TORONTO - The Air Canada Centre crowd booed him, derided him with chants, and even waved a cut-out of his runaway bride Kim Kardashian. But New Jersey forward Kris Humphries was undeterred, leading the Nets to a 97-85 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Humphries, who played for the Raptors from 2006-09, was huge on the boards to pace the Nets, picking up 16 rebounds to go along with his six points. The only reason why he didn’t pick up a double-double was the fact that he went 2-for-8 from the free throw line.
Jersey out-rebounded Toronto 44-39.
“They came out with a mission and they jumped on us right away, and got it going,” said Raptors forward DeMar DeRozan, who struggled for most of the game and was sat down for most of the fourth quarter by Toronto coach Dwane Casey.
The loss was a tough one for the Raptors. Toronto held New Jersey to under 39% shooting from the floor, but the Nets killed Toronto from three-point range, going 15-for-31.
It was a game the Raptors really needed, given Jersey’s 1-6 record, and the fact that Toronto, now 3-4, plays seven games in the next nine days, including back-to-back-to-back games starting Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a game Saturday night in Philadelphia.
Casey said the difference was the way the two teams approached the game — and the Nets were definitely the hungrier team.
“We have to approach it like we’re a desperate team each and every night,” Casey said. “This is great lesson for us. I thought New Jersey did a great job coming and playing like a desperate team, and we did not.
“There was 28 second chance points (for Jersey),” he added. “That’s a sign of not being physical in the paint, but goes back to us stepping on the court and playing desperate, not playing tight, but desperate ... a hungry team.”
Starting power forward Andrea Bargnani, who had 17 points, and point guard Jose Calderon, who contributed a season-high 19 points with eight assists, continued their hot start to the season for the Raps, but third-year guard DeRozan, who also started the season well, managed only three points on 1-for-6 shooting.
DeRozan said it was a lesson learned for the young Raptors team.
“Don’t underestimate nobody,” he said, when asked what the Raptors took from the loss. “Don’t read what the media was saying about it ... we won three games and all the rah-rah stuff. We just have to keep playing, put the games that we lost behind us and move on to the next one.”
Calderon’s counterpart with the Nets, Deron Williams, had a big game with 24 points and nine assists, though he was only 6-for-18 from the field. Shooting guard Anthony Morrow also posted 24 points. Starting centre Amir Johnson had 10 boards and eight points for Toronto. The Nets’ starting small forward DeShawn Stevenson took 12 three-point shots, converting on five, compared to only one two-point shot, which he missed.
The Raptors fell behind 48-40 at the half on the strength of 9-for-16 shooting from three-point range by the Nets — even though Jersey only hit 37% from the floor in the half. The Nets also had 19 second chance points in the half compared to four for Toronto.
Second-year forward Ed Davis, who provided a spark for the Raptors off the bench in the first half, missed an easy layup late in the third quarter, which would have cut the Jersey lead to seven.
Deron Williams was then fouled on the other end of the court, scored both frees, and the Nets went up by 11 (69-58), never looking back. The Nets held a 75-64 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Raptors were hoping to get Linas Kleiza back for the game, but the veteran forward has yet to get a clean bill of health from team doctors, though that’s expected to come within the nexst couple of days. Kleiza has yet to play this season after undergoing season-ending arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last February. He should be cleared this week, maybe even for Saturday’s game in Philadelphia.
“Offensively, he’ll give us a punch,” Casey said of Kleiza. “He can score, he’s a big, strong three, but also two and can play four. And defensively he can guard some of the small fours.
“But I don’t want to have a lot of expectations when he does come back because the type of surgery he had was a tough one and I don’t want him to get discouraged if he doesn’t come back as he was playing last year before he was injured,” added the coach.
“Kind of ease him back into the role, to the team."