TORONTO - They didn't earn the victory Wednesday, but the Toronto Raptors could at least see a break in the clouds that have been hanging over the team.
Ed Davis had a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds to lead a short-handed but competitive Raptors squad in a 94-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at Air Canada Centre.
Toronto came into the game bruised and beaten from a winless western road swing that saw the club ravaged by injuries and a suspension.
The Raptors only had eight players available against Brooklyn and could have laid down in their sixth straight loss. Davis had other ideas.
"Ed was big time," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said of the third-year forward. "He didn't shy away from the contact, which is a big step for him in his growth process. Again he's a young kid and making big strides and I'm really proud of the way he played.
"I thought everyone who stepped on the court tonight competed. That's all we ask for — play together the right way, play hard. There's no consolation prizes in the NBA, we didn't get the W, but I do like the way the guys competed tonight."
Davis' emergence couldn't have come at a better time, with news coming during the game that starting power forward Andrea Bargnani is out indefinitely with a ligament tear in his right elbow and a strained right wrist.
Toronto's infirmary also includes starting point guard Kyle Lowry (right tricep), Linas Kleiza (sore right knee), Alan Anderson (sprained left foot) and Landry Fields (right elbow surgery). Lowry is expected to be out 10 days.
"We had just eight guys and it was really tough," said rookie centre Jonas Valanciunas, who added 15 points for Toronto (4-19). "You have to play basketball, (whether) you are playing with Andrea or Eddie. (Eddie) is good on defence, he's helping more to rebound."
Joe Johnson had 23 points and C.J. Watson chipped in with 16 of his own for the Nets (12-9), who snapped a season-high five-game losing streak that included a crushing 100-97 loss to the cross-town rival New York Knicks at home Tuesday.
Johnson found his rhythm in the final quarter with seven points in the first four minutes. He hit a three, swished a fadeaway jumper and then made 1-of-2 free throws to make it 77-68 for Brooklyn. He then found Watson in the corner for a three to stretch the Nets' lead to 12.
Toronto forced the Nets to make their shots from the perimeter in the second half, and unfortunately for the Raptors, that's exactly what Brooklyn did. Johnson and Watson combined for 32 points behind the arc.
"It seemed in the first half we didn't have any energy," Johnson said. "In the second half it was amazing what a couple of shots will do, if you knock down a couple of shots. The intensity picks up and it starts to affect everybody else."
Boos rained down with five minutes left in the game and fans headed for the exits as Toronto ran out of gas and eased off their defence. Andray Blatche met little resistance when he drove in and made an easy finger roll layup to give the Nets a 86-71 advantage. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The Raptors showed a bit of life in the game's dying moments, but simply ran out of time.
Toronto came out aggressively early in the third with Jose Calderon finding Davis for an easy layup to give the Raptors a 53-42 edge. But Brooklyn cut the lead to five with quick back-to-back threes by Deron Williams and Johnson, forcing Casey to call time out.
Johnson hit another three with just over two minutes left to tie the game 60-60 before Watson gave Brooklyn its first lead with another dagger from behind the arc.
"We went on a run in the third quarter and never really looked back," Johnson added.
The Raptors opened a 33-24 cushion four minutes into the second when Lucas made an easy layup as Toronto capitalized on some sloppy ball handling by Brooklyn. The Nets had 10 turnovers to Toronto's three midway through the quarter.
With 26 seconds left, Lucas hit 1-of-2 from the charity stripe and Aaron Gray tipped in DeMar DeRozan's jumper to finish the half with Toronto up 45-37.
Valanciunas and Davis combined for 17 points to give the Raptors an 20-15 lead with three minutes left in the opening quarter. Davis pushed the lead with a driving hook before Terrence Ross slammed it home off a turnover to make it 26-17 with a minute left. Davis finished the frame with 11 points.
"We fought, and we were right there the whole game," said Davis. "We were fighting but just couldn't close it out."
The Raptors, who have now lost 12 of their last 13 games, were also missing reserve forward Amir Johnson. He served his one-game suspension for throwing his mouthguard at official David Jones during Monday's loss in Portland.
The Raptors' depleted roster forced forward Quincy Acy to be rushed from the team's developmental league in Bakersfield, Calif., only to land in Toronto an hour before tip-off.
"Amount of guys we had and the key players who are out, it was definitely a challenge tonight," said DeRozan.
Notes: The Nets were missing starting centre Brook Lopez (sprained right foot), who did not travel with the team. ... Toronto will play 10 of its next 14 games at Air Canada Centre. ... the Raptors began the season with 15 of their first 22 games on the road — second in the league for most away games this season (Denver is first). ... Toronto lost to Brooklyn 107-100 in its season opener, the first ever Nets game at the Barclay Center. ... The Raptors continue their three-game home stretch with a visit from Vince Carter and the Dallas Mavericks on Friday. ... Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little from the hit HBO show "The Wire" sat courtside.