The Toronto Raptors are heading to Brooklyn, New York to take on a red-hot Nets team that has won five of their last six games. While it is going to be a real challenge to defeat this star-studded Nets team, the Raptors are on their own two-game winning streak and coming off the best win of their season in the Fred VanVleet game, so it should be interesting to see if the Raptors have turned a corner and if they can build off that momentum.
It should be a fascinating matchup between a team that prioritizes defence and has a top-10 defensive rating over the past ten games in the Raptors and one built on the best offence of all time since the James Harden trade in the Nets.
The big question is: Do the Raptors have a realistic chance of slowing down Brooklyn’s historic offence?
“Well, I don’t know,” Nurse said about tall task ahead of his team. “I think it’s a tremendous challenge.”
When healthy, the Raptors actually match up well against the Nets, with VanVleet guarding Kyrie Irving, OG Anunoby and Harden, and Pascal Siakam on Kevin Durant. Anunoby and Siakam are special players partly because of their versatility and their ability to switch actions and defend multiple positions, and they have what it takes to switch Harden-Durant actions and keep those guys in front of them, making it harder to score.
Unfortunately, the Raptors will be without Anunoby on Friday night due to a calf injury, and Norman Powell will get the start. That is going to hurt the Raptors in a myriad of ways. While Powell should be able to provide an offensive spark against the Nets’ lackluster defence — and maybe the answer is just to try to out-shoot the Nets — having him at the small forward spot makes it really hard to switch Harden-Durant actions because either can simply shoot over Powell or beat him to the basket. Not switching those actions, however, presents a host of other problems, including giving the ball-handler (Harden or Durant) a line-drive to the basket, which will necessitate help that leaves shooters open.
On the offensive end, however, the Raptors should be able to thrive against the Nets’ lackluster defence, especially when DeAndre Jordan is in the game at center. The Nets really have no interior defence and we have seen guys like Bam Adebayo put up career-high marks in scoring against them by simply targeting Jordan and being aggressive inside.
One of the flaws of this Raptors roster, however, is that they don’t have a bruising center who can create his own shot. That was evident in last year’s playoffs when Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka failed to take advantage of the Celtics’ lackluster interior defence and it is even more true today with Aron Baynes and Chris Boucher manning the center spot.
On the bright side, though, the Raptors do have Pascal Siakam, who has turned a corner recently. If the Raptors are going to overcome the Nets, the offence will have to run through Siakam and he will have to be great, and they will likely have to play small in order to maximize Siakam’s offensive abilities. If Siakam can be aggressive from the start, targeting DeAndre Jordan specifically and making the right reads when the help or double-teams come, the Raptors should be able to score in bunches.
To defeat the Nets, though, you have to score in loads.
Tipoff: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TSN 1050
Line: Raptors are -5.5
OG Anunoby (left calf strain) and Patrick McCaw (knee) are out. Jalen Harris and Malachi Flynn are on assignment with the 905.
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Fred VanVleet, DeAndre’ Bembry, Matt Thomas
SF: Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Paul Watson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Stanley Johnson, Yuta Watanabe
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher
Iman Shumpert is day-to-day, Nicolas Claxton (knee) is out, and Spencer Dinwiddie (ACL) is out.
PG: Kyrie Irving, Bruce Brown, Chris Chiozza
SG: James Harden, Landry Shamet, Tyler Johnson
SF: Joe Harris, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
PF: Kevin Durant, Reggie Perry
C: Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan, Norvel Pelle