Dark clouds continue to hover over Raptors during 11th straight loss

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A total of seven players out of the lineup on a team that had been riding a 10-game losing streak.

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To say the Raptors have been dealing with issues would be to scratch the surface.

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As if this lost season could add yet another layer, it arrived in the hours leading up to Monday’s tip, the first of a four-game homestand for the depleted Raptors, who played host to a Brooklyn Nets riding a four-game losing skid.

When ESPN broke the news of the NBA investigating two-way forward Jontay Porter, whose contract is set to expire at the end of the season, over “multiple” alleged instances of prop betting irregularities involving him in recent months, silence became the golden rule at Scotiabank Arena, which is to be expected.

Amid all this turmoil, some good news emerged with RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley returning to the team after each left for personal reasons. Both remained out due to return-to-competition conditioning, but Quickley was on the bench.

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What he witnessed was a starting unit featuring Javon Freeman-Liberty, Gary Trent Jr., Gradey Dick, Ochai Agbaji and Kelly Olynyk. Quickley also witnessed another loss, the Raptors’ 11th in a row, following Brooklyn’s 96-88 win.

Missing for the Raptors were Porter, who wasn’t unavailable Saturday night in a loss to the host Washington Wizards for what the team listed as personal reasons, Scottie Barnes (hand), centre Jakob Poeltl (hand), forward Chris Boucher (knee) and guard D.J. Carton (ankle).

As for the actual game, this was not a clinic in how basketball should be played.

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The Raptors and Nets, who will hook up in Brooklyn on April 10, had a combined win total of 49 entering Monday night and managed to score a total of 42 first-quarter points. By halftime, the Nets were leading 49-45.

Similar to Saturday night and eerily familiar to many games of late when two bad teams hook up, the result of the game was always in doubt because neither the Raptors nor the Nets could seize the evening.

Those pining for a competitive game would applaud. Those looking for execution and precision would be aghast.

After a Mikal Bridges basket with seven minutes remaining in the game, the Nets were leading 82-75.

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Brooklyn’s biggest lead on the night was nine, while the Raptors’ largest cushion was three, an indication of how neither side was capable of going on a sustained run to create any separation.

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Whether it involved possessions featuring careless turnovers or moments when poor box-outs led to second-chance opportunities by the Nets, there were areas to Toronto’s game that were simply intolerable, short-handed or not.

The one area that stayed consistent was the Raptors’ work ethic. Despite all of the obstacles thrown their way, and there have been many, the players have not quit and they should be commended. At least they put themselves in a position to finally win a game for the first time since March 3.

Their task became daunting when a Dennis Schroder bucket gave the Nets a 90-81 lead.

The evening’s first double-digit lead would be secured with 1:35 left and with it Toronto’s losing streak would eventually get extended, while the Nets’ losing ways would end.

Dick missed all five of his three-point heaves.

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KOBI’S DEBUT

Having signed Kobi Simmons to a 10-day contract, the Raptors threw the guard into the fray late in the opening quarter when he checked into the game with Mo Gueye.

The Raptors want to take a closer look at the 6-foot-5 Simmons after Jahmi’us Ramsey’s second 10-day deal expired following the loss to the Wizards.

When Quickley was playing, the Raptors were hoping something close to a backup point guard would emerge.

Without Quickley, the Raptors have played with no true point capable of running an offence and getting players into their right spots. The result has been a lot of touches for Olynyk, originating from the top of the circle with plenty of cutting to the basket.

In other words, Olynyk served as the primary facilitator in the role of point centre. He’s no Nikola Jokic, but Olynyk’s passing was quite good. Through three quarters, Olynyk had recorded a game-high nine assists in helping the Raptors take a 69-68 lead into the fourth period en route to setting a franchise record with 2,086 total team assists on the season.

No added assists would be recorded in the fourth, when the Raptors had a tough time making shots.

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