Raptors [27-10] at Nets [15-24]: Preview & 3 keys to victory

TORONTO, ON - December 15: Delon Wright
TORONTO, ON - December 15: Delon Wright /

The Raptors would love to finish their 3-game road trip with a final success. The Nets are better than they have any right to be, and will take work to defeat.

The Brooklyn Nets were predicted to be roadkill this season, but have refused the assignment. Instead their patchwork roster is providing all their opponents a strong test.

I’ve been impressed by their recent run of strong defensive play. While their seasonal rate of allowing 108.7 points Per Game [PG] ranks a dismal 26th, in their past nine wins they have held the opposition to under a century. Even in a last-second defeat to Boston on Saturday, they surrendered only 87 points.

When their ninth-ranked offense is clicking, they can beat anyone. The Nets have knocked off Cleveland, Minnesota, and OKC.

The Nets depend heavily on long-distance shooting. The Toronto Raptors sit fifth in 3-balls attempted PG with 32.1, while Brooklyn is second behind fire-at-will Houston. The Nets average 33.9 threes, led by Allen Crabbe’s 6.6 PG.

Getting positives out of a losing season

Brooklyn’s MVP has to be Spencer Dinwiddie, an off-the-scrap-heap point guard. He got the gig when Jeremy Lin went down and out in Game One, and has performed admirably.

TORONTO, ON – December 15: DeMar DeRozan vs. Nets
TORONTO, ON – December 15: DeMar DeRozan vs. Nets /

There are many things to admire about the results coach Kenny Atkinson has compiled. I want to call your attention to his Dwane Casey-like sharing of playing time. No one on the roster plays 29 minutes PG, which means he’s developing a deep group.

Atkinson is patient and refuses to reach for a quick fix. GM Sean Marks acquired Nik Stauskas and Jahlil Okafor from the 76ers for Trevor Booker (a brilliant deal, in my opinion), only to discover that Okafor is not in game shape. He’s being worked hard and is likely to see more playing time, perhaps tonight if Atkinson is comfortable. Staukas, meanwhile, has shot the 3-ball at a 50% success rate since donning black and white.

More from Raptors Rapture

3 keys to Raptors victory

  1. Get up in their faces on D. While the Nets attempt a lot of long balls, their success rate is virtually identical to the Raptors’ 35.2%. Unlike Toronto, their offense has little interior scoring. Tyler Zeller at center doesn’t scare anyone. Watch for longer defenders like OG Anunoby and Delon Wright to get big minutes as they drive shooters off the line.
  2. Crunch their starters. While I’ll stack the Raptors rotation up against anyone’s, the starting five need to lead the way against this group. In December, the Raptors starters outscored their Brooklyn counterparts 76-28 in a blowout victory.
  3. Don’t lose the rebounding battle. A draw is fine against the team which pulls down the fifth-highest number of boards in the NBA. The problem with getting out-rebounded against a team like the Nets is that their second chances are likely to be in the form of 3-balls. That we don’t want. Jonas Valanciunas (and Lucas Nogueira?) need to make their presence felt.


The Raptors have been scoring almost at will lately. While it’s true this game has some elements of a trap (last game of a road trip, an opponent it’s easy to take lightly), coach Casey will punish severely any complacency. The Nets are banged up; DeMarre Carroll needed to be fireman-carried off the court after the Celtics loss. If JV can avoid the silly early fouls, and score like he did against the Bucks, the rest will fall into place.

Toronto 107 – Brooklyn 95