It’s been nearly three years since Masai’s classic “F*&# Brooklyn!” moment, but at this rate it’s going to be closer to a decade before that quote goes from being awesome to tiresome.
It’s also probably going to be closer to a decade before Brooklyn is anything better than doo-doo butter on a basketball court. At 8-30, Brooklyn now stands alone, dead last in the NBA standings. With both this year and next year’s draft pick owed to the Celtics (one outright, the other through a pick-swap), things are not bound to get much better for a while. The sadness is real in Brooklyn. They just cut Anthony Bennett, who has now burned through four teams in four years. If the last place Nets don’t have a ‘just in case he puts things together’ 15th man on the roster spot for Young Poutine, his run in the league has all but assuredly come to an end. Poor, young, rich and healthy Anthony Bennett. Yes, in the grand scheme of things life is still pretty OK for the dude, but it has to be a weird existence to know that for the rest of your life the first sentence of your Wikipedia page will be questioning whether or not you were the biggest bust of all time. But I digress, back to the game at hand.
The Raptors are 5-5 over their last ten games, having struggled recently for the first time all season. Tonight’s matchup marks a turn in their schedule, as this is the first of four straight games against teams with losing records. They’re due to play teams with losing records for the majority of the next quarter or so of their season. That’s ideal for a team who has been dropping ground to Boston, realized how important Patrick Patterson being healthy is and that has been playing dangerously high minute totals for both Lowry and DeRozan. Putting together a combination of winning and rest would be a dream come true for a Raptors team that has fluctuated between looking a cut above the competition in the East and a team that simply can’t rebound defensively well enough to compete some nights.
On that rebounding note, the Raptors have and will continue to look to Valanciunas to step up on that end of the floor, especially against someone like Brook Lopez. Casey called out Valanciunas publicly last week, saying that if Valanciunas isn’t out there trying to dominate, then he wasn’t going to play. The gambit seems to have worked in the iddy bitty sample size since, as Valanciunas is coming off of a 23-rebound effort in their last outing. Keeping Lopez out of the post and especially off of the offensive glass will be a key determining factor in whether Valanciunas can stay on the floor tonight.
This is quite simply a game that Toronto ought to be able to have. The spread is -16.5, and Brooklyn is 1-17 on the road this season. I respect that Brooklyn is still an NBA team, and that they have some players, but they are really, really bad. The Raptors haven’t played well enough or built up enough wins lately to be able to take any opponents lightly, and it’s time to take care of business at home and start working on that distance separating them from Boston and the morass of Eastern Conference teams behind them. F&*# Brooklyn!