The Brooklyn Nets took Giving Tuesday literally for the first 44 minutes of Tuesday's game against the Toronto Raptors, giving away the victory and a chance to advance in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament.
It wasn’t until the game's final four minutes that the Nets buckled down and pulled away for a 115-102 win. Yet, even in victory, Brooklyn was eliminated from the In-Season Tournament via the point differential tie-breaker.
The victory put the Nets in a three-way tie with the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, who all had a 3-1 record in group play, but Brooklyn lost the point differential tie-breaker, ultimately knocking them out of the NBA In-Season Tournament in the group play round. Boston won Eastern Group C and is advancing to the quarterfinals.
In Tuesday's game, the Nets were paced by forward Mikal Bridges’ 22-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Brooklyn has been getting off to slow starts during this five-game homestand, averaging 22.3 points in the first quarter over the last three games.
Both teams struggled to score points in the opening period, especially from distance, where the Nets shot 1-7 (14.3%) and the Raptors went 1-9 (11.1%), with shooting cold as the temperature outside of Barclays Center.
It was nip and tuck for most of the game. There were 12 lead changes, and the score was tied 10 times in the first 44 minutes of the game, with neither team making an extended run or holding a double-digit lead.
Nets center Nic Claxton was back in the lineup after missing Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls with an ankle sprain and led the Nets with a plus/minus of 20 for the first half after recording 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Brooklyn held Toronto to 26.3% three-point shooting for the half and went into intermission leading 52-44.
Toronto, which was eliminated from the NBA Cup on Friday and didn’t have much to play for on Tuesday, outscored Brooklyn 31-24 in the third quarter and was taking on the role of spoiler at Barclays.
The Nets didn’t shoot like their tournament life was on the line and stayed in the game by going 12-13 (92.3%) from the free-throw line, giving them a 75-74 lead heading into the fourth period.
It was still anybody’s game at the 4:15 mark of the fourth quarter, with the Nets leading 96-94, when Brooklyn went on a 19-6 run to close out the game. Forward Royce O’Neale contributed 12 points on 4-6 shooting from three in the final period, and Bridges scored 8 points, while forward Cam Johnson calmly sank four free throws to seal the deal.
Despite the fact that the Nets out-rebounded the Raptors 59-46 and showed the fortitude to pull out a close game, they will not be going to Las Vegas for the NBA Cup championship. But they’re learning how to win ugly, which is a valuable lesson for a team without a true superstar.
Brooklyn continues the homestand on Thursday night against the Charlotte Hornets.