Cohesion, or a lack of it, was a theme in the season openers for the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets.
While the Raptors displayed enough cohesion down the stretch to win their season debut, the lack of it seemed fairly evident for the Nets after a disappointing season and turbulent summer.
The Raptors look for another group effort while the Nets hope to get on the same page Friday night when the Atlantic Division foes clash in Brooklyn.
Toronto opened its season by placing six in double figures in Wednesday’s 108-105 win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors got it done in the fourth when they outscored the Cavaliers 32-21, forced five turnovers and had nine assists on their 12 baskets while also making several hustle plays.
“We made a lot of mistakes and there were some really bad sections of defense out there,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said after his team survived shooting 41.9 percent and allowing 52 points in the paint. “But there was some really good hard play by us, diving on the flop and tipping balls and things like that. And that still takes you a long way in this league.”
Pascal Siakam scored 23 points and Gary Trent Jr. added 19 but the Raptors also got a lift from O.G. Anunoby and Scottie Barnes in the final quarter. Anunoby scored 10 of his 18 in the fourth while Barnes added 15, including the go-ahead dunk with 3:31 remaining.
“They were ready,” Nurse said. “I thought just in general, just their body language and their communication they were having, they were really locked in in the morning prep and as well tonight.”
Brooklyn played stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant fairly extensive minutes during preseason in hopes of getting better cohesion once the season began. The Nets struggled from the outset and were throttled 130-108 in their season opener by the visiting New Orleans Pelicans.
“We all didn’t have great games, it’s just the nature of our job,” Durant said. “It’s all about bouncing back and showing up to work tomorrow and figuring it out.”
Durant scored 32 points but had little help and the Nets struggled in virtually all facets. Irving was held to 15 on 6-of-19 shooting in a game where the Nets conceded the first seven points, trailed by as many as 26 and faced their first double-digit deficit less than five minutes in.
Besides allowing New Orleans to shoot 49 percent and score 26 points off turnovers, Brooklyn also struggled inside. The Nets allowed 62 points in the paint, were outrebounded by a whopping 61-39 margin and were outscored 36-4 on second-chance points.
“We have to come back, double-team on the glass and flood it,” Nets coach Steve Nash said. “That’s a part of just being competitive, being aware and understanding what our weaknesses are and trying to combat them from the start.”
The Nets are hoping to see more from Ben Simmons, whose last game before Wednesday was Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with Philadelphia against Atlanta on June 21, 2021. Simmons sat out before being traded for James Harden and then injured his back before returning.
On Wednesday, Simmons was a non-factor, finishing with four points, five rebounds and five assists. The Nets were outscored by 26 points over his 23 minutes on the floor before he fouled out.
The teams split four meetings last season and Toronto is 22-5 in the past 27 meetings.
–Field Level Media