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These guys again? Raptors-Nets, Round 2: Preview, start time, and more

Fans are back in Scotiabank Arena tonight — just in time to shower Goran Dragic with the boos he so richly deserves.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

I hope that, if you had “Malachi Flynn plays the best game of his career and the Raptors win by 35” on your bingo card yesterday, you went out and bought a whole bunch of lottery tickets, because that’s one lucky pitch!

I don’t think anyone saw Flynn’s breakout game last night coming, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time for the Toronto Raptors, who, now missing two starters, needed a spark after two bad losses. Flynn provided it, and along with stellar play from Precious Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes, the Raptors rolled over the Brooklyn Nets.

Can they do it again tonight, this time in the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena?

Where to Watch:

TSN, 7:30PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch

Brooklyn – Patty Mills, Seth Curry, Bruce Brown Jr., James Johnson, Andre Drummond

Injuries:

Toronto — OG Anunoby (hand – out), Fred VanVleet (knee – out)

Brooklyn – Kevin Durant (knee – out), Kyrie Irving (ineligible – out), Ben Simmons (conditioning – out), Joe Harris (ankle – out)

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Home cooking

The Raptors are finally back home tonight, for the first time since the 12th of February, when they lost a heartbreaker to Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. The big difference tonight: Fans!

That’s right, for the first time since December, the Raptors will have fans in the building. Venue capacity is at 100%, and no proof of vaccination is required, unless you’re sitting courtside. I disagree with that, as we still owe each other the courtesy of doing all we can to protect each other, but the beancounters feel differently, of course. Regardless, it should feel pretty good for the Raptors to be back in front of fans!

Now, when the Raptors and fans first returned to Scotiabank Arena back in October, it took a while for the team to adjust; they started the season 2-8 at home. They should have better luck against a Nets team once again missing its top players.

Youth movement

Flynn, Barnes and Achiuwa combined for 66 points, (on 27-for-39 shooting), 28 rebounds, and 13 assists last night, an impressive showing for the three youngsters. Barnes and Achiuwa have been great since the break — maybe that Rising Stars challenge boosted their confidence? Maybe they just needed a few days off? — and it was fantastic to see Flynn finally take advantage of an opportunity.

Quality of opponent has a lot to do with it of course; in addition to missing four key guys the Nets are also integrating two new guys, in Drummond and Curry, and they were without their coach last night, as Steve Nash was a late scratch in the COVID protocols. But overall the Raptors played with a lot more balance last night. The Raptors’ bench scored 67 points, and the team weathered off nights from Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. (combined 5-for-24 from the floor).

That’s not a recipe for long-term success — Siakam and Trent will need to be better tonight — but it’s good to see that the bench can step up, at least occasionally.

And good riddance, too

Flynn’s best game coming against Goran Dragic was a nice little chef’s kiss, wouldn’t you say? Dragic didn’t look any better in a Nets uniform than he did in a Raptors uniform, shooting 1-for-5 with two turnovers and three fouls in 15 minutes. He finished with a team-worst -24. Flynn was a game-high +42 and beat Dragic off the dribble several times.

I will continue to be angry at Dragic for a long time, I think. On paper he was the perfect fit for this Raptors team; sure, in the early season when we didn’t know what direction this team was going to go it might have been frustrating for him, not knowing what his role was. But he also didn’t help himself with his poor play in the few minutes he did get at the start of the season. If he’d stuck around, got back in game shape, and been ready to play when the team turned things around after Christmas, he likely would have had a big, important role now, on a team looking to make some noise in the playoffs. And isn’t that exactly what he wanted? Sigh.

I hope the Scotiabank Arena crowd lets him have it tonight.