1. Raptors’ defensive change on Harris did just enough
Joe Harris virtually could not miss in the first half Monday night. He scored 15 of the Brooklyn Nets’ 29 first-quarter points and finished the first half with 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting, all from behind the arc.
The seven 3-pointers in the first half topped Harris’ previous career-high of six 3s, something he had done three times previously — including twice this season.
The Toronto Raptors’ defensive strategy early was to use their best perimeter defender, Danny Green, on All-Star point guard D’Angelo Russell, leaving Harris with the much-smaller Kyle Lowry.
It didn’t take long for the Raptors to switch things around, throwing Green at Harris, but Toronto was still giving Harris room to catch the ball and that was all the room he needed.
But in the second half, the strategy changed markedly. The Raptors were using Green and the ridiculously lengthy OG Anunoby on Harris and denying him the ball everywhere.
Additionally, Toronto started playing off-ball screens for Harris as if they were ball screens, switching quickly to prevent the catch.
That allowed Russell to take advantage of the smaller Lowry and he heated up dramatically in the second half, scoring 24 of his team-high 28 points after the break.
Harris, however, got just one shot attempt in the second half, a 12-foot pull-up in the lane with 23.5 seconds left in a tie game late in the fourth quarter that he left short.
Coach Kenny Atkinson tried to counter with another shooter on the floor, teaming Harris with Allen Crabbe, who scored 14 points and hit 4-of-5 from deep after intermission.
Toronto was able to do just enough defensively after the break to beat the Nets, primarily on the offensive glass, where they had 12 second-chance points after halftime to just four for Brooklyn.
It is the one potential downside with a shooter such as Harris, whose opportunities are predicated so much on movement without the ball. When a defense goes all-in to keep Harris from getting the basketball in his hands, it can take him away — as Toronto did in the second half.
Harris was limited to one field-goal attempt and two points after the break. The Raptors didn’t do much to slow down Brooklyn’s offensive flow in the second half — the Nets scored 65 points in the half — but did just enough to escape with their eighth straight victory at home over Brooklyn.