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3 in the Key – Toronto Raptors Game-Day Preview vs. Nets

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Should I stay or should I go??

Should I stay or should I go??

With 11:46 remaining in the game: "Vince Carter takes it to the rim for the first time tonight."

"And with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the New Jersey Nets notch their 70th point against Minnesota."

"Neither team shot the ball particularly well tonight, the Timberwolves at 36.5 per cent and the Nets at 42.2 per cent."


These were but snippets from last night’s Nets-T-Wolves game.

It was hardly a barn-burner and with the final score 92 to 88, New Jersey grabbed only their 23rd win of the season.

So tonight’s game should be a Raptors’ romp right? I mean, Toronto destroyed Minny IN Minnesota only days ago!

First off, with the amount of snow we’ve been getting in Toronto, I’m not even sure the Nets will make it into town.

And second, with this New Jersey team, who really knows what will happen?

Aaaah, indeed it’s always a good time when the New Jersey Nets come to call…especially when the team, which at one point in time was considered a top contender in the East, struggles and one of the prime reasons for this struggle is none other than Vince Carter.

To say VC has been having an "off" season would be putting it mildly. He just hasn’t carried the team the way many expected, especially after signing a lucrative extension just this past off-season.

On top of this, he’ll miss his first All-Star game after eight-straight appearances and was recently called out by both the TNT half-time crew of Kenny, Charles and Magic Johnson and Lakers coach Phil Jackson for not playing with any "fire" and looking to be losing a step.

But it’s not just Carter of course – Jason Kidd looks like he’d rather be playing anywhere other than in Jersey and the Nets have been one of the most horrific offensive teams in the league, not to mention one of the league’s biggest disappointments.

I’ve touched on this before but it’s unfathomable how a trio of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson can’t lead a team to score almost 100 points a game. Currently they are averaging only 93.7 points per game, third worst in the league, and seem to have forgotten that "get out and run" style that made them so successful when Carter first joined the team.

So with this in mind, I reached out to our good friends at NetsDaily to ask them among other things, what is wrong with this team’s offence?

1. RaptorsHQ: As Raptors fans, our history with Vince Carter has been well documented. When he left Toronto we bid him fondly adieu as he was doing his best Tin-man impression (no heart.) Upon joining the Nets however, he went from Tin-man to Lazarus and the Nets were off and running...until late last season. This year he looks like a shadow of his former self and up here in Toronto we've got that "don't say I didn't tell you so" look for our friends in Jersey. Therefore our question in regards to Vince is two-fold:

a) Is Vince really losing a step or is has he simply fallen back into the "why try and get to the rim when you can shoot jump-shots" mode?

b) Is it just me, or is it mind-numbing that a team that boasts Carter, Kidd and Jefferson struggles so much to score; is Carter at the root of this because of his passive tendencies?

NetsDaily.com: a) Vince has certainly lost some athleticism over the years, but he injured his ankle (there has been some talk of postseason surgery) in the sixth game and is just now getting back some explosion. He was terrific in Sunday's win over the Mavs.

But Vince is who he is. He's got as much talent as anyone in the league, but he rarely makes the most of it. The shot selection thing bothers us, but not as much as his unwillingness to run the floor. Honestly, Kerry Kittles was a better fit with Jason Kidd, because no one was faster down the floor. Vince could have so many easy baskets if he only made a commitment to run at every opportunity.

Kittles - When they reminisce over you...

Kittles - When they reminisce over you...

But for the Nets, their mediocrity this year has been more about the drop-off in their team defense than about their lack of offense. When they were an Eastern Conference contender, it was because they were an elite defensive team and turned missed shots and turnovers into transition baskets.

2. RaptorsHQ: With Shaq and Gasol gone, Jason Kidd is now the top dog in the rumour mill. Give us your take on the Kidd situation and if you think he'll be traded.

NetsDaily.com: Kidd turned our franchise around and brought a winning culture to New Jersey. But as Dave D'Alessandro wrote, he's a "pathological self-server" and he has clearly quit on his team. The whole migraine thing is as unprofessional as it gets.

