Raptors ‘zombie’-like as win streak ends at 15

NEW YORK — In order for his team to beat the Toronto Raptors, who were riding a formidable winning streak, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said that Brooklyn’s “effort and compete level has got to be two levels higher” than normal.

“We have to pitch close to a perfect game to beat this team,” Atkinson said. “That is how good they are.”

Well, the Nets fulfilled that nearly perfect metaphoric pitch, defeating the Raptors 101-91 and snapping Toronto’s 15-game winning streak on Wednesday night. Brooklyn’s win came just four nights after the Nets lost by one point to the Raptors in Scotiabank Arena.

“We were walking zombies,” Kyle Lowry said after the game. “We didn’t play well tonight, simple as that. We missed shots, we weren’t aggressive. And give them credit. They played their butts off, and they beat us. It’s only one game.”

With Toronto’s streak ending at 15 games, Milwaukee still owns the longest winning streak of the season at 18.

Now, the Nets enter All-Star break having won seven of their past 10 games for a 25-28 overall record.

“It’s a great win,” Jarrett Allen said. “Especially snapping their 15-game win streak. It’s a big mark for us.”

After the teams traded buckets early on, Brooklyn took control of the game early. At the half, Toronto trailed by 12 points. Through their winning streak, the Raptors had trailed just five times at the break. In Barclays Center, Toronto had just 40 points at halftime. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that is tied for the second-fewest points in a Raptors first half all season.

The Raptors whittled the Nets’ lead down to 10 several times during the third quarter, but they never shaved Brooklyn’s advantage down to single digits. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Pascal Siakam to end the third quarter left fans’ mouths agape and once again cut the Nets’ lead to 10.

But in the final period, Brooklyn kept coming. Every time the Raptors would sink a basket, the Nets had an answer.

After the game, Raptors players joked in the locker room and didn’t seem too distraught over the streak coming to an end.

“It is what it is, man,” Fred VanVleet said. “I just think we didn’t have enough juice to overcome some of the things that were going on tonight. We weren’t going to win them all. The break has come at a good time.”

The Raptors are hoping the All-Star break will allow Marc Gasol and Norman Powell to complete their rehab and return to the team, giving Toronto an added boost.

“I think when you look at it in totality, sitting where we are now, I think we’re extremely pleased to get to this point,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I think our team really battled with a couple of key guys missing. We’ve got some growth to do and we need to do it for sure to make a run [at the championship] again.”

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