After a hearty win over the 76ers, the Raptors make the short trip to Brooklyn for a meeting with the Nets. Suiting up against the NBA’s “worst” team, as the Nets have dropped 8 games in a row. Losing a lot of their “mojo” when the shifty Caris Levert got injured. The Raptors on the other hand, have been slowly regaining their health.
With Levert out of the line-up, the Nets were left with a giant hole to fill. Stepping in with a lot of confidence, and less production has been D’angelo Russell. Ratcheting up his attempts per game by 5 shots after Levert’s injury, but still struggling to produce with a shred of efficiency. Spencer Dinwiddie has struggled in a similar fashion to Russell, except more distinctly from downtown. Getting less opportunities to spot-up off of Levert, his own 3-point shot has fallen from 39-percent, to 31-percent.
On the other side of the coin, Kawhi Leonard has strung together 7 games played. None of which were a back-to-back, but the intimation around the team seems to be that he’s getting closer to full health. After playing 2 out of every 3 games during the first 20, this is nice.
Outside of the obvious developments in Leonard’s game, the Raptors bench seems to be settling in. More of the ball-handling duties are getting split amongst Fred VanVleet-Delon Wright-Pascal Siakam. Rather than ask VanVleet to create for the entirety of his minutes on the court, other options are being utilized. Hopefully turning the duo of VanVleet-Wright back into a strength for the team, after the early season struggles.
Even though the Raptors have a clear advantage at the point guard position, there’s always the potential for a supernova out of the Nets backcourt. Dinwiddie and Russell are no stranger to offensive explosions, and they’ll be looking to get off vs. the NBA’s best team. The memory of Russell’s heat-pump of a game last year is stuck in the part of my brain that keeps track of what my name is, it’s omnipresent.
Looking at the big men, the Raptors – especially Jonas Valanciunas – are coming off of a terrifically dominant game. After facing the MVP candidate, Embiid, Ibaka-Valanciunas look to do battle against Jarrett Allen. One of the league’s most exciting young big men, in a league that has no shortage of exciting young big men. Allen roams the paint as one of the NBA’s premiere shot-blockers, so don’t expect a big driving game from Lowry tonight.
Darling of the past, Kenneth Faried plays for the Nets, and we’ll see if the Raptors fans still want him on our team. More interestingly, the power forward matchup showcases Rondae Hollis-Jefferson up against Pascal Siakam. Two players that made their money on defense, and capable weak-side attacking. Two players that are traditionally small for the position, and faster than the norm, this should be a fun matchup.
The Nets offer a short reprieve from the Raptors brutal schedule. Following tonight’s game, the Raptors start off on a murderer’s row of teams. Lining up against the Bucks-Clippers-Warriors-Blazers-Nuggets, which is nearly as tough a stretch as anyone could pick. Hopefully we get another monster game from Valanciunas + bench that allows Leonard and Lowry a short game. Especially with Leonard doing a lot of heavy lifting lately.
TV: SportsNet One | Radio: TSN1050 | 7:30 EST
Norman Powell (shoulder) is out.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Lorenzo Brown, Jordan Loyd
SG: Danny Green, CJ Miles, Malachi Richardson
SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe
Out: Norman Powell
Caris Levert (foot) is eyeing a return in February.
PG: D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Shabazz Napier
SG: Allen Crabbe, Theo Pinson
SF: Joe Harris, DeMarre Carroll, Dzanan Musa
PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jared Dudley, Rodions Kurucs
C: Jarrett Allen, Ed Davis, Kenneth Faried
Out: Caris Levert