The Toronto Raptors enter the lions’ den, A.K.A. Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, for Game 3 of their first-round playoff matchup. The Nets have devoured opponents at home since the calendar turned, going 22-4 after January 1. If the Raps are going to grab 3 more wins, one of them must come from here, as we no longer have the home-court advantage.
Neither team is suffering from fresh injuries, so this game’s tactics are not likely to change. Expect a low-scoring, highly physical affair between squads who are rapidly learning to hate each other.
The Raps have gotten over the huge mental hump of winning their first playoff game, and can make it two if they:
- don’t leave their feet on D! I’m serious about this; Raps players are all too eager to block shots, and the veteran Nets are quite happy to suck them in with ball fakes. When Terrence Ross gets 2 fouls in the first 5 minutes, the Raps have to sit him down, and junk their game plan. I’d rather have no blocked shots than too many fouls, particularly when we’re all aware the refs will be whistle-happy in favour of the Nets.
- continue to push the pace of the game. I think Nets coach Jason Kidd is worried about the Raps getting out in the fast break, which is why his players aren’t crashing the offensive glass, but drop back as soon as a shot goes up. The Nets can’t compete with the youthful Raps in a track meet, so Kidd doesn’t want to defend in broken-floor situations. He’d rather lose the rebounding battle, and force us to play 5 on 5.
- get going earlier. The Raps have fallen behind from the opening tip in both games (5-0, 8-1), and that’s a tough way to play. Our most reliable half-court sets occur when the ball goes inside to Jonas Valanciunas, so let’s hope we do that in our first few trips down the court. Kevin Garnett has struggled to contain JV, which is why we’ve seen much more than expected of exuberant rookie Mason Plumlee. There’s nothing to compare with early buckets for settling down a youthful, nervous squad, and quieting a hostile crowd.
DeMar DeRozan got himself untracked in Game 2, as did Amir Johnson. If Terrence Ross rediscovers his shot in this one, the Raps win 98-95.