Numbers never lie, or so the saying goes.

Over the next few days, we here at Raptors Republic will bombard your eyeballs with a plethora of series previews. This edition will analyze the match-up through an empirical perspective. That means this will be the only preview that won’t feature the phrase “veteran playoff experience”, except when mentioned in jest. Your convenient narratives will be discarded,  doused in kerosene, and lit ablaze like a hibachi. No intangibles will be considered — it’s only numbers from herein.

Much like the Toronto Raptors, the Brooklyn Nets’ aggregate numbers can’t be taken at face-value because their season encompasses two different teams. As everyone here understands, the Raptors are a different team since the Rudy Gay trade. Similarly, the Nets have been a different team since the turn of the calendar.

Despite great fanfare, the Nets sputtered to start the season. A slew of injuries, and a consistent bout of coaching turmoil ultimately culminated in a 10-21 start to the season in 2013. Flip the calendar to 2014, and the Nets have suddenly flourished. Aside from their recent two-game mini-tank job, the Nets won 35 games against 15 losses in 2014.

The change was simple, if not unexpected. When All-Star center Brook Lopez went down with a broken right foot, the Nets were forced to scrap their previous game-plan, and adopt a whole new identity as a small-ball team. Only, it’s not small-ball; it’s long-ball, as Devin Kharpetian of The Brooklyn Game so aptly described. If you were to read any scouting report on the Nets, make sure it’s Devin’s.

Paul Pierce’s seamless transition into the starting power forward slot has changed the Nets’ landscape entirely. Pierce has the bulk to match-up with power forwards, and has the rebounding ability to reasonably control the defensive glass. However, Pierce at the four presents the biggest threat on offense. On a smaller scale, Pierce is like Carmelo Anthony. He’s too big to be guarded by most threes — Ross is giving up nearly 40 pounds — and he’s too quick for most fours, even at the ripe old age of 36.

The success of the long-ball strategy is reflected in the lineup data. The five-man unit of Joe Johnson, Shaun Livingston, Paul Pierce, Mason Plumlee and Deron Williams are a +4.8 points per 100 possessions in 284 minutes played this season. Switch Garnett in for Plumlee, and it bumps up to +17.8. Granted,given the Nets’ injuries this season, no unit has logged enough minutes which limits the ability to draw any solid conclusions, but one thing is clear — their long-ball lineup is dangerous.

Conversely, the Raptors’ starting five have logged a total of 716 minutes, which ranks 6th in the NBA for most minutes played this season, and posted a respectable +3.2 points per 100 possessions. The added minutes played, in theory, gives Toronto’s unit the advantage in experience and cohesion.

For the most part, Dwane Casey is a creature of habit when it comes to his lineups, which is a kind way of saying he’s stubborn and loyal to a fault. It’s likely that the two starting units — save for the inevitable swap of Salmons for Ross — will battle head-to-head for the majority of the minutes. A head-t0-head statistical profile is listed below. All numbers are expressed in terms of units per 100 possessions relative to league average. The exception is FG%, which is measured in percentage points.

starting units

The mismatches are immediately obvious. The Raptors should have a significant advantage over the Nets in rebounding, which makes sense given the Nets’ small-ball lineups. Similarly, the Raptors run a more pass-heavy offense, as evidenced by their edge in assists. However, the Nets will likely compensate by winning the battle for possessions, as they cause more turnovers (via steals), and feature four steady ball-handlers on the court, thereby limiting their own turnovers.

The difference between the two teams is also borne out in the season-long aggregate numbers. As outlined in the lineup data comparison, the Raptors hold should dominate on the glass. The plotted points are NBA rank in which smaller is better.


And before you ask, the post-Gay numbers for the Raptors, and 2014 figures for the Nets is posted below. For the most part, the same trends hold true, except the Nets’ defensive rebounding numbers have improved significantly.

