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Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. tries for the loose ball under pressure from Brooklyn Nets forward Dorian Finney-Smith, left, and teammate Mikal Bridges during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto. The Nets won 96-88 on March 25, 2024.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Dennis Schroder’s return to Toronto was supposed to be his chance to get a measure of revenge against his former teammates but his comeback was overshadowed by off-court issues affecting the Raptors.

Schroder had 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead the Brooklyn Nets past Toronto 96-88 on Monday as the Raptors found themselves mired in a gambling investigation. It was Schroder’s second game back in Toronto after being traded to the Nets ahead of the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 8.

“We went to the same play over and over again down the stretch and Dennis took care of the ball got to the lane, [Trendon Watford] got to the lane,” said Nets head coach Kevin Ollie. “I always say it’s the eye of the hurricane.

“All the distractions going around, but can you be the eye of the hurricane and they did that today.”

Schroder received a warm welcome from Toronto fans when he was announced during pre-game introductions despite only playing half a season for the Raptors, having signed with the team as a free agent in the off-season.

Watford had 19 points and seven boards off the bench as Brooklyn (27-45) snapped a six-game losing skid.

“Just trusting the work that I’ve been putting in and just being ready for this opportunity,” said Watford. “Just being who I am, and just trying to get that win, most importantly.”

Gary Trent Jr. scored 18 points as undermanned Toronto (23-49) dropped its 11th game in a row. Javon Freeman-Liberty added 15 points.

Media reports came out an hour before tipoff saying that Raptors backup centre Jontay Porter is being investigated by the NBA for irregularities on prop betting involving him. Porter has been on Toronto’s inactive list since Saturday for “personal reasons.”

His absence was part of a large number of players unavailable to the Raptors. All-star forward Scottie Barnes (left hand fracture), centre Jakob Poeltl (left hand torn ligament), swingman RJ Barrett (personal reasons), point guard Immanuel Quickley (personal reasons), forward Chris Boucher (partial MCL tear), and guard D.J. Carton (right ankle sprain) were also out.

“Easily the most change, the most changed, the most things happening, personal levels, injuries,” said Toronto veteran forward Garrett Temple. “This is easily the, I guess you could say, the craziest season team I’ve been a part of in terms of all of these, all of these parts, all of these things happening.”

Barnes, Barrett and Quickley were all on Toronto’s bench on Monday. Barrett, from Mississauga, Ont., has missed six games as his family mourns the death of his younger brother.

Rajakovic said that Barrett and Quickley are day to day.

“They’re just now in the process of reconditioning,” he said. “We’re going to take it day by day and see, as a group, if [when they are] going to be physically and mentally ready to join the team and play.”

Trent drained a 27-foot three-pointer with 5:24 left in the first to give the Raptors their first lead of the game. That was as close as they would get in the quarter, with Brooklyn holding a 22-20 lead at the end of the period.

Watford had 11 points off the bench in the second quarter as the Nets added to their lead. Brooklyn built a 49-45 advantage by intermission, outscoring Toronto in both of the first two quarters.

The Raptors recovered a tipped pass then quickly swung the ball around the arc to find a wide-open Bruce Brown in the corner. He paused to gather himself as the Nets’ defence recovered, before swishing a three-pointer for a one-point lead with 1:48 left to play in the third quarter.

It was only the second lead of the game for the hosts, with cheers from the 18,376 fans at Scotiabank Arena building to a roar as the play unfolded.

Toronto reserve forward Jordan Nwora hit a jump shot on the next possession but Dorian Finney-Smith tipped in a shot as the Raptors went into the final quarter with a 69-68 lead.

A 7-1 run early in the fourth re-established Brooklyn’s lead. An 8-0 run in the final 3:39 of the fourth, with Schroder scoring four points and adding an assist, put the game out of reach for Toronto.

Helping hand

The Raptors’ 23 assists against Brooklyn set a single-season franchise record of 2,086 total assists. The previous record (2,085) was set during the 2018-19 campaign when Toronto won the NBA championship.

Up next

The Raptors host the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Brooklyn visits the Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

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