Kyle Lowry Leads Raptors Past Nets After Kevin Durant Enters Health ProtocolsFebruary 6, 2021
The Toronto Raptors proved they may be figuring things out with a 123-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center on Friday.
Toronto has now won three straight and improved its record to 10-12 after a 2-8 start to the season. In the process, they knocked off a Nets team that had been on a heater, winning five of its last six. The Big Three of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant combined for 40 points in the loss.
The Raps have now won the first two games of a six-leg road trip.
Pascal Siakam, PF, Toronto Raptors: 33 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists
Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors: 30 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds
James Harden, SG, Brooklyn Nets: 17 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds
Kyrie Irving, PG, Brooklyn Nets: 15 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds
Durant Pulled Due to Health and Safety Protocols
The action on the court quickly became second to the drama that was unfolding off of it with Durant.
Shortly before tipoff, the Nets announced Durant would be pulled from the starting lineup due to the league's health and safety protocols, but he was not ruled out. Instead, Durant was being held back from entering the game while a close contact of the small forward underwent further testing for COVID-19. According to ESPN's Malika Andrews, those additional results convinced Brooklyn that Durant could enter the game.
With four minutes left in the first quarter, Durant checked in, marking the first time in 866 career games he came off the bench in an NBA contest.
After getting run over by Toronto in a first quarter the Raps won 34-23, Durant's impact was immediately noticeable as the Nets clawed back to take the lead after trailing by as much as 17. Durant didn't look like he was in his normal rhythm but still poured in eight points with six rebounds, five assists and some lockdown defense.
Almost as quickly as he was thrown back into the game, Durant was forced to head to the bench with nine minutes left in the third quarter. Moments later he was seen walking back to the tunnel. Andrews came back on the ESPN broadcast to report the NBA stepped in and ruled Durant ineligible to play due to the league's COVID-19 guidelines.
"It's tough to lose KD twice in one night," Nets head coach Steve Nash told Andrews in a mid-game interview. "It wasn’t easy, but we’ve got to be adaptable. This is the type of season it’s going to be. We have a lot going on in our world."
Back in the locker room, Durant took to social media to vent his frustration.
Where the breakdown between Durant, the Nets and the NBA occurred isn't clear, but it may prove disruptive. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the league, in conference with Brooklyn, likely would not permit Durant to travel to Philadelphia with his teammates on Friday night.
The issue is just as concerning for the Raptors, who are in the midst of a six-game road trip that will have them traveling across much of the East Coast for the next week.
This is the first time the NBA has pulled a player from a game this year due to its health and safety protocols. Where steps the league takes next remain to be seen.
Siakam Shines In Win
Here comes Pascal Siakam.
One of the most electric players of the last two years was a relative dud to begin the season as the Raptors struggled.
Scoring at least 30 points in three of the last four games looks like the start of a strong turnaround.
Siakam scored 15 points in the third quarter and poured in a few buckets in the closing seconds after working to extend a late-lead and finish with 33. It was perfect execution of the Raptors offense that couldn't have worked without Siakam at his best.
Not against an offense that heats up as quickly as Brooklyn's and certainly not against the likes of James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
That Siakam was able to add another 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals while getting his shots to fall proved further how much more dangerous Toronto is on both ends of the floor when he's at his best.
Which is how Kyle Lowry was able to begin creating for himself more off the dribble and Norman Powell was able to penetrate into the paint for easy looks at the rim. This is the Raptors playing as well as head coach Nick Nurse could hope for.
Now the club just has to show it can sustain it.
The Nets have a quick turnaround and will face the Philadelphia 76ers at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday at Wells Fargo Center, while the Raptors finish their own back-to-back in Atlanta against the Hawks at 8.