TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors were oh so close to ending their season-long losing streak Friday, despite another night of inconsistency.
But Kyrie Irving’s three-point buzzer-beater with a tenth of a second on the clock, part of a 32-point performance, sent the Raptors trudging off the floor, frustrated once again.
The Nets beat the Raptors 119-116, sending them to a season-worst fourth consecutive loss.
It’s the longest losing streak in sophomore Scottie Barnes’ pro career.
“It sucks,” he said. “Sucks. Just trying to find ways to win, definitely a winnable game. Could have put them away in the first half. They made a run at the end of the second quarter to come back.
“Losing’s not fun. I don’t think none of us likes to lose. We all just got to stay positive, keep that mindset.”
Fred VanVleet had 39 points for the second game in a row to top Toronto (13-16). Barnes added 26 points, while Pascal Siakam had 17 and Malachi Flynn finished with 13.
Kevin Durant had 28 for the Nets (18-12), who swept their season series with Toronto 4-0.
The Raptors, who started a league-leading 16th different starting lineup, took a commanding 18-point lead in the first half, but in what’s becoming an unpleasant script of inconsistency, went ice cold in the third quarter. They missed on all five of their three-point attempts, and their 10-point halftime lead was suddenly a four-point deficit. Toronto trailed 88-84 with one quarter to play.
“You got a chance to get a W, you gotta try to put those away for sure, right?” said coach Nick Nurse.
Back-to-back baskets from Irving — including a 21-foot jumper that elicited groans from the Scotiabank Arena crowd — put the Nets ahead 103-95 with 6:12 to play. Barnes drove to the hoop for a basket and drew a foul with 2:09 to go, enthusiastically smacking his chest. His free throw on the play pulled Toronto to within a point.
Barnes had another big basket for a one-point lead with 36 seconds to play, but Irving found former Raptor Yuta Watanabe for a wide-open three-pointer with 14.1 on the clock.
With eight seconds left, Barnes hit two free throws to tie it up and then, with the fans on their feet, Irving hit the three-pointer dagger to send them home disappointed.
Irving said he wasn’t thinking of shooting a three.
“I was just thinking basket. I saw Juancho (Toronto forward Hernangomez) come over a little earlier, so I decided to pull back and I took my time, got my balance underneath me, which is something I want to work on from this day on, just having my balance on my threes,” he said. “I haven’t been shooting threes as well as I would like.”
The loss came two days after the Raptors coughed up an early 16-point lead in a one-point loss to Sacramento.
Asked how he stays positive, VanVleet said, “(Losing) should affect you.
“Losing is not acceptable, obviously everything is circumstantial and situational but you just always keep good perspective in terms of life,” he said. “Other than that, you just look at the tape and try to see where you can be better . . . We gotta keep pushing, we got another tough team (Golden State) coming in on Sunday and we’ve got our work cut out for us after that.”
While the Raptors have been struggling mightily shooting from long-distance, it was the Nets who couldn’t connect in the early going Friday, shooting 1-for-8 from three-point range in the first quarter. The Raptors took the lead from the opening tip and Siakam’s finger roll with 21 seconds left in the first quarter saw them go up by 12. They led 29-19 to start the second.
Flynn, who’s been all but affixed to the bench, was an instant energy boost in the second, scoring nine points, including a pair of three-pointers. Siakam’s three-pointer 1:17 before halftime gave the Raptors an 18-point advantage, but the Nets closed the half with an 8-0 run and Toronto went into the break up 62-52.
The Raptors were missing Gary Trent Jr. (left quad soreness) and O.G. Anunoby, who sat out his third game with a left hip strain, which was expected to sideline him for at least a week. Precious Achiuwa missed his 17th game with an ankle injury, and coach Nick Nurse said he’ll likely not be back until the new year.
The Raptors end a three-game homestand on Sunday versus the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors. They then depart for three straight on the road, at Philadelphia, New York and Cleveland.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 16, 2022.