Deron Williams, Anthony Morrow

 

The last time the Raptors played the Nets, it was a 97-85 loss and it was probably not a pleasant experience for you. The slow pace masked what was an awful defensive performance by Toronto: New Jersey scored 114.8 points per 100 possessions. Deron Williams got into the lane whenever he wanted and, once there, either found an open three-point shooter or got to the line. This snapped a six-game losing streak for the Nets.

Tonight, the Nets actually have some momentum – they’ve won three of their last four, four of their last six. It hasn’t been against the best competition, but it’s something. Bad news for Toronto: Williams has been on a tear in those wins and Jose Calderon isn’t suddenly going to be any better at containing him. Good news: Marshon Brooks is likely going to be out, just like last time, and I feel like he’d give the Raptors lots of trouble. Also, the Nets are worse at home.

Point Guard:

You don’t need me to explain to you why Williams has a matchup advantage against Calderon, so instead I’m going to elaborate on the “New Jersey is worse at home” thing. D-Will’s scoring numbers through seven games at the Prudential Center: 16.3 PPG, 35.9 FG%, 26.8 3PT%. In 12 games away from home 21.2 PPG, 41.6 FG%, 39.7 3PT%. Those damn sightlines…

As for the backups, it was encouraging to see Jerryd Bayless put up all those points in Denver. With Bargnani out, it shouldn’t be seen as a nice bonus when he fills it up. His scoring is essential. Jordan Farmar has quietly put up excellent offensive statistics this year off the bench, hitting long twos and threes at a rate way higher than we’re used to and, likely, higher than is sustainable.

Advantage: Nets

Shooting guard:

I could watch Anthony Morrow shoot jumpers all day. Sadly, that’s basically what the Raptors did on January 6, when he scored 24 points on 9-14 shooting, including 6-10 on threes. I know you have to send help when Williams beats his man, but you cannot leave this guy. You cannot. For DeMar DeRozan, the Jazz game was a bright spot but the Nuggets game was… uh… not. He’s still not looking as comfortable as last season; hope this changes soon. Can’t give this one to Toronto, even if the reliable rookie Marshon Brooks sits this out with an inflamed Achilles tendon as expected.

Fun fact: Brooks is just over six months older than DeRozan.

Advantage: Nets

Small Forward: 

The Nets have been starting DeShawn Stevenson at small forward lately, with Anthony Morrow sliding over to back him up at times and the recently called-up Larry Owens seeing a few minutes, too. I wouldn’t bet on Stevenson hitting five threes like he did last time, but I do expect him to have an impact by playing tough defense when matched up with DeRozan.

I’ve really been enjoying James Johnson over the past few games and his block numbers are helping my fantasy team.

Advantage: Raptors

Power Forward:

You never know what you’re getting with Linas Kleiza. Last four games: two points on 1-7 shooting, 25 on 8-16, five on 1-5, and 16 on 5-10. Kris Humphries, on the other hand, is a remarkably consistent double-double machine. The Raps have the advantage off the bench if we’re considering Amir Johnson the primary backup four rather than five — Shawne Williams hasn’t been hitting his threes this season and, as a stretch four, that’s the most important part of his job.

Ed Davis requires your patience.

Advantage: Nets

Center: 

Aaron Gray, Jamaal Magloire, Shelden Williams, Johan Petro. Oh, man.

I’m not sure how to analyze this. Raptors get the edge because Amir Johnson will play some center and Johnson is a good NBA basketball player. Is that enough?

Remember how Bryan Colangelo used to compare Bargnani to Mehmet Okur? Well, they’re both injured, so there’s that.

Advantage: Raptors

The line:

The Nets are favoured by five. The Raptors already lost to them by more than that with Bargnani in the lineup, so it’s tempting to pick New Jersey. That would make too much sense in an NBA season that makes little, so I’m going with Toronto. I don’t care about your tank train.