Just over a month ago, the Raptors traveled down to Brooklyn and — despite having a mostly healthy lineup — managed to lose to the Nets in OT.
You might think that was one of the more embarrassing losses of this fine Raptors season, but the reality is: The Nets are... not bad! They’re currently sitting seventh in the east, one game under .500, which marks significant progress from their past several seasons, in which they’ve been recovering from a series of disastrous management moves that saddled them with bad contracts and left them with no draft picks. Progress!
In fact that OT win turned the Nets season around. They’d lost eight straight before that win, and that game started them on a 13-4 tear.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One, 7:30 p.m. EST
Toronto — Danny Green, Kyle Lowry, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Brooklyn — Joe Harris, D’Angelo Russell, Rodions Kurucs, DeMarre Carroll, Jarrett Allen
Toronto — Jonas Valanciunas (dislocated left thumb, OUT)
Brooklyn — Allen Crabbe (sore right knee, OUT), Jared Dudley (left hamstring, OUT), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (right adductor strain, OUT), Caris LeVert (right foot dislocation, OUT), Dzanan Musa (left shoulder subluxation, OUT)
Holding down D’Angelo Russell
D’Angelo Russell seems to enjoy playing against the Raptors; in the aforementioned OT game, he scored 29 and pretty much won it himself in overtime. And with the Nets down a bunch of players, there’s a pretty good chance Russell will decide he has to put the team on his back, and try and take over.
Normally that wouldn’t seem like much of a threat, but again, Russell seems to play well against Toronto. Last year he had a 32-point outburst (in a Nets loss) and drained 7-of-12 from downtown. It’ll be on Lowry, VanVleet and the perimeter D to keep Russell in check tonight.
Crashing the Glass
Another key difference maker in that December Nets win: Brooklyn out-rebounded Toronto 60 to 41. And that was Jonas Valanciunas starting! With JV sidelined, it’s imperative that the Raptors keep Allen and former Raptor Ed Davis (15 boards last match-up) off the glass.
Fortunately on that end, Pascal Siakam has turned things up as of late, putting up four double-doubles in his last six games. The Raptors will need him, Serge Ibaka, and Kawhi to keep the pesky Nets in check.
Making the Extra Pass
Since their no-show in San Antonio, a game that had the Raptors looking like they were stuck in mud and forcing shots, Toronto has put a focus on moving the ball. They had 26 assists on 37 made field goals against Atlanta on Tuesday, and have assisted on 68% of their made field goals during this three-game win streak. That’s a good step up from the 56% assist rate they had going into last weekend. They’re averaging 28 assists per game over the last three, and not coincidentally, have been shooting the ball better as well, with their three-point field goal percentage jumping up from 34% to 42%.