The minute the schedule came out, this was the first game every Raptor player, coach and fan circled on their calendar.
It’s been 7 months, 13 days and (by the time the teams tip-off tonight) approximately 4-hours since the Raptors miracle 2013-14 season ended. The players have relived that devastating 1-point, game-7 loss countless times since, no doubt using it as fuel for motivation. Cue the dramatic music and flashbacks because finally the day we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.
Let’s forget Brooklyn has publicly proclaimed a fire sale on over-priced, under-performing stars Brooke Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson whose cumulative salaries for this year are $58,654,317 million. It doesn’t matter the Nets sit 8-games behind the Raptors in the Atlantic Division or that they played Tuesday night. This game has meaning to every player wearing red and won’t require any “do it for the Gipper” type speech from coach Dwane Casey. We want to win this game and we want to win big!
Calling For Rain:
A weird event occurred inside the Barclays Center last night when it began to rain on the court holding up the game for over a half-hour.
A 30-minute rain delay at a basketball game.
— Rod Boone (@rodboone) December 17, 2014
Comparing the Teams:
Zarar’s article pointed out Toronto aren’t getting much love South of the border, especially from John Schuhmann who dropped Toronto from his top-10, but ranked Chicago, Washington and Cleveland higher.
The positive is Toronto have seen a defensive resurgence coinciding with Landry Fields insertion as a starter.They improved 3-spots in a week which is a huge jump in a short period. If they continue this trend prior to their upcoming road trip they could easily be back in the top-10 before they depart.
Brooklyn ranks 23rd in offense, 11th in defense and are 1-10 with a Net Rating of minus -13.4 against teams currently seeded.
Bizarre, but true:
As bad as the Nets have been, if the playoffs started today Toronto would face them in the first round!
The Landry Fields Factor/results in 4 games:
- Cleveland is only team to score 100 points (105) on Toronto
- Toronto’s average opponent score is 92.75 (their season average is 99.1). Oklahoma City currently hold the best opponent points per game (OPPG) of 93.9 The Fields starting-5 OPPG of 92.75 would rank #1 by more than a full point.
- Toronto’s bench is averaging 45.25 points per game and has a point differential margin average of +16.5 per game
- Patrick Patterson has been lethal from behind the arc during this time frame: 8-13 or 61.5%. His season average is 46.4% (ranks 7th).
- Depending on how you view the situation, (you could see the drop in offense as a negative) the point differential margin remains high at +6.3 which would rank sixth (we currently rank 2nd).
Usually by the quarter mark we can start to assess where a team has advantages, but as I reviewed the stats one jumped off the page:
Rebounds: Brooklyn ranks 14th with 10.1-offensive/32.4-defensive/total-42.5. Toronto ranks 24th with 10.9-offensive/30.2-defensive/total- 41.1. Although we are better on the offensive glass what is really interesting is 1.4 rebounds separates 10 teams.
Point Differential: Toronto holds a huge margin in this category ranking 2nd (plus +8.3) to Brooklyn’s 20th rank (negative -2.0).
Guards: Lowry/Fields – Williams/Karasev
Lowry got a bit of rest versus Indiana, but overall has been the Raptor whose carried the load without DeRozan. Since Fields joined the starters Lowry is averaging 15.75 points per game, 4 rebounds and 10 assists.Toronto plays better defense with this new starting line-up and while we are sacrificing offense, it bodes well to find a better balance. The one-key will be (as per William Lou’s article) for Vasquez to start producing at a higher rate in order to reduce Lowry’s minutes.
Several sites have Karasev listed as questionable for tonight as he hurt his hip Tuesday. If he can’t go Bogdanovic will likely replace him.
— Jason Jackson (@TheJaxShow) December 17, 2014
Edge: Raptors- If you don’t think Kyle Lowry will be dialed in right from the start of this game you don’t know Lowry.
Front Court: Ross/A. Johnson/Valanciunas – Johnson/Garnett/Plumlee
Brook Lopez injured his back and is listed as day to day, but expected to miss tonight’s game as per Newsday writer: Roderick Boone.
