Four late nights of watching Raptors basketball got you feeling Friday fatigue? Well don’t worry, you can pack it in nice and early tonight, as Toronto finally makes their triumphant return home to play the Nets.
The Raptors have spent a lot of time on the road to start the season, with 16 of their first 26 beyond the Canadian border. They’ve played the least amount of home games of any team in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve dominated the soon-to-be Scotiabank Theatre Cineplex Arena (I forgot the name) to the tune of 9-1.
But here come the 11-16 Brooklyn Nets! A good and fun team in their own right, Brooklyn brings with it DeMarre Carroll, who spent two seasons as the Raptors’ de facto starting small forward. He’s picked it up with this Nets team, who run fast and score in bunches (although they come in on a back-to-back after losing to the Knicks on Thursday).
Here’s the game details, then read beyond for a game preview.
Where to Watch
TSNN, 7:30 PM ET
Raptors - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Nets - Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, DeMarre Carroll, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Tyler Zeller
Raptors - Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira
Nets - D’Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin
Home Cooking for the Bench?
Much has been made of the Raptors’ bench struggles, and with good reason. Scoring 17 and 16 points against the Clippers and Suns, respectively, is enough to put me on edge. Most notable have been the struggles of Norman Powell, who seemed somewhere outside his body during an 0-for-6, -14 performance (in just ten minutes!) vs. Phoenix.
As the old adage says, though, young players play better at home. The Raptors will look for a bit more energy from Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, who should have more room to operate on the pick and roll. It’ll also be interesting to see if Dwane Casey returns to a look we saw throughout the Phoenix and Los Angeles games: bench lineups with DeMar DeRozan as the fulcrum. The all-second unit squads have struggled, and extending DeRozan a bit has helped.
It can’t be 1-on-5, though, so someone else — whether it be C.J. Miles, Fred VanVleet, Powell or the bigs — will have to step up.
Feed the Bigs
While the bench struggled, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas both excelled on the recent four-game road trip. In Phoenix, they had ~~simultaneous~~ double-doubles — for Jonas, it was the first successive double-doubles of his career. The big Lithuanian has been particularly good: beyond stepping out and hitting a few threes, he’s looked confident in his moves on the offensive end. If the shot is there, he takes it. If the team gives him the ball to post up, he’s patient with the back down. As we’ve learned, these are both big positives for Valanciunas. Against Brooklyn, he’ll see Tyler Zeller, another opportunity to play some bully ball.
Serge Ibaka, meanwhile, has benefited from a softer schedule with more rest. Responding to a poor rebounding effort in L.A., he nabbed 13 in Phoenix and has been excellent with the mid-range jumper. He’s always loved to shoot, but when he’s making a decent percentage and running back on defense, you can forgive some of the early-clock misses that come with his game.
If Kyle Lowry continues to struggle with the jump shot, the Raptors would be wise to keep the two bigs involved with heavy minutes in this one.
Keep Carroll in Check
With D’Angelo Russell and Jeremy Lin both sitting with varying knee injuries, Brooklyn’s scoring has come from a committee — chaired by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (14.9 ppg) and DeMarre Carroll (13.3 ppg). Yes, that DeMarre Carroll! He’s taken kindly to a new role with the Nets, and kind of has what he wanted all along — a free-flowing, selfless offense that allows him some veteran influence.
Now, I’m sure there will be some unnecessary boos tonight for what Carroll said about the Raptors’ system on his way out. The man may have made up for it the last couple days, though, providing a winning quote on where the Raptors are now in an interview with CBS Sports:
And hell, if you don’t buy into that, the man is a charity machine.
DeMarre Carroll is bringing 30 local youths to Raptors-Nets tomorrow, through his Trust 15 non-profit. A reminder that he was heavily involved in the community here over his two seasons.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 15, 2017
Still, the Raptors would be smart to keep OG Anunoby on Carroll and play him tight. Raptors fans will know from experience how DeMarre’s game can be thrown off when he has to put the ball on the floor for extended periods.