Based on the eye-test, the improved rebounding is a concerted strategy by the Nets to forgo leaking out in transition in favor of securing stay misses. Similarly, the Nets also favor eschewing offensive rebounding, because aside from Mason Plumlee, the Nets’ slow and plodding bigs need a head start with back-peddling on defense.

relevant stats

For a deeper look, let’s dive into the synergy stats numbers. A word of precaution: the play-type categorization is somewhat questionable, because after all, what is a play? For example, say the Raptors use a pick-and-roll to set up an entry pass for Jonas in the post, who then draws a double-team, so he kicks it out to an open shooter on the perimeter. Is that a pick-and-roll, post-up, or a spot-up? According to Synergy, it’s a spot-up, which is to say the plays are categorized by result, not process.


The difference in the Nets and Raptors’ play-styles is partially illustrated in the chart above. The Nets like to run plays for Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce in pick-and-roll scenarios, which is usually set up by their wing players — most notably Livingston — operating in the high post. On the other hand, the Raptors also run pick-and-rolls, but it’s usually as a means to set up spot-ups and post-ups. Lesson here? Exercise caution when extrapolating from Synergy data.

Finally, just to wrap this up, let’s lay out Vegas’ thoughts on the match-up. At the time of writing (04/17/14), the Nets are 15/1 to win the Eastern Conference, while the Raptors are 20/1. As for Game One, the Raptors are -2.0 favorites at home, with the over/under set at 194. More money (53%/47%) is being played on Brooklyn than Toronto, so it appears to be a favorable line to bet if you’re bullish on the Raptors’ chances. Or not? I don’t understand how betting works because I’m not a degenerate gambler.

Prediction: Raptors in 7. The two teams are pretty equal.

Statistical support from NBA stats, basketball-reference,, Synergy Sports and NBA Media Central

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60 Responses to “Series Preview: Raptors vs Nets by the Numbers”

  1. Marco belchior GOON

    I agree. Great article. Us media not seeing it our way. It’s almost becoming a joke. Yesterday on PTI dan lebetard actually stopped a conversation about Toronto saying that too much raps talk will hurt the show.
    Now on first take they have john wall on talking about first playoff. Wtf!? The wizards suck. Where’s the demar interview ?? This league is corrupt. I don’t know why they don’t wanna support Toronto but it’s obvious they don’t. It’s almost laughable at this point. I dunno why there trying to keep us down! Do you??

    • ad

      Raps havent won anything. They need to earn respect. They have been shit for most of the 20 years theyve been in existence.

      • Dunkenstein

        What about the Wiz who haven’t won in about 4 decades?

        Aside from SA, Miami, Boston and the Lakers no onne wins many titles.

  2. knowledgep

    I’m taking the raps in 5. KG, dwill and pierce are a thing of the past.

    The fact Brooklyn thinks they have a chance is a joke.

  3. the dude

    Adding to your Vegas numbers, Will. The oddsmakers have the Nets at -153 to win the series compared to +136 for the Raptors (pinnaclesports). That equates to roughly a 60/40% implied probability edge for Brooklyn. The public surely will favour the Nets, which the books have taken into account so probably closer to a 57/43 split. There’s some serious value with Toronto with home court advantage. The Nets were just 16-25 away from home, while Toronto have shown they can win both home and on the road.

  4. Haim not Feldman

    Nice, informative article. It woud be intresting to see how the Raps did
    in certain context. Specifically, Raps crunch time stats from the Gay
    trade to the Memphis-win time frame. This is just conjecture, but those
    Raps from that time frame make me think they’ll go deep into the
    playoffs. Stats like win/loss at -4/+4 with under 2 mins left, win/loss
    in OT, jump balls, forced in-bound turnovers (including 5 sec. delays),
    made/missed FT’s. Will and the rest are probably on to other articles,
    maybe Eric Korean, Holly MacKenzie or Seerat Sohil can find those stats and do a guest article.