We’ve waited patiently to see what the acquisition of James Johnson would produce defending Joe Johnson. With Fields starting we luckily can have a look at both Fields and Johnson defending him. Could the lesson’s learned tonight prove to be a Raptor benefit when we face large, skilled, small forwards in the playoffs?
With Lopez out you would think it would be a slam dunk for Valanciunas who has shown more consistency of late, but Mason Plumlee has been playing well for the Nets. In the loss Tuesday he scored 21 points on 8 of 12 from the field, had 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. The two had a few playoff altercations to warrant Valanciunas coming out with that anger he usually reserves for European centers.
While Amir deals with his myriad of injuries having to face Garnett on the second game of a back to back that he played in until :11 seconds remaining should translate into a big advantage (no pun intended).
Ross won’t have to guard Johnson with Fields and Johnson available, so we could see him come out and shoot the lights out. If any Raptor has a reason to make a statement it would be Ross after his anemic playoff showing. His best game of the series was the last one, so hopefully he plans on starting the season series versus Brooklyn showcasing what drove his summer workouts alongside DeRozan.
Edge: Raptors- Joe Johnson may still score, but we’ve got an answer to slow him down this time. Ross will be inspired to prove a point, rather, he better be. Plumlee could make things interesting, but I’m banking on Ross and Valanciunas using this evening to signal they learned from their post season experience and are ready to showcase it to Brooklyn.
Bench: Vasquez/Williams/Patterson/J.Johnson/Hansbrough/Hayes – Jefferson/Teletovic/Jordan/Jack/Bogdanovic/Anderson
With the return of Vasquez to the bench we’ve seen a huge output from them including games they take over (Orlando) which has coincided with Patterson’s emergence of quality shooting, positional rebounding and better defense.
Scanning the Nets’ bench shows only 2-familiar faces remaining from last season as well as two ex-Raptors: Anderson and Jack. Former teammates can get up for a contest versus their old team which they’ve both done in the past, but I’m betting the Raptors losing in the playoffs to Brooklyn is stronger motivation than being traded or released.
Edge: Raptors – Funny how different players view a situation:
- Lowry felt the game-7 loss was his fault
- Ross felt he messed up because of being confused by the ball coming in from the opposite side, which allowed Anderson to join Johnson and Garnett to trap Lowry.
- Post game and at the start of this season Patterson was still telling everyone he felt responsible, because he left Pierce for just a second to go after the fumbled ball.
My point? I’m betting Patterson joins Lowry and Ross by having a huge night.
Bench statistics via hoopsstats.com
- For the record Brooklyn’s 3-stars cumulative salary is $23,081,997 million more than the entire starting Raptor line-up of Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Johnson and Valanciunas.
- Including the 7-playoff games/4-regular season games the point differential between the two teams? EVEN
- This season the Raptors have only lost twice to sub-.500 teams: the Lakers who they took to overtime and Miami on a rare evening of poor free-throw shooting. UPDATE: at the time Miami beat Toronto they had a winning record, technically we’ve only lost to ONE sub-.500 team.
- Brooklyn have only beat one-team with a winning record: Spurs by 2 points. Their other nine wins are versus Oklahoma x 2 (without Westbrook/Durant), Knicks x 2, Philly x 2, Pistons, Magic and Hornets.
- And, not related to this game- while people jump on the Wizards band wagon they’ve only played 8-teams with winning records, 2 against Milwaukee whose record is 13-12. They lost 4 out of the other 6-games with wins against the Clippers and a split with Cleveland who blew them out in the second meeting.
Vegas has the same feeling as many of us making the Raptors 11-point favorites on the road and a O/U of 198
Recalling last season very little separated the 2-teams. The Drake-night blow-out was awesome, but the game at Barclays when Patterson stole the inbound pass and scored the winning bucket was the most satisfying. Less than a year later it’s hard to believe how far apart the 2-teams are.
I get antsy when the spread is so high, but this game feels like it could produce a full 48-minute effort on both ends. I hope I don’t jinx the guys, but I’m picking a 10+ point win with the Raptors holding Brooklyn under their scoring average of 96.4 points. I expect a playoff type effort from Toronto, I’m just not sure if the Nets will bring the same.
Enjoy this one folks, meet us back here for the Quick React following the game and join the conversation.