The Nets and Raptors square off in Brooklyn

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

That went well. After losing to Boston on Friday night, Brooklyn returned home and beat up on Sacramento. The Nets are back over the .500 mark, 1.5 games behind Washington for the fifth seed and three games ahead of Charlotte for the sixth seed. The Nets play the Wizards on Saturday night.

Coming into the Barclays this Monday evening will be the division leading Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are also on the second night of a back-to-back and like the Nets, they won last night, beating Minnesota 111-104.

This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams. Toronto leads the season series two games to one, and a win will make it that much more difficult for Brooklyn to win the division.

The season so far

What's going on with these teams? The numbers will tell the tale:

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Toronto

Record

31-30 35-26

Pace

94.13 94.5

Offensive Efficiency

103 104.8

Defensive Efficiency

103.9 101

Offensive Rebounding percentage

21.8 27.4

Turnover rate

15.3 14.7

Assist rate

16.7 16.6

Rebound rate

47 50.7

Free throw rate

31.2 30.1

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.3 49.3

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.4 48.7

It's never a good time to experience injuries, but they hurt even more when you enter a tough stretch of games. During the Sacramento game, Paul Pierce had to leave after injuring his right shoulder and Andrei Kirilenko exited after injuring his ankle. They're both day-to-day. Kevin Garnett missed another game yesterday and there hasn't been an update on his status.

The point guard matchup between Deron Williams & Kyle Lowry figures to be top notch. Williams is coming off another good game, scoring 10 points and handing out seven assists with no turnovers. Deron has been great this half, & I think his lack of turnovers has been the biggest benefit to Brooklyn. Since the break, he's cut his turnovers per game in half and has shot a true shooting percentage of 58.4. He's rounded back into form & with the Nets entering a difficult portion of the schedule, it's a good sign that Williams is playing at a high level. Deron's also out to avenge his poor game against the Raptors in late January that ended with his turnover in the final seconds.

If Paul Pierce is unavailable or limited, look for Marcus Thornton to fill the void. Thornton had a great game coming off the bench against his former team, scoring 27 points in 28 minutes. The Nets offense tends to stagnate on occasion, so having Thornton out there will help the cause.

On the other side, Lowry has been having another great season. The Raptors guard had a triple double last night, scoring 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds & handing out 11 assists against Ricky Rubio & the Wolves. On the season, he's averaging 16.8 points, 7.7 assists & 4.6 rebounds a night. He also had a big night when the teams played in Brooklyn so he'll be looking to do it again.

The Nets' lack of rebounding could prove fatal come playoff time, but they'll survive it if they continue to force turnovers at a high rate. Last night they forced Sacramento into 24 turnovers after getting 25 against Boston on Friday. And much like the Celtics game, Brooklyn was thoroughly outclassed on the glass by the Kings (thanks in large part to DeMarcus Cousins' 20 rebounds).

Brooklyn's lack of success on the glass could hurt them against Toronto. The Raptors have been one of the league's best on the glass, snatching up close to 51 percent of the rebounds available. Along with that, in the two games that they've won over the Nets, Toronto won the rebounding battle as well. If Garnett is out, Jonas Valancianus is in line to have another big game. In the last meeting, Jonas scored 20 points & picked up 13 rebounds in 31:44 of action.

Player to watch: DeMar DeRozan

After struggling during his first couple of seasons, DeRozan has really come into his own. This season, he's averaging a career high 22.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists a game. Since the big Rudy Gay trade in December, DeRozan has averaged 23.4 points on a true shooting percentage of 52.9. Going into the season, there were plenty of critiques of his play and whether he was a player actually worth building around. Here's Raptors HQ's Mohamed Mohamed with more:

And now we hit DeMar DeRozan, a guy who provided enough production over his previous 3 years to earn himself a four year $38 million dollar deal that's to some Raptors fans is the epitome of the Bryan Colangelo era in Toronto. He's shown incremental improvements in his game that has provided some fans with hope that he'll be worth his new deal over time. He raised his PER from a paltry 12.8 to a near average 14.7. He produced his best WS in his career even though according to Basketball Reference, his similarity score is similar to guys like Raymond Felton and Rodney Stuckey.

With Pierce & Kirilenko hobbled, it'll be up to Shaun Livingston to slow DeRozan down. With the Nets battling injuries, DeRozan would be wise to consistently drive to the basket. Although most of his offense comes from the midrange area, he's been at his best inside the restricted area. Despite his preference for the midrange, he's managed to take over seven free throws a game. With three key players not at 100 percent for Brooklyn, Livingston, Thornton & Deron Williams will have to carry the load in order to even the season series.

From the Vault

Head on back to 2008 and watch ex-Raptor Chris Bosh score 40 points against Orlando.


More reading: Raptors HQ

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