The last time the Toronto Raptors faced the Brooklyn Nets, Pascal Siakam and Norman Powell combined for 55 points to snap Toronto out of their first real slump of the season. On Saturday the Raptors will once again look to regain some form after a difficult holiday period punctuated by their historically poor shooting night in Miami, however they will have to rely on different faces to do so as both Siakam and Powell remain sidelined due to injury. Marc Gasol will also be on the shelf for the ninth consecutive game and Matt Thomas is yet to resume activities with a finger injury.
If the Raptors have suffered the worst injury luck of the season, then the Nets are a close second. Although Brooklyn signed Kevin Durant post-achilles injury, they likely didn’t foresee their next two best players, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert, enduring long-term injuries early in the season. Irving has been out since Nov. 12 with a mysterious shoulder ailment, while LeVert underwent thumb surgery on Nov. 10 but is now slated to return to the lineup against Toronto, per ESPN.
Injuries suck, yet in one particular case it could create a fun story. The Nets waived David Nwaba after suffering a torn achilles and quickly replaced him by signing Justin Anderson, who was enjoying a terrific tenure for the 905, to a 10-day contract. It would be ironic if Anderson’s first minutes of NBA action this year come against the team that he had played under all season.
On Thursday night Toronto had fits trying to unlock and out-shoot the Heat’s zone defence. Brooklyn run an average amount of zone, yet after watching the Miami tape it wouldn’t be surprising if Kenny Atkinson shifted to that look periodically to thwart the Raptors’ offensive rhythm. It is hard to envision VanVleet and Lowry shooting that bad again, but more concerning was that Miami’s zone made both guards unusually passive as ball-handlers. Given Toronto’s much-noted injury troubles the offensive burden now lies heavily on the backcourt duo to be aggressive at all times.
Toronto are entering a very favourable stretch of upcoming games, with only two of their next 15 opponents currently above .500. They have proven capable of avoiding the banana peel games all season, and if Toronto can begin this stretch with a win today it would situate themselves nicely to re-climb back up the Eastern Conference playoff ladder.
Tipoff: 6:00pm EST | TV: TSN| Radio: 1050
Pascal Siakam (groin), Norman Powell (shoulder), Marc Gasol (hamstring), Matt Thomas (finger), and Dewan Hernandez (ankle) remain out.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Terence Davis
SG: Fred VanVleet, Malcolm Miller
SF: Patrick McCaw, Oshae Brissett, Stanley Johnson
PF: OG Anunoby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
C: Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
Kyrie Irving (shoulder), Kevin Durant (achilles), Nicolas Claxton (hamstring) are out. Garrett Temple (knee) and Caris LeVert (thumb) are probable.
PG: Spencer Dinwiddie, Theo Pinson
SG: Joe Harris, Garrett Temple, Justin Anderson
SF: Caris LeVert, Timothe Luwawu-Caborrot, Dzanan Musa
PF: Taurean Prince, Rodion Kurucs, Wilson Chandler
C: DeAndre Jordan, Jarrett Allen