So, we're ready to cut ties with Kidd. But Rod Thorn is not Rob Babcock (sorry, had to get that in) and he won't accept 25 cents on the dollar. So, I think the most likely scenario is that Kidd doesn't get traded until the summer, because apparently nobody is offering anything of value right now.

3. RaptorsHQ: Keys to tonight's game. These two clubs have developed a nice little rivalry over the past few years; what are the keys to a Nets win tonight?

NetsDaily.com: 1. Effort. If the Nets play hard for 48 minutes, they're a very good team. The problem is that you can count on one hand how many times they've played hard for 48 minutes in the last two months.

2. Defensive rotations. The Nets have been terrible at times in defending the three, because they help and forget about the guy standing at the line. But it starts with...

a) Not allowing penetration. If Calderon and Ford get into the paint, they will suck in the defense and Parker/Kapono/Bargnani will be all alone on the perimeter.

b) Defending Bosh. Jason Collins did a terrific job on Bosh in the playoffs last year, but he's no longer around. Josh Boone will get the assignment now, but if he needs too much help, the shooters will be open as well.

c) Vince being aggressive. And I don't think there's any need to elaborate.


Nope, no need to elaborate on that one for sure and a shout out to NetsDaily for the insight. Raptors fans know all too well about Vince and his passive ways which leads us to our first key for tonight:

1) Keep the Nets on the perimeter. As was previously mentioned, the Nets aren’t exactly a low-post threat. They’ve got Krstic back, something Toronto will have to adjust to, but the bulk of their scoring still comes from two perimeter players, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. These two however should be able to use their athletic ability to negate some of the lack of post-play as both can get to the rim at will and post-up quite effectively. But Jefferson aside, it doesn’t happen with much regularity and the Nets have essentially become more of a "Plan A" team than the Raptors! Let’s hope Toronto can keep it that way tonight. The last thing Raptors’ fans want to see is a riled up VC going in for dunks all night. To prevent this, Toronto is going to have to do a much better job guarding the Nets’ slashing players than they have in the past few games. Players like Delfino, Parker and Moon are therefore going to have to step up to the challenge and keep these guys behind the arc.

Speaking of Moon, over at Jamario-MoonHQ.com today we bring you an interview with one of the world’s biggest Moon fans, and someone who has followed Jamario since his days with the Albany Patroons of the CBA. It’s an interesting read, especially concerning Jamario’s development and you can read part I here. Part II will be up tomorrow.

2) Use Jose in more of a scoring role. We saw just how effective Jose can be when looking not only to pass, but to score. He shoots such a great percentage now that Toronto needs him to not only to be a distributor, but also a scorer, especially off the pick and roll plays the Raps use so much. With TJ Ford questionable tonight, Jose may need to take things up a notch or two to help get the W.

3) Bench play. New Jersey has a random assortment of players on the pine and from game to game, you’re never quite sure who is going to step up. Could be Nachbar, could be Wright, hell, could even be Stromile Swift. The Raptors bench needs to come up big in this one as on paper this appears to be a huge advantage in Toronto’s favour. If TJ is a no go, Juan Dixon is going to have to do a better job of running the second unit than he did on Monday night. As well, considering the Nets athletic "bigs," and the Dino’s rebounding woes, players like Kris Humphries and Rasho Nesterovic are going to be counted on as well for a boost.

This should be an easy win for Toronto. Jason Kidd has looked indifferent and has turned the ball over a ton this season (not to mention is shooting a horrid percentage from the field.) The Nets’ bench has been sub-par, the defensive intensity and transition basketball is missing and Vince Carter’s struggles have been well documented.

However that simply means that Toronto needs to come out with intensity from the get-go. Bosh won’t have to contend with Moore or Collins and needs to go right at the likes of Josh Boone and Sean Williams. Williams is a great shot-blocker but doesn't have the bulk to deal with Bosh one-on-one. The re-addition of Nenad Krstic provides another wrinkle to this game and Andrea Bargnani must contain him on D and look to exploit his lack of quickness on the perimeter on O.

Triano is poised to not only be the first Canadian NBA head coach, but the first one to get a win as well...

Triano is poised to not only be the first Canadian NBA head coach, but the first one to get a win as well...

FRANCHISE