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Gameday: These Guys Again – Raptors vs. Nets

Brooklyn Nets vs Toronto Raptors

Thu Feb 5, 7:30 AM EST – YES, TSN

Line: TOR -7.5, O/U: 202.0

Air Canada Centre – Toronto, ON

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 102.5 ORTG (24)
  • 106.5 DRTG (17)
  • 92.3 Pace (24)
  • 74.1 DRB% (19)
  • 0.525 DRB% (21)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Joe Johnson 15.9 ppg
  • Kevin Garnett 7 rpg
  • Deron Williams 6.2 apg
  • Brook Lopez 1.6 bpg
  • Jarrett Jack 1.2 spg

  • Record: 33-16 (7-3)
  • Eastern (2), Atlantic (1)

Ranks

  • 112.4 ORTG (2)
  • 106.9 DRTG (18)
  • 93.2 Pace (21)
  • 73.3 DRB% (24)
  • 0.554 DRB% (6)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kyle Lowry 19 ppg
  • Jonas Valanciunas 8.5 rpg
  • Kyle Lowry 7.3 apg
  • James Johnson 1.1 bpg
  • Kyle Lowry 1.6 spg

Toronto comes into tonight on a 1-game losing streak after failing to score more than 75 points against Milwaukee Monday night. Don’t confuse this as an excuse for an upsetting loss, but it’s worth noting that losing to Milwaukee doesn’t imply that the sky is falling. Milwaukee is up to the 2nd best defense in the league. They’re well coached, their bigs are mobile enough to crash pick and roll ball handlers hard and they’ve got more wingspan than you can shake a stick at. I heard a friend of mine reference Khris Middleton’s 25 points as an example of how embarrassing the loss was. Look, Khris Middleton is good, in case you hadn’t noticed, and he’s having a quietly awesome season. He’s shooting a 71% efg% on spot-up shots this season, as evidenced by his 75% from 3, 58% from the floor shooting against Toronto. Don’t take teams and players lightly because of who you think they are based on who they’ve maybe been in seasons past.

Now, to get back to the point, does that sentiment apply to Brooklyn? Well, yes and no. Any team in the NBA can win a game on any given night. Doesn’t mean it’s likely to happen though. In the matchup with Brooklyn last week, Toronto looked dominant at times, got quickly dominated for 8 minutes, and then ultimately looked like the better, more focused team down the stretch in overtime. Brooklyn is a bad offensive team that plays at a slow pace. They turn the ball over and they rebound poorly on both ends of the floor. The Nets struggle to get to the line. They’re shooting a 27th worst 32% from 3 as a team while giving up the 7th best percentage to opponents, who are hitting an above average 36% from deep. Brooklyn has an old, occasionally disengaged lineup, and their numbers reflect that. They’re not without talent; they beat the Clippers on Monday night. They took down the Wizards two weeks ago and almost stole the game in overtime from our Dino’s a last week.

A few things happened in Brooklyn last Friday night. Jarrett Jack continued the trend of heavy usage point guards putting up monster numbers against the Raps. His 35 points are easier to swallow when put into context beside his 13 for 30 shooting (including 1 for 7 from deep), and his 13 assists don’t look as devastating when you see he played 52 minutes with a 30.2 usage percentage. It was Brook Lopez who was much more of a problem with his 35 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Lopez can still be a dominant offensive player, and his sheer size can have an effect deterring opponents from the paint. After a rough start and a short leash from the always ill-pleased Lionel Hollins to start the season, Brook Lopez has been getting much more run and touches since Prokarov slapped a shiny ‘for sale’ sticker on him and the team.

The comeback on Friday night required the Raptors to take their foot off the gas, frustratingly ride the bench unit out against the opponents starters in the early 4th quarter and saw the Nets hit a lot of shots in the final seconds of the shot clock after 21-23 seconds of otherwise solid defence from the Dinos. Based on a growing sample size of lineup management, it’s impossible to say that the same or similar scenario with the bench won’t happen again. Casey’s will-he, won’t-he play Valanciunas has gotten to a Ross-and-Rachel level of bad sitcom annoyance. The bench unit, on the other hand, has been great in their niche role but has gotten battered by opposing starters. Brook Lopez scored in a hurry against the Patterson-Hansbrough combination. For the last time, Patrick Patterson has been an absolute godsend offensively, improved his rebounding lately and is instrumental to the teams success. But he is not a center. Tyler Hansbrough is not a center. Small ball is one thing, but Lopez is a genuine center who will dominate undersized, out of position bigs.

The Raptors are a much, much better team on both ends of the floor than Brooklyn. Their defenses are similarly ranked at the moment, but the ceiling for where Toronto can get is much higher than the Nets. Toronto’s 2nd ranked offence is light years ahead of the slow jump shot happy veteran me-ball of Brooklyn. Brooklyn is one of the few teams that Toronto can notably out rebound on both ends. This is an opportunity that the Raptors ought to seize to get their game back on track as a team, and if they do so, it’ll be another tick on the win column.

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