For the second straight game, the Toronto Raptors’ opponent will be a team which has recently fired their coach. The Brooklyn Nets’ new man, P.J. Carlesimo, was a Raps’ Assistant for several years.
Brooklyn was struggling a few weeks ago, even dipping to .500, which was a major shock for an expected contender. They clearly have found their game, having won 8 of their last 10. During that stretch, their much-criticized point guard, Deron Williams, has returned to form, averaging 17 points and 6+ assists.
Coach Dwane Casey has been giving Quincy Acy increased responsibility lately, but there may be no alternative to calling upon all-but-forgotten Aaron Gray in this match. Brook Lopez, the Nets’ giant centre (18+ PPG), will be too much for the manful but undersized Acy. The Raps’ front court is one twisted ankle away from a meltdown, so everyone will have to pitch in. The Nets like to play high screen-&-roll, so expect the Raps to play some zone D in an effort to clog up the lane. If Aaron can at least block out Lopez, and Landry Fields can rediscover his rebounding form, the Raps shouldn’t get routed on the boards when Ed Davis and/or Amir Johnson are getting a breather. A fun matchup we should watch for is Acy leaning on Reggie Evans, the best one-dimensional player in the NBA. Those two (identical twins!) battling for rebounds will be a spectacle.
The Nets will be without Gerald “Crash” Wallace, their whirling-dervish small forward, who is recovering from bruised ribs. Keith Bogans steps in, but he’s a career underachiever. This is a game in which I’d love to see DeMar DeRozan pushed up to SF; I think he could punish Bogans on offense. However, a gaping hole would be created on defense, as the Nets’ shooting guard, Joe Johnson, is a handful (17+ PPG) at the best of times. My fantasy SG, Jose Calderon, would be destroyed by the taller and faster Johnson. I guess I’m hoping giving Kyle Lowry the start at PG might jump-start his offense. The feisty little Lowry has been quiet as the grave recently, with a pitiful 11 points in his last 3 games.
This game will be a stern test for the Raptors. Coach Casey can afford no passengers, and no in-game injuries, against the well-balanced Nets. Let’s paste on a smiley face and call for the Raps to prevail 97-95.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.