The Toronto Raptors, having just lost to a red-hot Clippers squad, face another torrid team in Brooklyn tonight. The only loss the Nets have absorbed in their past eleven games was in Toronto, so the home side won’t lack motivation. The Nets started the season in dismal fashion, bottoming out at 10-21, but turned themselves around with a win in Oklahoma City, and haven’t looked back.
The Nets starters average 32.8 years of age; point guard Shaun Livingston is the only one under 30. Of necessity, centre Kevin Garnett, small forward Paul Pierce, ex-Rap Alan Anderson (why didn’t we re-sign this guy?) and gunner Joe Johnson get a lot of support from a well-stocked bench. For instance, power forward Andray Blatche led the Nets in scoring last night in Boston, with Andrei Kirilenko chipping in. First-year coach Jason Kidd has an array of talented players to call upon – what a luxury it is for him to bring guard Deron Williams, an excellent penetrator and passer, off the pine.
The Raptors are in tough, but can manage a win if they:
- get out in transition. Assuming DeMar DeRozan’s ankle is OK, the Raps should be able to out-run this team. Fast-break points will be key, so we’ll need a boatload of rebounds, followed by outlet passes, from Jonas Valanciunas.
- limit the turnovers. An extreme veteran team like the Nets will double-team the ball, reach from behind to tap it out of the dribbler’s control, clog the passing lanes…these guys know how to play. Kyle Lowry will need DD and Terrence Ross nearby to release the ball to. Our guys can’t just put their heads down and get into the half-court set.
- break even when our rotation guys hit the floor. The Nets don’t really have a second unit; they have 10 starter-grade players whom Kidd runs in and out. If Greivis Vasquez, John Salmons, Chuck Hayes et al can somehow contrive to have a plus-minus of zero, we’ll be in good shape.
The Nets are built to win now (I’ve never seen an NBA roster with so few young players), and are starting to do just that. The Raptors don’t need a miracle game from TRoss to disappoint Big Apple fans, but they can’t afford any passengers. I’m calling another close game: 99-97 Raptors.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor 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.
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