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Nets end January vs Raptors

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John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Well, at least it wasn't by 35 points this time. Brooklyn went down to Atlanta and lost their third consecutive game, this time by "only" eleven points. The Nets are still on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, and time is starting to run out. This is the last game of the month, and the Nets will be eager to put January 2015 behind them.

Making the trip into Brooklyn will be the Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors. The Raptors are on their way to their second straight division title and are second in the Eastern Conference, seven games behind the Hawks. They've won their last four games, including Wednesday night's home contest against the Sacramento Kings.

Where to follow the game

YES Network is on the television side and WCBS 880 AM on the radio. Tip off is scheduled for after 7:30.

Injuries

Deron Williams will be missing his eleventh consecutive game. He's making progress, but still.

Nothing here for the Raps.

The game

This is the story with the

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Toronto

Record

18-27 31-15

Pace

94.34 95.9

Offensive Efficiency

99.4 109.3

Defensive Efficiency

104 104.2

Turnover Rate

15.2 13.2

Assist Rate

16.3 16.3

Offensive Rebounding Rate

22.8 27

Rebounding Rate

48.6 49.9

Free Throw Rate

27 30

Effective Field Goal Percentage

48.5 51

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.3 50.6

Toronto won the first meeting in December.

Nothing new on the trade front for the Nets. We're inching closer to the deadline, and between now and then, the rumors will continue to fly.

We get a chance to watch one of the starters for the Eastern Conference All Star team. Kyle Lowry has been having a great season and held things down while DeMar DeRozan was out with injury. What makes him so good id his ability to get good looks for his teammates while also finding good shots for himself. He has the rep of being a good defender, but that hasn't really been the case this season. Toronto is allowing 104.7 points per 100 possessions when he plays as compared to 102.9 when he's out. This is one of those situations where the absence of Deron Williams looms large. Jarrett Jack will once again get the start, but he isn't capable of keeping up with a guy like Lowry. The problem for Brooklyn is that his back-ups are even less  suited for the task.

Player to watch: Demar DeRozan

DeRozan missed 21 games (including the one against Brooklyn) due to a groin injury. He's been back for the past two weeks and he's been pretty hit or miss. He's averaging 15.8 points a night on 42 percent in bnine January games and hasn't gotten to the foul line as often as he normally does. Eric Koreem of the National Post notes the importance of DD to the Raptors:

The Raptors badly need that comfort level to manifest itself on the court. Results on their recent road trip were encouraging, but the Raptors’ have serious issues containing dribble penetration. Kyle Lowry, in particular, is having trouble staying in front of opposing point guards, such as Detroit’s D.J. Augustin on Sunday evening. Their defensive problems are far from solved.

So, Toronto will have to rediscover its offensive mojo. The burden of the load that Lowry and Lou Williams carried while DeRozan was out has become evident in their nightly crispness, and the Raptors are still inconsistent in efforts to leverage their considerable interior talents.

With DeRozan as a viable second option, it opens up Toronto's attack and lessens the burden placed on Lowry.

The extra days off did wonders for Joe Johnson. He's been dealing with knee and ankle injuries since December and it's affected his performance all of January. He's only shot 37.7 percent in 14 games this month but is coming off a good night against the Hawks. After this is over, he'll have two days off before the game on Monday against the Clippers. Returning to this matchup, this is the first time DeRozan will be facing the Nets since last year's playoffs. If you recall, DD had trouble defending Johnson when he went into the low post. It's something Lionel Hollins should look into exploiting and will help the Nets in their efforts to pull off the upset.

From the Vault

Last game preview, we went to the 1988 Dunk Contest. Today, we're heading to 2000. You know what time it is.

More reading: Raptors HQ