    • DDayLewis

      I left it off because I don’t personally buy into any of the “clutch” stats because they’re so incredibly volatile, and ultimately meaningless.

      However, if you’re interested in playing around with the numbers, you can find them in the link below. and I can publish any findings of note.

      FWIW, the Raptors are 9th in the NBA at +/- in clutch situations (under 5 min, +/- 5). The Nets are 15th.

      • Haim not Feldman

        *facepalm* Bummer, I was hoping for a guest article by… Okay seriously, yes clutch and other criteria such as “heart” or “will” can’t be proven and should be ignored, but if such things aren’t a factor, then even the Bucks, Cavs and Magic should be in the playoffs, they are after all professionals.

        • DDayLewis

          Those guys are huge names, but they’re all very twitter accessible, so if you want them to write about clutch numbers, you could just shoot them a tweet.

          • Haim not Feldman

            And you guys aren’t?? Thanks for the tip, and hope you all get huge too 🙂 Peace out

            • DDayLewis

              If you want us to notice something, we see everything that is said on this site.

              • Haim not Feldman

                I’m not on the same wavelength right now so not sure what that means. Do you mean all fan comments have some input these articles? Anyway it was a good article, no disrespect meant.

  5. Dunkenstein

    Agree Marco…was listening to Sirius NBA radio driving to work the other day…the two topics…best coach in the playoffs…not a word about Casey and best guards in the playoffs….they kept tossing out Lance Stephenson but not a peep about Lowry or DD……and the next day no mention of Lowry when they were discussing most improved player in the league….they’re going to freak if we ever win the title.

    • mountio

      In fairness, Casey is one of the worst coaches in the playoffs … not anywhere near the best. Guys like Pop. Thibs, Carlisle, Doc, Spolestra,are light years ahead of him. Luckily we are playing one of the other worst coaches in the playoffs in Kidd in round one.
      As for Lowry not being mentioned as a top guard, thats a more fair criticism. Hes certainly not right at the top (CP3, TP, RW, JH, SC) but hes right there in the next group and DD isnt too far behind either.

      • Stef 511

        Can’t say I understand why you’d believe that. Carlisle probably wouldn’t have won the championship when he did if it wasn’t for Casey’s defensive coaching (he’s said as much and I believe it) .. Doc took years before he showed himself to be a good coach and it took getting real talent for him to shine .. as for Spoelstra, I don’t even know; I’ve wondered more than once if he’d be talked about as even a good coach – never mind great or even very good – if Riley wasn’t behind him and LeBron, Wade and Bosh in front of him. Thibodeau, ok. And Pops, naturally. But for what Casey has done with what *he* has had to work with (you know, comparatively) with no telling yet how good a coach he might — and I believe, will — be one day .. I have to respectfully disagree. The ‘light years ahead’ comment isn’t anywhere near justified .. imo, anyway.

        • FLUXLAND

          “Doc took years before he showed himself to be a good coach” = he was COY in 2000. One year after becoming HC, for taking a team everyone picked to be last in L to the POs.

          • Stef 511

            Oh. Ok, I didn’t know that. Pretty sure he had some years when he didn’t look as accomplished as he did after he got KG and Ray Allen on board tho. Whatever. I still think Casey will be highly thought of as a head coach one day, in the not-distant future.

            • FLUXLAND

              It’s always a little difficult to know how good a guy may be based on what’s available to him personnel wise. Like you said… would Spo have the record he has without the big 3? But Doc proved himself before he got his own Big 3.

              As far as DC, I think what one would have to wonder, first and foremost. is why did it take him this long to get a HC position, if he’s worth as much salt as you think he is. The light years ahead comment is not that outlandish, I think.

