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Raptors look for win no. 9 in a row vs. the Nets: Preview, start time, and more

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The Raptors are playing some of the best basketball in franchise history. The Nets... are not.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors are on a tear right now, perhaps the most pronounced and significant run they’ve been on since... since... I honestly can’t even recall. There was that 11-game win streak in 2015-16, but we were still coming off the horrors of the ‘15 post-season and while we knew the Raptors were good, we were also wary. Before that, we can maybe go all the way back to 2001-02, when it felt like Toronto was the toast of the NBA, but really, that’s it. That’s the list.

The Raptors are looking for their ninth win in a row tonight against a Nets team that has gone 2-13 since the beginning of February. This is how it always goes with bad teams. They believe in themselves, they try hard, but eventually the talent gap just becomes too big to overcome. Brooklyn is currently ranked 25th in offensive ranking, and 23rd on defense. The stories about Spencer Dinwiddie, or Caris LaVert, or D’Angelo Russell, or whoever, have come to an end. They are not good.

But Toronto, as I said, is ripping and running right now. Look at this here from Zach Lowe: the Raptors might be real, and getting better. To which all I will add is: [man from beginning of Drake’s “God’s Plan” video voice] That’s it! That’s it! Yeah!

Here are the details for today’s Nets-Raptors game.

Where to Watch

TSN 1/4 at 7:30pm EST

Lineups

Toronto - Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas

Brooklyn - D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe, Jarrett Allen (questionable; so, maybe Tyler Zeller? Who cares.)

Injuries

Toronto - OG Anunoby

Brooklyn - Jarrett Allen (questionable), Jeremy Lin (out)

*******

What Are... the Nets?

The Nets continue to be the unwilling tank-a-thon team. They give a good effort every time out, but are just not good enough. They do have some draft picks coming now, but still not those top-5 or top-10 picks they’ll need to truly turn things around.

As of right now, their best player by most advanced measures is Spencer Dinwiddie; but there’s nothing about his numbers that jumps off the page, and a lot of his value comes from being just a solid player with nothing remarkable around him. Nik Stauskas has continued to be a competent three-point shooter, putting in 41% since coming over in the Trevor Booker trade. But with the other aspects of his game, including lagging defensive skills, Stauskas has struggling to stay on the floor for an extended period. The Nets are also starting our old friend DeMarre Carroll, and while he’s seen a resurgence of sorts, some of that can be attributed to playing a larger part in a worse offense. Carroll’s FG% and EFG% have barely moved from last year, although he is making a few more of his 3s. Good for him!

The Nets are a collection of fifth wheels without a real identity as they try to compete day in and day out in the NBA. Coach Kenny Atkinson recently said that they all had something to prove, including himself — because none of them have many any impact in the playoffs (except for little-used Timofey Mozgov; related: yikes).

Forget the Trap Game

This is usually around the time where someone, me, anyone, mentions that this is a prime candidate for a classic Raptors letdown game. The team is coming off a huge win against the Rockets on Friday night, an easy beatdown of the Knicks (with a 1pm start time), and then a Monday filled with plaudits galore. I mentioned the Lowe column up there, but just google the Raptors right now and you’ll find a bunch of stories, and collected power rankings, all touting Toronto as the best.

It’s very cool. But since we’re also Toronto sports fans, it’s also when we start to get nervous. Being bad, becoming a disappointment, underachieving — these are things we understand. But winning? Being the absolute best? Becoming the favourite? This is almost unheard of, especially in the NBA.

So long story short: let’s just forget all the talk about this being a trap game for the Raptors. The Nets try hard, yes, they have a couple of decent players, and sure maybe DeMarre Carroll will be extra motivated (which is adorable). But Toronto can still just play their game and win. That’s it.

Swing Man Rotation

Speaking of playing their game, while I don’t like that OG Anunoby is still injured (pour one out for the Quote of the Week tomorrow), I do like how the Raptors are uncovering different things at the three-spot right now.

First it was Norman Powell finding himself a bit against Detroit, and proving himself a bit useful on defense against the Rockets. Then it was Malcolm Miller coming in and dropping seven quick points out of nowhere in that same Houston game, and generally carrying himself like he belongs.

And hey, look at that, Nigel Hayes! The man came in, hit two straight 3s against the Knicks on Sunday, and called it a day. If you want to stay in the NBA these days, be a smart, 6’8” swing man who can shoot 3s and you’ll be fine.

What will the Raptors try there next? As always, let’s watch.