Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors @ Nets


Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors @ Nets

Fighting tooth and nail with the Sacramento Kings for two and a half quarters on Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors finally seized control midway through the third frame and ran their opponents out of the arena.

By the end of the evening, seven Raptor players had eclipsed the 10-point mark in a 119-102 drubbing.

Now winners of four straight ball games, Toronto will look to keep its momentum going tonight in Brooklyn against their division rival Nets.

Last time these teams squared off, the Raptors came away with a convincing 105-89 win on Drake Night at the Air Canada Centre. Sitting at 18-27, this Nets group is a skeleton of the one that bounced Kyle Lowry and Co. from last year’s playoffs.

Jan 16, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (11) shoots the ball against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Key to Victory #1: Beware of the big man

In case anyone was wondering, Brook Lopez does indeed still play for the Nets. It just so happens the seventh-year man has been allergic to the Raptors, missing last month’s game, as well as the entire playoff series back in the spring. Although the numbers are the lowest they’ve been since his rookie season, Lopez still poses a threat on a nightly basis, averaging 14.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. It will be interesting to see what the former 10th overall pick can do against Toronto’s frontcourt.

Key to Victory #2: Keep it rolling

Sure, the Raptors have won four straight, but they have not faced a legitimate test in that span. The soft schedule continues tonight in New York, and Toronto must bank the wins now before the schedule toughens down the road. The month of February will be a gruelling one for Canada’s lone NBA franchise, facing off with the NBA’s elite. Inflate the record while you can.

Key to Victory #3: Dominate the arc

17. Astonishingly, that was the number of three-pointers the Raptors knocked down in their win over the Kings. That tied the mark for the second-most triples made in a game in franchise history. Toronto will have a significant advantage over the Nets in three-point shooting, especially with sharpshooter Mirza Teletovic lost for the remainder of the year. Brooklyn connects on only 31.8 percent of its attempts from long distance, compared to 35.1 percent for the Raptors. The Nets are 24th in the association in terms of defending the arc, so look for the threes to continue to fall for the visitors.

Marquee Matchup: DeMar DeRozan vs. Joe Johnson

Apr 27, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) defends against Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) in the first half of game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Fans got a glimpse of a different type of DeMar DeRozan against the Kings on Wednesday. The 25-year-old poured in 10 points in the first half, and appeared poised to dominate the game. However, he only netted two points in the second half, but made contributions in other ways. By game’s end, the California native had dished out six assists to go along with five rebounds. Tonight, the former all-star matches up with Joe Johnson, the player that gave Toronto fits in last season’s playoffs. Trade rumours have been swirling regarding the veteran wing player, but for now, he is an obstacle the Raptors must overcome to have a shot at victory. Leading the Nets in scoring at 15.7 points per game, Johnson remains a matchup problem for the Raptors because of his size and strength. If DeRozan is unable to effectively limit his production, expect to see a healthy dose of James Johnson.

Prediction: A date with the Washington Wizards looms on Saturday, so it is crucial that the Raptors do not overlook this Nets team tonight. Dwane Casey seems to have his group focused on taking care of business against weaker opponents, so expect Toronto to walk out of Barclays Center with its fifth consecutive W.