The Toronto Raptors gave away home-court advantage to the Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of their NBA Eastern Conference quarter-final. However, they seized it back with a road victory in Game 4, and can move on by taking tonight’s game, plus Game 7 (if needed) at the Air Canada Centre.
I doubt we’ll see either team struggle to the extent they did in Brooklyn during Game 4. The Raps shot dreadfully in the third quarter, and the Nets returned the favour in Q4. Assuming something like normalcy prevails, we’ll see a repeat of Game 2, in which the Raps pulled away in the game’s final minutes. The Raps’ injuries are a major concern, although having several days between games has to be helpful for Kyle Lowery and Amir Johnson. It’s perhaps odd that the youthful Raps are banged up, while the aged Nets appear healthy, but such are the vagaries of sports.
What do the Raps need to do in Game 5 to seize the series lead? If I’m whispering in coach Dwane Casey’s ear, I suggest we:
- run some early isolation plays for Terrence Ross. He’s got to come out of his funk if we’re going to win this thing, and “getting off the schneid” (as Jack Armstrong says when a player scores his first points of the game) will do wonders for his frayed nerves.
- place Amir closer to the basket. I don’t like him at the top of the key. He’s not comfortable with more than two dribbles before shooting, and he’s vulnerable to being stripped of the ball when he tries.
- switch more aggressively on Deron Williams. The Nets guard was trying to slip around foul line screens to receive passes, and was successful several times. Assuming TRoss is covering him, but getting picked, Jonas Valanciunas will need to step higher in the key. The Nets guard play is critical to their offense, as they aren’t getting much from their bigs. Forcing our bigs to provide help defense is a smart tactic on the part of coach Jason Kidd, as it will free up Kevin Garnett.
The Raps are in the Nets’ heads, and can stay there, assuming we get production from all the starters. The bench has not been a problem; Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson have made large contributions. The Raps will keep the initiative with a 97-95 win.