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Nets finally shake off short-handed Raptors

The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors were short-handed, but it was the Brooklyn Nets who came up short for the first half of their game at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

However, the Nets took advantage the Raptors' situation in the second half. Joe Johnson scored 19 of his 23 points after the break, and Brooklyn came away with a 94-88 victory before a crowd of 18,847.

A combination of injuries and a suspension left the Raptors with nine players -- only eight played -- and Toronto's limitations began to show in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn picked up its game in the third quarter.

"Our energy in the first half was low," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "It looked like we were kind of feeling sorry for ourselves and they were out there playing free and easy. ... I made a few adjustments, and (Deron) Williams had a little talk with them on the court before the third quarter, and they responded."

The Nets (12-9) responded well enough to end a five-game losing streak, while the Raptors dropped their sixth game in a row. Toronto (4-19) lost all five games of a Western swing before returning home for Wednesday's game.

C.J. Watson came off the bench to score 16 points for the Nets, who also got 14 points and nine rebounds from Andray Blatche. Deron Williams added 12 points, and Kris Humphries had 11. Reggie Evans finished with nine points and 11 rebounds.

Ed Davis led Toronto with a career-high 24 points, and he added 12 rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas added 15 points and DeMar DeRozan 11 for the Raptors. Jose Calderon contributed 10 points and 15 assists.

"Yeah, we ran out of gas," Davis said. "We were short-handed, but we were fighting, we just ran out of gas."

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said, "I thought the guys competed, they played the game the right way. I thought the ball stuck a little there toward the end through fatigue I'm sure. DeMar playing 43 minutes or whatever it was playing one of the best one-on-one players (Johnson) in the league most of the game. Jose had 15 assists and did what he did, but again, I thought their talent took over in stretches...

"I thought we executed our game plan with eight or nine players."

The Raptors have some key injuries, with the most serious appearing to be to forward-center Andrea Bargnani, who is out indefinitely with a ligament tear in his right elbow.

Brooklyn outscored Toronto 31-19 in the third to overcome an eight-point disadvantage and take a four-point lead into the fourth quarter.

"We needed a spark," Joe Johnson said. "It seemed in the first half that we didn't have any energy. In the second half, it is amazing what a couple of shots will do. If you knock down a couple of shots, the intensity picks up and starts to affect everybody else. We went on a run in the third quarter and really never looked back."

The surge continued into the opening minutes of the final quarter with Watson hitting two 3-pointers and Johnson scoring seven quick points including one 3-pointer, to give the Nets an 80-68 lead with 8:18 to play.

The Nets were up by 15 with 5:28 to play after Blatche scored on a layup.

Toronto cut the lead to four with 17 seconds left on a hook shot by Davis, who then hit a free throw. The Nets went ahead by six, but John Lucas scored to bring the Raptors to within four points with 3.9 seconds left.

Johnson hit two free throws to give the Nets their final margin.

The Raptors have lost 12 of their past 13 games. The Nets had won five in a row before their losing streak.

The Raptors led by eight at the half, and DeRozan, who was held to two first-half points, scored the opening points of the third quarter to make the lead 10.

The Raptors were up by 11 before Williams and Johnson hit consecutive 3-pointers to cut the lead to 53-48 with seven minutes to play in the third quarter.

Watson's 3-pointer had the Nets to within one point with 3:18 to play in the third. Johnson hit another 3-pointer to put Brooklyn into a 60-58 lead with 2:27 left in the quarter. The Nets led 68-64 after three quarters.

"They decided to zone us a lot tonight," Avery Johnson said. "We hadn't seen that much zone combined in our first 20 games like we did tonight. It took us a little while to get adjusted to it. Once we got adjusted to it -- I threw something out there totally new that we hadn't run before -- we got some 3s, got a lift from C.J. and Hump (Kris Humphries). Joe (Johnson) was big for us, and then we got more confidence against their zone."

The Raptors outhustled the Nets early in the game, and they led 27-20 after the first quarter and 45-37 at the half.

"Yes, we can take some positives from it, but we don't want moral victories," Davis said. "We want to win. We thought we had it, but we'll take the positives and go over the negatives and fix them tomorrow in practice."

NOTES: The Raptors' injury list keeps growing with Bargnani (right elbow), Linas Kleiza (right knee) and Kyle Lowry (right triceps) joining Landry Fields (right elbow) and Alan Anderson (left foot) on the sideline for Wednesday's game. ... Amir Johnson also missed Wednesday's game as he served a one-game suspension for his ejection in the Raptors' loss at Portland on Monday. ... Toronto rookie forward Quincy Acy was recalled from Bakersfield of the NBA Development League, where he was assigned on Dec. 6. His flight was scheduled to arrive in Toronto at 5:45 p.m., and he was rushed to the ACC but did not play. ... The Nets were coming off a loss to the New York Knicks on Tuesday and were again without center Brook Lopez (right foot) on Wednesday. ... Nets forwards Evans (2009-11) and Humphries (2006-09) and assistant coach Popeye Jones (1996-98) all played for the Raptors. Nets assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo was a Raptors assistant coach in 2010-11.
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