Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors vs. Nets


Toronto Raptors Game Preview: Raptors vs. Nets

Well, no one saw that coming.

With the Toronto Raptors entering Monday night riding a six-game winning streak, they dropped an ugly one against the severely undermanned Milwaukee Bucks at the Air Canada Centre. Nearly every Raptor struggling in the defeat as the team shot a collective 32 percent from the field.

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Toronto’s offence will look to get back on track versus the Brooklyn Nets – a team the Raptors dispatched less than a week ago. Perhaps playing an Atlantic Division opponent will be the remedy the group needs, as Toronto remains the only team in the NBA to boast a perfect record against divisional foes.

Key to Victory #1: Receive the message

Dwane Casey was loud and clear about what he thought of his starters’ performance against the Bucks. Greivis Vasquez, a de facto starter due to Terrence Ross‘ struggles, was the only member of the first unit to play down the stretch. Instead, Casey elected to go with his reserves, who turned an 18-point deficit into a tie ball game in the late stages of the fourth. Following the game, Toronto’s coach questioned the focus of his starting five, so look for that unit to bring the intensity from the opening tip.

Key to Victory #2: Reward the big man

Dec 28, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) reacts after receiving a foul in the second quarter against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The only player to have a reasonable amount of success on Monday was Jonas Valanciunas. Toronto’s centre completely dominated in the early going, recording a double-double by halftime. After recess, it was a different story. The big Lithuanian did not attempt a shot in the second half, only playing seven minutes. If JV is imposing his will down low, there is no reason to go away from what’s working. Feed the beast!

Key to Victory #3: Bring the ‘D’

Wow, the Raptors sure can get after it on defence when they put their minds to it. Milwaukee missed 15 consecutive field-goal attempts during one stretch in the fourth quarter, allowing Toronto to claw its way back into the game. If that same dedication to the defensive side of the ball can be brought in the opening frame, the Raptors will have a chance to run their opponents out of the building.

Marquee Matchup: Kyle Lowry vs. Jarrett Jack

Jan 30, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Jarrett Jack (0) is defended by Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) during the first quarter at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Lowry had his worst game of the season on Monday, netting just two points to go along with five assists and four turnovers on 1-of-7 shooting. This was only the fourth time this season the Raptors’ leader failed to reach double digits, and it is hard to fathom it happening again. Lowry will be matching up with former Raptor Jarrett Jack, who turned in a career-best performance on Friday night in Brooklyn. The Georgia Tech product poured in 35 points in defeat. For an encore, Jack knocked down the game-winning jumper on Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers, shaking off an otherwise poor-shooting night. Watching these two point guards go toe to toe again should be entertaining.

Prediction: Sure, Deron Williams is back in Brooklyn’s lineup, but the law of averages dictates that Toronto will win this game. The Raptors are not going to shoot 32 percent like they did against the Bucks and Lowry won’t be held to two points. On the other hand, the Nets are likely not going to receive the superstar performance Jack turned in last time these teams met. Canada’s lone NBA franchise will remain perfect against Atlantic Division opponents after it leaves the ACC with a victory.