after Brooklyn bested Toronto for the first time in the last seven meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals.
Caris LeVert scored 20 points, Joe Harris added 19 and Spencer Dinwiddie finished with 17 points and nine assists as the Nets ended Toronto’s franchise-record winning streak at 15 games with a pre-All Star Break 101-91 victory in front of 15,823 fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.
“I thought our physicality, the things we were missing in the last two games against them, I thought we just raised that,” added Atkinson as his club improved to 25-28 entering the NBA’s annual hiatus, despite missing superstar guard Kyrie Irving for all but 20 of its first 53 games.
“We wanted it bad,” he noted. “The execution wasn’t perfect, but our will to win was at a super-high level. That’s why we came out with the W.”
Brooklyn has won seven of its last 10 games, including a team record five straight double digit victories at Barclays.
The Nets also posted their first road triumph against a team with a winning record Monday night in Indiana before returning home to knock off the Raptors, who had beaten them in Toronto last Saturday night.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Harris said of the Nets’ recent surge.
“Especially going to Indiana getting a win there. I don’t think we’d beaten any teams over .500 on the road all year, so for us to go on the road and have a big win like that is just good in terms of confidence going forward.”
Beating Toronto had to feel even better for Brooklyn, which hadn’t posted a victory against the Raptors since an overtime win here on Dec. 7, 2018.
Jarrett Allen and Garrett Temple added 10 points apiece and the center tandem of Allen and DeAndre Jordan combined for 23 rebounds as the Nets outboarded the champs, 55-42, and forced 20 turnovers.
“Everybody talks about momentum in this league and that’s definitely what it is,” said Allen. “Coming into these two games, these last three games before the break, tough schedule. Toronto, Indiana and then back to Toronto, we definitely had a good momentum coming in to this.”
And they hope to have even more to build on, perhaps even with a healthy Irving in tow, when they return to the hardwood Feb. 20 at Philadelphia.
“Obviously we’re going to have a lot of tough games after the All Star break,” said Harris, who will be in Chicago this weekend to defend his 3-Point Shootout title.
“I don’t think anyone’s looking too far ahead,” he emphasized. “The biggest thing right now is making sure some guys recover but also some guys getting enough work over the break.”
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