Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 133-96 win over the Brooklyn Nets.

One — The Raptors reset the mood with a feel-good win. To be fair, it was the expected result against a Nets team that was without three max players in Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons while freefalling in the standings. But the manner in which the Raptors jumped on the Nets from start to finish was truly impressive, opening with a season-high 42 points in the first quarter, and effectively holding off any comeback attempts for a comfortable win in which almost every single Raptors player can feel positively about their contributions. The only regret might have been that the Raptors beat the Nets in such a lopsided manner that they might become complacent for the rematch in Toronto.

Two — The Raptors demoralized the Nets from the start with their high-intensity pressing. Scottie Barnes literally picked off the Nets on the opening jump and drew the foul after the steal, which set the tone for how the Raptors approached the game. They were far more energetic and athletic compared to their geriatric counterparts, and Nick Nurse instructed his team to hound the Nets whenever possible. That included full-court pressure, extra efforts on the offensive glass, and swiping for steals to fuel their transition game. Brooklyn never got a foothold in this game because Toronto never allowed it. The Raptors had 31 points off turnovers thanks to their 17 steals, the majority of which were live-ball turnovers.

Three — Barnes was dominant without even having a play run for him. The rookie sensation had 24 points on a perfect 10-for-10 shooting in the first half, after scoring Toronto’s first eight points, before matching his career-high of 28 points to go along with 16 rebounds and five steals. What jumps out about Barnes’ game was how energetic he was. Barnes hustled down the floor to get early post position, followed up every shot, and was heading the full-court press. Of his 12 baskets, Barnes collected seven putbacks which ties an NBA record over the past three decades.

Four — Brooklyn shifted to a zone defence for most of the second half in hopes of eating into a 23-point deficit. On a night where the Raptors were without Fred VanVleet, who sat out once again due to nagging knee soreness, it was a logical play for Brooklyn which struggled to contain the ball in the first half. It worked at first with the Raptors slowing down their offence and having to swing it laterally, but eventually the cracks formed. Barnes was one of the first to beat the coverage as he cut between the zone around the elbow area to receive a pass, before quickly turning around for an open push shot. He also had another read where he caught the ball on the wing, collapsed the defence, before whipping an opposite court pass to Gary Trent Jr. who was open on the cut. Nevertheless, it would not be a surprise to see the Nets return to this strategy in the rematch.

Five — The Nets devised a good game plan against Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. and limited them to a combined 5-of-24 shooting. Brooklyn swarmed Siakam in the lane, while sliding an extra body over on Trent Jr.’s drive to deny him of the paint and to dissuade him from the midrange jumper. But credit to both Siakam and Trent Jr. for handling the pressure and making the right passes out of it. Siakam was quick to surrender the ball when he saw the extra defender and even on his missed shots, at least half of his drives were recycled for putbacks. In Trent Jr.’s case, he was able to get downhill quickly and make the right kickout passes which is not typically a part of his game, but he was able to expand his duties to cover for VanVleet’s absence. Still, the Raptors would be wise to find ways to get their top two scorers some easier offence for the rematch. You can’t always count on the shooting to be as efficient.

Six — Malachi Flynn got the start in place of VanVleet and had his best game of the season. He mostly looked to set up the offence, deferring to Siakam in the post or feeding Trent Jr. on curls, but he also used his quickness to great advantage. The Nets had three small guards over 30 in the backcourt, and slow-footed bigs as the help defenders behind them, so Flynn was able to turn the corner and use his quickness to get downhill. He used a change-of-pace move that froze LaMarcus Aldridge, and Flynn also showed good burst in splitting four Nets defenders for a transition layup. More importantly, Flynn showed a toughness and grittiness in fighting for loose balls in the paint. On one key sequence in the third quarter, Flynn ripped the ball away from Kessler Edwards after he collected the defensive rebound, which set up one of Flynn’s three triples on the ensuing play.

Seven — Precious Achiuwa continues to showcase his ability on the offensive end with back-to-back 20-point games for the first time in his young career. The key for Achiuwa all season has been to take the right shots instead of forcing it, and his efficiency has risen according to his adherence to his role. Achiuwa is strong, quick, athletic, and handles it well for a big which gives him an advantage so long as he picks the right spots to attack. Achiuwa put Aldridge and Andre Drummond under the basket on two impressive drives, but he also showed good body control and awareness by pulling up short on a pair of floaters to avoid the charge. The three-point shot will come and go but he’s taking them in rhythm and while open, so those are good shots that the coaching staff will live with.

Eight — Thaddeus Young was also great off the bench. Young is an adaptable veteran who knows how to fit in, but it’s natural that he would need some time to fully acclimate in Nurse’s system. One obvious adjustment that Young made was to just take the three without hesitating. He traded his two shot-clock violations in the Hawks loss for three corner triples in this win, and while he’s only made 33 per cent on 1.4 attempts per game over his 15-year career, the Raptors will need him to get comfortable at least from the corners. Young also had a nice stretch in the second quarter where he got Bruce Brown to turn his head on a vicious ball fake before spinning past him and laying it up, before taking a charge on the ensuing play.

Nine — Even the third-stringers got to show out. Dalano Banton was a menace in transition, Justin Champagnie is a magnet for rebounds, Yuta Watanabe put someone on a poster, Svi Mykhailiuk nailed two threes to match a season-high, and even D.J. Wilson shined with a midrange jumper, a quick reverse pass to find Watanabe for three, and a pair of dunks. The end result was a season-high 67 bench points for the Raptors’ much-maligned reserves who still rank last in the league in second-unit scoring.

Ten — The Raptors hounded Goran Dragic like it was personal. Dragic was not the reason that Brooklyn lost, but he hardly helped the cause. He was consistently beat on defence, failing to contain Flynn at the point of attack, and he offered no resistance elsewhere. This was clear even in the limited time he played with the team at the start of the season, but this was another reminder of why the Raptors quickly moved to separate from him. He is clearly a liability on defence, and while he is well-rounded offensively, the Raptors held him to one basket on a night where the Nets badly needed scoring.


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