The Toronto Raptors host a banged-up and struggling Brooklyn Nets squad on Tuesday night.

The Nets will be without point guard Deron Williams (ankle), center Brook Lopez (ankle), utilityman Andrei Kirilenko (back) and reserve guard Jason Terry (knee).

It’s difficult to evaluate this Atlantic Division foe in a macro sense given that those four players have now missed a combined 24 games, but at present it’s easy to call them a mess. The Nets are 3-10, new head coach Jason Kidd has come under fire for his lack of coaching, and Kevin Garnett’s numbers look like those of Reggie Evans.

Still, this is a team with Garnett, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, so while they may be an old group, they aren’t without talent.

Position Breakdown
Point guard: Kyle Lowry and PG2 du jour vs. Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor
Edge: Raptors
Yeah, this one should be pretty straightforward. Livingston isn’t terrible (and he seems incredibly likeable) but his lack of shooting ability really constricts what Brooklyn’s ball-dominant wings can do.

Wings: DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross vs. Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Alan Anderson’s Sad Face
Edge: Wash
I bounced back and forth on this one, settling on a wash. It’s easy to make a case that either set of wings is better than the other. Johnson isn’t shooting poorly and you’d have to expect that Pierce is still better than his numbers currently show. DeRozan and Gay aren’t world beaters in efficiency terms, either, but they’re scoring more on a per-minute basis and will probably be difficult for the Nets pair to stay in front of. Anderson, meanwhile, is fine in a limited role but can get trigger-happy when asked to do too much (remember?). Anyway, call it a wash and make your case for ‘More Talented But Old’ vs. ‘Not What Those Guys Were But More Than They Are Now.’

Bigs: Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyler Hansbrough and Steve Novak (and sure, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray so nobody gets a sad) vs. Kevin Garnett, Reggie Evans, Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee
Edge: Raptors
Sorry, but Garnett doesn’t get the Pierce/Johnson wash when Blatche is his runningmate. The Nets are 23rd in offensive rebound rate and 27th in defensive rebound rate – considering the Raptors are first and eighth, respectively, this seems like a good area to make hay. Also, Hansbrough clubbing Garnett unnecessarily is going to be hilarious.

The Lines
Vegas says: Raptors -7 with 53% of action, O/U 190 with 50/50 split
“Averages” say: Raptors -5
Hollinger Rating says: Raptors -12.5
Beanie Sigel, So What You Saying: Got game, still think off s***

Blake says: I’m going with the Raptors for what should be obvious reasons, though it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see Brooklyn show up like it means something, coming off a pair of double-digit losses and on a five-game losing streak. Still, this team just doesn’t look like one with any kind of “extra gear” if things get dire (again, when healthy, sure, probably). Toronto has an edge in the starting unit and an edge with the first few players off the bench, the latter of which we won’t get to say too often. Put simply, this is exactly the kind of game the team has to win if they have designs on taking advantage of the pathetic state of the Eastern Conference.

The game tips off at the ACC at 7 p.m. on TSN. Treat us basketball folk well, TSN, we’re all you’ve got left.

Sorry for the abbreviated preview. A pregame Q&A with a Nets blogger was meant to be included but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

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