A full arena stood up and cheered on Toronto in the thrilling final minutes of Tuesday – a sound the Raptors hadn’t heard in two and a half months.
The Raptors rewarded them with a victory.
Gary Trent Jr., scored 24 points, while rookie Scottie Barnes had 18 points and 10 rebounds and Toronto rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Nets 109-108, much to the delight of the 18,903 Scotiabank fans Arena who were eventually allowed back into the building.
“Throughout the last two months it has been an empty arena. It’s a big empty arena,” said Trent Jr. “It was very quiet here, you had to bring your own energy. But now we can do it with the crowd behind us and within ourselves.
Pascal Siakam, who scored 18 points on the night, added: “You could hear a pin drop when we played here before.
Malachi Flynn added 15 points, and Khem Birch and Thaddeus Young scored 11 points apiece for the Raptors (34-27), who beat the Nets for the second straight night, despite missing starters Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby.
Former Raptor James Johnson led the Nets (32-31) with 19.
The Raptors had crushed the Nets in Brooklyn 133-97 the previous night, stretching their seventh-place gap in the Eastern Conference over the eighth-place Nets.
Toronto looked set to carry that momentum through Tuesday, taking an 11-point lead. But that was short-lived and the Raptors trailed by eight to start the fourth quarter.
The Barnes jumper with 4:06 remaining capped a 7-0 Raptors run that led them by one point. A float from Trent Jr., then a dunk from Young made the difference to five with 1:50 to go. But the Nets didn’t back down, and a three-point uplift from Seth Curry tied it with 51 seconds left.
The Raptors locked him down defensively for the final seconds, and Trent Jr.’s free throws sealed the win. Johnson connected on a three with less than a second on the clock but it was too little too late for Brooklyn.
“Obviously a tough game,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I told the team that there were a lot of guys there who played a lot of ball games, experienced guys there, so I think our guys did a good job of getting better. to win over.
“Really proud that we hung on and stayed there when it was a little tough.”
The delighted Scotiabank Arena crowd of 18,903 was just short of a full house of 19,800.
The Raptors hadn’t played to a full house at home since Dec. 13 against Sacramento, when rising COVID-19 cases amid the Omicron Variant once again locked down Ontario. The Raptors played in front of a few dozen friends and family members in a desolate setting that Nurse called “crappy.”
But a host of capacity was allowed from Tuesday, as part of the provincial government’s accelerated lifting of restrictions. No proof of a vaccine was needed, and although fans were urged to wear masks, many did not.
Nets goalie Goran Dragic was poorly received by Toronto fans, who booed the slandered former Raptor every time he touched the ball.
“They’re really having fun doing that. Aren’t they? They were ready. Man, they were ready,” Nurse said with a laugh. match. They’re really having fun with it. Get it out of your system.
Dragic was briefly a Raptor but left the team for personal reasons in November. Toronto traded him for Young at last month’s trade deadline.
The Nets were without head coach Steve Nash on Tuesday. The Canadian was placed under COVID-19 health and safety protocols shortly before Monday’s game. Assistant coach Jacque Vaughn led the team in his place.
Brooklyn was also without superstar Kevin Durant, who missed 21 games with a sprained knee ligament, plus Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons.
A night after Barnes hit his first 11 shots in Brooklyn, the rookie was a perfect 4-for-4 for 10 points to help the Raptors take an 11-point lead. Toronto led 33-25 to end the period.
An 18-7 run by the Nets gave the visitors four points midway through the second quarter, and the Raptors headed into halftime trailing 59-55.
A three-pointer from Young gave Toronto a two-pointer late in the third, but the Nets fought back with a 14-2 run and led 89-81 with a quarter to play.
The Raptors host Detroit on Thursday and Orlando on Friday before heading out on a five-game road trip.