Raptors playoff path just got tougher after latest Nets bombshell

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 01: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles against Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 01: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles against Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are currently positioned to earn the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, barely beating out the No. 8 seed Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have dealt with injuries and availability issues all season long, with Kyrie Irving’s status completely up in the air for the entirety of the year.

We’ve only seen Irving for a handful of contests, as his refusal to vaccinate himself against COVID-19 has prevented him from participating in home games thanks to an employee mandate. This has helped a very talented Nets team struggle to make it out of the play-in tournament.

If the season ended today, Toronto would welcome Irving and Kevin Durant back to Canada for the first part of this double-elimination tournament. The Raptors need to make sure this is a home game for them, as the latest development just gave the Nets a huge home-court advantage.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic has confirmed that Eric Adams’ COVID-19 vaccine mandate preventing Irving from playing in Nets home games will be changed to allow him to participate. Irving will be eligible to make his home debut in a Sunday game against the No. 9 seed Hornets.

If Brooklyn leapfrogs Toronto in the standings, Irving will be allowed to suit up once again in a home game.

Can Kyrie Irving play home games against the Toronto Raptors?

Irving and the Nets might be below the Raptors at the moment, but they did just win six games in a seven-game stretch. It’s not unreasonable to assume that this trend could continue in the waning moments of the regular season. With Kyrie fresh off a 60-point game against Orlando, he is currently playing some of his best basketball.

While the Raptors were able to slow down Joel Embiid and James Harden together in a road win against Philadelphia, Irving and Durant might not be as easy to slow down. With both of them serving as better shooters from an efficiency perspective, the Raptors will need to play their best defensive game of the season to pull out a win.

The Raptors are 2-2 against the Nets this season, but both wins came in games where Durant did not play. Even with those daunting odds, Brooklyn’s lack of frontcourt depth has been a problem all season long. Toronto’s key to victory might just lie in figuring out how to exploit them.

The Raptors need to either hope the Nets jump over them to earn the No. 6 seed or plow ahead themselves to escape the play-in tournament. If they’re resigned to their play-in fate, playing a team like Cleveland would be much more palatable than taking on Irving, Durant, and the Nets.

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