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Raptors look to avoid trap game against Nets: Preview, start time, and more

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Heads up: Toronto can complete the sweep of their 3-game road trip tonight in Brooklyn.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The long-awaited DeMarre Carroll revenge game will have to wait after the ex-Toronto Raptors small forward left last Saturday’s game against the Boston Celtics with a right knee injury and had to be carried off the floor.

But the Raptors shouldn’t need the criticism of a former teammate to be ready to play.

Monday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets is the first-half of a back-to-back and ahead of a crucial three-game homestand that includes the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Golden State Warriors.

All signs seem to point to a fifth-straight win for the Raptors.

The team is playing some of their best basketball — highlighted by a pair of statement wins over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Toronto has also won nine straight meetings against the Nets — hammering them 120-87 in their only meeting this year.

But just as they’ve been doing all season against most sub .500 teams (19-3), the Raptors need to take of business and can’t afford to look ahead.

They’ve made that mistake already dropping a 98-93 Boxing Day matchup against the Dallas Mavericks and followed that up with a poor performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second-half of the back-to-back.

Here are the details for tonight’s game:

Where to Watch:

Sportsnet One, 7:30 PM EST

Starters:

Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby , Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Houston - Spencer Dinwiddie, Allen Crabbe, Joe Harris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Tyler Zeller

Injuries

Brooklyn - DeMarre Carroll, D’Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin

Toronto - None

*******

Sauce Castillo

Canadian Nik Stauskas, also known as “Sauce Castillo”, was one of the lone bright spots for Brooklyn when the two teams met last month at the Air Canada Centre.

In his Nets debut, the Mississauga, Ont., native had a team-high 22 points on 6 of 9 shooting, including 5 of 7 from beyond the arc.

Since then, Stauskas has failed to play at the same level showing the same inconsistencies that’s marked his four-year NBA career. But it’s nights that he’s had against the Raptors that explain why teams are willing to take a shot on him.

In 12 games with his new club, Stauskas is averaging just over seven points per contest on 50 percent shooting from downtown in 15 minutes per game. However, Stauskas has scored in double-digits in only three of those outings doing most of his damage from long distance. He’s a streaky shooter and with Carroll out of the lineup, Stauskas could find more minutes and the Raptors need to ensure Monday isn’t one of those nights.

Free Jahlil?

Jahlil Okafor seemed ready to be unleashed after being traded with Stauskas last month to Brooklyn. But since the former third overall pick played 22 minutes in his Nets debut against the Raptors, he’s had a string of inactives and DNPs.

It wasn’t until last week that Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson began to work Okafor back into the rotation.

Okafor acknowledged he needed some time to get back into playing shape after minutes were sparse with the Philadelphia 76ers and to get himself accustomed to a new system.

In Brooklyn’s last game against the Boston Celtics, Okafor had 12 points and five rebounds in just 13 minutes played reminding people why he was such a force at Duke University with the 76ers in his rookie season.

The 22-year-old flashed an array of post moves and solid footwork when given the chance to operate in the paint.

While Okafor’s minutes will be limited, it’ll be up to Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam to ensure Okafor is kept in check and thus preventing the Nets from using his energy to have a second quarter surge like they did in the previous meeting.

Bombs Away Once Again

The Raptors aren’t the only team who went into this season looking to be more trigger happy from downtown. The Nets attempt almost 34 three-pointers per game (second in NBA) making 11.8 of those shots which is tied for fourth-most in the league with the Warriors.

Leading the three-point barrage has been Allen Crabbe with 6.6 attempts per game and Dinwiddie with 5.6. Harris, who may start in place of Carroll, already attempts five per contest and that could increase with his playing time. Caris LeVert is expected to return to the lineup to add another shooter to the rotation and as mentioned earlier, Stauskas can catch fire in a hurry.

The Raptors are in the top third of the league in defending against the long bomb and did a very good job against the Nets in their first meeting holding them to just 7 of 23 shooting from beyond the arc.