              • Stef 511

                Well .. going from memory, what I’ve read in the past — not of a mind to be looking stuff up right now — Casey was somewhat successful as a head coach with a not-very-good team in Minnesota before he got canned (perhaps unfairly, some believed) .. so .. it’s not much but it’s not like he totally blew it with the one previous chance that he did have. And here, there was a push-pull thing going on with Colangelo — as I suspected at the time and with BC’s recent ‘wanting to tank’ comment, now sort of confirmed — that couldn’t have been easy. So really, as the Raps head coach, this here is his first real season where everyone is pulling in the same direction. And it hasn’t gone all that badly.

                • FLUXLAND

                  Yeah, depends on how you want to look at his time in MInny – Kevin did can him for not meeting expectations…whatever those were.

                  Resume wise, it just seems he thrives in an assistant role. As far as the Raps, I just don’t know how I feel about the Rudy Gay thing.. was it DC’s failure or RG being stubborn? Suppose we will never know…but the thing that separates the great ones from the good ones is the ability to handle superstars. (without making it an argument over RG being one or not)

                • Stef 511

                  “not of a mind to be looking stuff up right now “ .. a bit dumb or lazy, I know; I’m a bit jittery this morning. But I did just look and he didn’t do anything exceptionally special in Minnesota .. but he was 20 – 20 when he got fired and the coach who took over went 12 – 20 for the rest of the season. For whatever all that might mean.

                • FLUXLAND

                  Yeah, kinda goes with what I typed below abut RG.

                  That was a team with KG on it (and not much else really) so it makes you wonder.

                • Stef 511

                  Ya, KG. I did think about that and (something I shouldn’t say around here today but) he’s been one of my favorites as a player (as in, I really wish he’d a been a Raptor for a while), so .. ya. But that was Casey still figuring it out at this level as a head coach (I figure) so I kind of go easy on him looking at that particular time.

                  As for, Rudy .. man. That’s a big one. In short tho, I think Rudy has greatness in him .. but I seriously doubt — with how he seems to come up short as a team-and-system player — that he’ll be thought of as ‘great’. I put Rudy and all that went wrong with him here more on BC than I do Casey, tho. (Fairly or not.)

        • mountio

          I take your point to some extent .. when I was typing it the first time, I almost split into two groups. Pop, Thibs and Carlisle are ahead of the others (and Pop and Thibs the clear top two). Take a look at Dallas’ roster though and tell me Rick hasnt done a great job this year.
          Doc, the jury is somewhat out – I think Thibs had a lot to do with his early success. But, he has done a very solid job with the Clips this year and had lots of success in Boston. While he might not be Pop – hes definitely a good coach. Spo is tough .. for all of Miami, er Lebron’s talent .. its hard to know, but three straight finals and the favourite to get there again, Ill give him some due.
          As for our friend Casey .. if the test was top assistant coach in the league, he would be there for sure. He knows D and is a great all around guy. BUT – his rotations and late game coaching / clock management have shown to be very, very bad.
          I fear the playoffs will expose that more. I HOPE that Im wrong … but hes given me no confidence. If we fumble an inbounds play down the stretch or watch DD bounce if off his feet when KL should clearly be taking ALL last shots (or at least have the ball to make a play), or JS is playing crunch time while JV and TR sit on the bench, dont say I didnt warn you …

          • Stef 511

            Ya .. I very much hope there are no fumbled inbound plays during these next games, too .. and really, I’ve done my share of groaning at Casey over the last couple years but from what I (think I) see as far as how he’s growing as a head coach, I believe he’s got a lot of upside, more than what many of us think. My opinion.

            Of course, saying all this today-of-all-days .. superstitious fool that I am, I really hope … you know. (That’s my anti-jinx.)

  6. Letsbeatthenets

    I just want to say one thing: playoff experience is HUGE.

    As a fan we should be very supportive of the team (fresh legs better than tired legs). But if I was a player I would not take playoff experience lightly. Nerves and dealing with high pressure is a huge thing and the Nets’ veteran players are far more accustomed to it and know how to deal with these emotions accordingly. On the other hand, Raptor players won’t truly know how playoff experience feels and can’t know until it happens. This is reality.

