“Oh, it won’t get better. That doesn’t mean it’s gonna get any worse.” – Los Campesinos
That is my feeling as the reeling and emotional and defiant Toronto Raptors visit the Brooklyn Nets for an early start on Super Bowl Sunday. Things are bad. Terrible, even. And it’s hard to remember a time since Washington that the Raptors were in this rough a place. The Nets provide an opportunity for a victory, but said victory won’t make anything better, because it’s the Nets. There is no big turnaround or moral victory from beating the worst team in the league, and the Clippers await in Toronto on Monday for a much bigger test. So it’s a no-win for Toronto – beat the team you’re supposed to, or things are going to get really dicey. At the same time, though, things don’t have to get worse. At least a win will maintain the current level of panic instead of inciting more.
The game tips off at 12 p.m. on Sportsnet One and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
The Raptors practiced yesterday but didn’t have a lot of firm updates. Patrick Patterson was a partial participant and sounded like he was feeling much better, at least, but Kyle Lowry was added to the injury report due to illness, and DeMar DeRozan’s status remained up in the air.
The early word out of the Barclays Center is that DeRozan and Patterson are unlikely but that Lowry is likely to suit up. Obviously, missing all three of those players would be huge, as it’s their two All-Stars and two most important offensive pieces as well as their best team defender and plus-minus stud. No team can be expected to win a game missing that many pieces, even if the Raptors would somehow still look more talented on paper than Brooklyn. If even one of Lowry and DeRozan can go, the Raptors are probably still in good shape here, though asking any of these guys to push it for a February game against Brooklyn – regardless of the bad stretch – seems unnecessary. You could even argue they should all sit here in the midst of a 5-in-7 stretch and given the load Lowry’s been under. But hey, they want to win, too. They’ll go if they can, and the team will probably be cautious if not. Check back before tip-off for a firm update.
UPDATE: Lowry is playing, while Patterson and DeRozan are sitting, per Michael Grange of Sportsnet.
UPDATE II: Siakam starts.
As for what that means, well, we’ll see. We know Norman Powell will start for DeRozan, but if Patterson can’t go, then the Raptors are back to the gaping question mark at power forward. The guess here is Lucas Nogueira starts, opening up potential minutes for Jakob Poeltl in the center rotation. The Raptors can also go a little smaller off the bench again, which could keep Fred VanVleet in the mix even if Cory Joseph’s “mental break” is over.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Fred VanVleet
SG: Norman Powell, Delon Wright
SF: DeMarre Carroll,Terrence Ross
PF: Pascal Siakam, Lucas Nogueira
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jared Sullinger, Jakob Poeltl
ASSIGNED: Bruno Caboclo
OUT: DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Patterson
Caris LeVert, the primary reason to watch the Nets right now, is sitting. He joins Jeremy Lin on the sidelines. Everything else you need is in the pre-game, and check back before tip-off for confirmed starters.
PG: Isaiah Whitehead, Spencer Dinwiddie
SG: Randy Foye, Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic
PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Trevor Booker, Quincy Acy
C: Brook Lopez, Luis Scola, Justin Hamilton
Assigned: Chris McCullough
Out: Jeremy Lin, Caris LeVert
- Raptors 905 lost on the road for the first time all season last night. I’m only just now, as we speak, watching the game, so consider this your 905 post-game report: The Drive once again took a boat-load of threes, and the 904 answered with a ton of their own, but the defense couldn’t find a groove all night opposite Steezus and company (which include Michael Gbinije and Henry Ellenson). Axel Toupane was his usual awesome self off the bench, and D-League leading 3-point shooter Brady Heslip hit six more threes. This was also the first time the 905 lost all season (20-1) when leading after three quarters, and while the lead never grew past eight in the final frame, they did surrender a game-changing 9-0 run late that sunk them.
- It seems likely that Bruno Caboclo will remain with the 905 for their two road games this week, and then the D-Leagues return home on the weekend for a Saturday game that will likely see one or two more Raptors assigned.
- Caboclo was decent in this one, from what I’ve seen so far. The offensive role is still limited, but his team defense is improving by the game. He had 11 points and four rebounds in 26 mintues and was a plus-2.
- Kyle Lowry is two threes from tying Morris Peterson for the franchise’s all-time record for career triples.
The Raptors are 6.5-point favorites despite the injuries, with a 216 over-under. Waiting to see if the line moves now that the news is in, but it doesn’t look like there’s much action.