Apr 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) sets a pick on Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston (14) as Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) goes to the basket in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 115-113.Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets: GAME 6 Preview & 3 keys to win

Apr 30, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Johnson (7) battles with Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre. The Toronto Raptors won 115-113.Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors are back in Brooklyn, and in command. They can close out their first-round playoff series with a victory tonight against the Nets. As fans we must hope the Raps have learned some harsh lessons from no-nonsense coach Dwane Casey following their repeated breakdowns in Q4 on Wednesday night. Has the fickle Moe Mentum swung to the Nets despite the loss?

In a series of wild swings, a few things have become clear:

  • the veteran Nets are just as capable of poor play as the youthful Raps (cf., Paul Pierce being called several times for travelling, Kevin Garnett parked on the bench in crunch time)
  • rebounds really matter – this is the only statistical category in which Toronto is markedly ahead for the series
  • and so do turnovers, a leading factor in the Raps’ Q4 meltdown, and a severe weakness

Can the Raps end this thing tonight? Certainly, and their chances greatly increase if they:

  1. get the ball inside. Jonas Valanciunas has been excellent at both ends, when he’s stayed out of foul trouble. The Nets haven’t solved him yet.
  2. don’t try any heroics on defense. We don’t need blocked shots – contested ones are fine, thanks. If they make them, c’est la vie. And how about fronting Joe Johnson on the low block? If he gets the pass (likely high and soft, so there’s time), the defender calls for help, and switches off to the big man’s cover.
  3. look to fast break more. Terrence Ross scored an easy bucket when he leaked out following a Nets miss, and Kyle Lowry found him with a long pass. Our guys need to be aware of those opportunities.

We love home playoff games. The Raps’ fans are the talk of the NBA. Let’s hope our next opponent at the Air Canada Centre is the Miami Heat – no more visits from the Nets. Toronto 93 – Brooklyn 89.

P.S.  Long-time Toronto fans will know that’s the score by which the Raps beat the Knicks in Game 5 back in 2001 in the Big Apple. That was our last playoff series win. It’s long past time for another, so why not by the same score, in the same city?

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Tags: 2014 NBA Playoffs Toronto Raptors

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