No one would have predicted the Raptors would be returning home from this road trip with a 3-2 record. But after a dominate win in New Jersey the Raptors do end up with that record. It was far from an ideal trip. Along the way they saw Andrea Bargnani return only to be sidelined again with the same injury. The Raptors heading into yesterday were 0-7 this season with out Bargnani in the line up. They even had lost to the Nets with Bargnani in the line-up. The Raptors had also never beat Deron Williams he was 14-0 vs the Raptors with both the Nets and Jazz.
The Raptors even despite a couple wins on this trip, they have failed to get off to solid starts. The first quarter has been the Raptors own personal hell. But they would get off to a decent start in this one. This despite not only being without Bargnani but also without Barbosa who was a late scratch with a bad ankle. Barbosa had been the most consistent scorer off the bench for the Raptors this season. The Raptors would come out and take a 7-2 lead before letting the Nets make a couple threes in the corner and getting the game back to even at 13. Despite the better start the Nets were doing the two things they had done to beat the Raptors the last time. Making threes and getting on the offensive glass. But the Nets were not taking advantage of those second chances as they did in Toronto. Raptors were also not allowing the Nets anything easy as they held them down in terms of fast break points. Raptors would re-establish a lead only to see the Nets get it back to even at 24 after one. But that was a significant improvement for a team that had been terrible in first quarters of late.
Dwane Casey would try something new in this game playing Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless together on the floor at times. The duo started shifting DeRozan to the 3 spot. Amir Johnson would also return to the starting line-up in place of Aaron Gray. It is something we have seen in the past with Raptors with Ford and Calderon. Bayless was excellent in the times he matched up against Deron Williams. The offence was tight as well with Calderon hooking up Bayless with an alley oop dunk. This might have been the best performance for this team defensively under Casey. The Raptors held the Nets to 15 points in the 2nd and 14 points in the 3rd. Raptors would have a five point advantage at the halftime break with the score 44-39.
Demar DeRozan has been struggling badly during this road trip. But he had a decent first half but that was nothing compared to his 3rd quarter. DeRozan went into full attack mode and he played his best quarter of basketball in the 3rd. This was the Demar DeRozan that his fans had been waiting for. Relentlessly attacking the basket and getting out on the break getting his fair share of points based on that. He would be rewarded for his effort with a career high 16 trips to the foul line on night making 11. By the time things were done in the 3rd the Raptors had put this game on ice. They pounded the Nets 26-14 in the 3rd and had a 19 point advantage heading to the 4th quarter.
Not even the Raptors were going to blow a 19 point lead in the 4th. If you watched this game and did not feel confident heading into that 4th quarter not sure when you would be. It was the first time in a long time I personally can remember feeling confident entering a 4th quarter. It would not be long before this game would enter into garbage time. So much so that little used Solomon Alabi even saw the floor late in this one for just the second time this season. Raptors would cruise to the winners circle with a 94-73 win over the Nets.
Demar DeRozan had a season high and game high 27 points going 8-12 from the field and 11-16 from the line as previously mentioned. He also played 40 plus minutes in this one. It was back to back good games for Jerryd Bayless with 17 points on 7-15. Jose Calderon had a quiet 10 points and 9 assists. It was a team effort on defence and an offence that was led by DeRozan. Raptors return home to face a tough Hawks team on Tuesday and then end up right back on the road again. I will be making the trip down to Toronto to cover this one. Looking forward to it as always.