    If I was a raptor player, I would take Game 1 extremely seriously, and acknowledge that the Nets team will be naturally the better team (for now). The only way to deal with nervousness is to over-prepare and prepare and prepare. That means studying their opponents tirelessly (through tapes and videos, etc.), that when they are on the court they’re anticipating and know what moves their opponents are going to do next so that the players are not in the emotions and nerves of playoffs, but are focusing specifically on the system and task at hand that must be executed automatically like a machine without even thinking.

    Only after they’re so secure in the team system and are extremely prepared, will they themselves get in the zone and be unstoppable AS A TEAM not as a single entity. This is the only way to take Game 1.

    I actually think that our amazing fan base, and our home court bombardment of red, scream and yells will not be an advantage to our team. Don’t get me wrong, the Nets team will also be spooked a little bit by the crowd tomorrow afternoon, but they know how to deal with these emotions. Our newbies haven’t even experienced it yet, to know how to deal with these emotions.

    Predictions tomorrow: Lowry will carry this team on his back like a boss, Johnson will be our consistent pillar of strength,
    DeRozan will have a frustrating but an eye-opening experience . For DeRozan to be successful, he must let Lowry lead the team and DeRozan should fit into the rhythm and system of the offence (ie. take smart, comfortable shots, pass and make the players around him better). The minute DeRozan chooses to go 1on1, unless it’s against a mismatch, we are finished. Nets will prepare for that, and will know how to destroy 1on1 DeRozan.
    Ross will have an off-night as well, perhaps air-ball a couple of shots. BUT if he plays under the Casey system of defence and lock down his man like a champ, he will naturally get into the zone and will be helpful to the team in the end.
    Valanciunas, same thing, know KG like you know your mother and he will be a helpful teammate.


    • DDayLewis

      “That means this will be the only preview that won’t feature the phrase “veteran playoff experience”, except when mentioned in jest. Your convenient narratives will be discarded, doused in kerosene, and lit ablaze like a hibachi. No intangibles will be considered — it’s only numbers from herein.”

      Rah rah no narratives here. There’s another two playoff previews where you can discuss the merits and demerits of age vs. experience.

      • Letsbeatthenets

        Apologies to readers and mods for not abiding by the rules of this playoff preview. I wish I could move it to the correct domain, but alas I lack that power. My post was not meant to instigate irritation, but was largely premeditated before typing down. And as a raptors fan had to be stated.

        My post was not a Nets fan hate post where I completely bash the Raptors team, on the contrary I believe the Raptors can succeed despite their lack of playoff experience and I brought up what steps must be executed in order to succeed.


        • DDayLewis

          No worries man, I was just kidding anyway. You’re free to discuss what you like. The experience factor does exist, but it’s really a discussion of how pervasive it is.

    • JHP

      At some point and maybe not this year father time will catch up with the Nets. Remember MJ has a huge amount of playoff experience. But as of today would you take him over DD ? The bottom line is the Nets represent the largest TV market and will advance. Toronto just needs to keep improving and keeping pieces for next year.

  7. j bean

    I wanna see Amir and Jonas dominating the inside game offensively. Make Pierce and Garnett work their asses off on defense so they don’t have as much left at the other end.

  8. mountio

    btw BillyLou, nice job on the ESPN main page raps vs nets preview page … a small glimpse of the bright lights…

  9. webfeat

    “He’s too big to be guarded by most threes — Ross is giving up nearly 40 pounds — and he’s too quick for most fours, even at the ripe old age of 36.”

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record: FREE FIELDS, CASEY!!!

  10. MrPrimo

    I know this has been mentioned before, but its just getting insane. In every single one of’s “playoff previews” all they do is gush about the nets and how good they’ve been. In a few of them they don’t even mention the raptors ONCE. Excuse me, is having one of the best records in the East since December not good enough? But those Nets though! Damn have they been good! smh. The least you can do is mention both the teams competing.



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