The Toronto Raptors are in New York to take on the Brooklyn Nets. It’s the last game of a three-game trip, a chance to put yet another five-game winning streak on the board, and the last vestige of lighter schedule for a while, the first game of a five-game, eight-day stretch that brings Miami, Cleveland, and Golden State to Toronto and then sends the Raptors to Philadelphia for a weekday afternoon game.
As always, every opponent deserves the appropriate respect. It can still be difficult to not look ahead to the challenges that lie ahead in a very fun week. The Raptors handled the Nets appropriately a few weeks back and should do the same here, should psychological factors cooperate.
And it tips off at 7:30 on Sportsnet One and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
The Raptors can’t look ahead of any opponent, but taking a glance at the next week of the schedule, this may be the last opportunity to roll with an expanded rotation and get 11th and 12th men Norman Powell and Lucas Nogueira some non-emergency work. The Raptors could theoretically stretch the rotation out today and tomorrow with a back-to-back, and Dwane Casey hasn’t been shy about going deeper even against top teams, but the Raptors figure to roll with whatever’s been working when Cleveland and Golden State visit. That could mean a tighter 10-man group, and so an opportunity here – whether via blowout or a more broad spread of minutes against a lesser opponent – could be the last case fringe rotation guys get to make until the schedule turns a little easier again.
Then again, maybe that emergency role will come up against the Cavaliers and Warriors. In any case, Casey has said he’d like to get Powell more opportunities to play and get back on the right foot. Maybe that happens here. He’s bound to break out of it if given the minutes to do so.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, Lucas Nogueira
905: Bruno Caboclo, Malcolm Miller, Alfonzo McKinnie, Lorenzo Brown
We knew the Nets would be without DeMarre Carroll (knee injury suffered Saturday), Jeremy Lin (out for the year), and D’Angelo Russell (now practicing with the Long Island Nets). Brooklyn had a late addition to the injury report, as Nik Stauskas is questionable with an ankle sprain. A Stauskas absence would leave the Nets pretty thin in the guard rotation, especially since Caris LeVert, who deemed himself ready to go at shootaround despite a groin injury, is likely to start at small forward with Carroll out. Stauskas has been on fire since landing with the Nets and had a breakout game against Toronto a few weeks back. LeVert may be on a bit of a minutes restriction from the sound of things, as it’s his first game back from a groin injury.
In good news, Carroll’s injury is said to only be a sprain and he’s day-to-day, a much better outcome than initially feared.
UPDATE: Stauskas is out, with Joe Harris starting for Carroll.
PG: Spencer Dinwiddie, Milton Doyle
SG: Allen Crabbe, Caris LeVert
SF: Joe Harris
PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Quincy Acy
C: Tyler Zeller, Jahlil Okafor, Jarrett Allen, Timofey Mozgov
OUT: D’Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin, DeMarre Carroll,Nik Stauskas
Long Island: Jacob Wiley, Isaiah Whitehead
- DeMar DeRozan appeared on The Woj Pod and it’s an absolute must listen. What follows are some notes I took while listening, but I strongly recommend checking out the entire 47-minute interview.
- All-Star Weekend was the coldest either of them have been. DeMar took heat from other players because he kept saying “it’s never like this.”
- 2013-14, Lowry near-trade. Team set a 20-game goal to figure it out, knowing blow-up was on the table. After Gay trade, DeMar told everybody to get ready. “We got two options, either sink or swim, and either we gonna be Michael Phelps or somebody with ankle weights on our ankles sinking.” Lowry said goodbyes, DeMar was frustrated at starting over, decided he’d ask for a trade, too. After a couple Ws, locker room decided to give it all until someone was actually traded. Took off from there.
- First year together, Lowry and DeRozan didn’t speak. No conversation, no meals, no phone numbers. Felt like Lowry was just passing through. “Madness” of 2013-14 brought them together, now look at them. “You think about it, it’s an amazing how it went, how we became close.” Locker room ever since has been strong, and their relationship is obvious.
- It very much sounds like DeRozan now intends to be a Raptor for life. He now embraces the challenge of bringing success to the Raptors they haven’t experienced prior, like he did at Compton High (and at USC a bit). He wanted to change the stigma of Toronto, so him being among the best Raptors now (if not the best) is important to him. Woj asks him about “don’t worry, I got us,” which gets a hilarious response. DeRozan says he dreaded his free agency year because he wanted to just be able to come out and say he was staying.
- Masai says DeMar has never been late for a single thing. Meeting, practice, whatever. DeMar never thought about that/how he handles himself as leadership, was just doing what he does. Now he knows it leads by example. Was taught “never get too high, never get too low,” and carries that over. “Everything I do since I’ve been with the Raptors has been genuine.” Still a quiet leader but thinks his actions, especially work ethic, speak volumes. Gets up at 4:15 every morning to go work out, “no matter how late I’m up at night.” Had Norm with him all summer and Norm saw that all summer. Him and Lowry a complementary leadership duo. “He’s the talker, I’ve always been the muscle behind everything.”
- Great segment on growing up in Compton and how that shows in his personality that I couldn’t do justice transcribing (about the 10-minute mark). Making it through 19 years in Compton tells him he can get through anything now. “You gotta go through it to get to it.” Before he walks on the court every game, he knocks on the wood (“is this real?”).
- There’s some excellent, excellent stuff about why DeRozan is as possessed as he is to improve, dating back to when he was a kid and curious about everything. Some nice talk about his father, as well, who is currently quite sick with kidney disease.
- Voting for the NBA All-Star Game is now open. You can refresh yourself on the voting procedures here. Make sure to hit that hashtag #NBAVote for DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (separately – double-player tweets don’t count).
- Raptors 905 are just coming off of the road and won’t re-connect with the Raptors here. Expect Alfonzo McKinnie and Bruno Caboclo to be called up Tuesday while Lorenzo Brown and Malcolm Miller stay down for the G League Showcase.
- Also over at The Athletic, I wrote about the spark Lucas Nogueira brought Friday and how he can thrive in a change-of-pace role. RR readers can get 20 percent off a subscription here.
The Raptors are 7.5-point favorites with a 217.5 over-under. The line has held there most of the day, give or take half a point.