All the hallmarks of an unwinnable game were in place, shots that spun out, tired turnovers, either-way calls that didn’t go Toronto’s way – had Phil Jackson coached here he would have stuck square daggers at the refs all night before blaming the inevitable defeat on some slackened grip, some discarnate explanation that would leave his staff far, far away from the scene of the tangible crime.
The Raptors didn’t leak ahead for excuses as the night moved along. Brooklyn ran out of possessions, and Toronto wasn’t even heroic in its ability to stave everything off. This is just a fantastic basketball team working as it should, at the end of the ribbon.
Toronto has lost once since the All-Star break and that was by three points, in overtime, to the Bucks. The club entered Brooklyn with eight consecutive wins and left with nine, the team had every chance to pack it in. That defense, though, is developing before our eyes.
DeMar DeRozan was tired and it showed, four turnovers, while Kyle Lowry’s eight attempts at run-killing three-pointers only resulted in one (badly needed) make. Fred VanVleet was also dragging, yet he somehow spilled in half his shots and ran a prickly-enough offense to make sure his role sustained.
In Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl the Raptors got 34 points, 20 rebounds and four blocks out of their centers – and those centers played like centers used to do. Uncomfortably.
Toronto: 50-17, tops in the East, four games up on Boston.
Brooklyn: 21-37, and it genuinely looks like a blast to see a game at this team’s home arena. I’d never get in, because I still say things are “a blast.”