Where to watch: 7:30 EST on TSN
The Raptors return to Barclays Center for the first time since losing Game 6 of the first round series against the Nets in last year's playoffs. It was a squandered opportunity for a Toronto team that came into the game with a 3-2 lead in the series. We all remember what happened in the ensuing seventh game.
This is the second meeting between the two teams this year, and while the seeds of a potential rivalry was planted in the playoffs last year, things are very different now. For starters, this is not the same Nets team. Paul Pierce is in Washington now. Jason Kidd is no longer the head coach. And most importantly, the Nets aren't very good. Toronto has run away with the Atlantic Division so far this season (reminder: we're halfway to a perfect 16-0 record against the division, it's on the line tonight! Excitement!).
Even though Toronto might have bitter feelings about the last time they played at Barclays, they also had a very exciting win here in the regular season last year, which Patrick Patterson wrote about at The Players' Tribune this week.
The Raptors have won four in a row and five of their last six. They haven't beaten great competition, and haven't played great basketball for over a month now, but they're winning games, and over the 82-game season, that's important too. During this part of the season, sometimes it's hard to decide if things are half-full (struggling but still winning, wait until they get it together again) or half-empty (another low point in the season is still yet to come).
Big picture, the 31 wins are already a franchise record for victories before the All-Star break. After tonight, Toronto will travel to Washington on Saturday and then have five home games before the break. If they can go, say, 5-2 before the break, that would put them at 36-17, which means they'll need to go 14-15 after the break to hit 50 wins. That's not bad, and it's a realistic goal.
A win tonight would help.