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Raptors look to end Nets winning streak

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"Running through the 6 with my woes..."
"Running through the 6 with my woes..."
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Five straight. The Brooklyn Nets almost blew a 17 point lead, but managed to hold off the Knicks tank on Wednesday evening. They're right in the playoff chase as we head to the end of the regular season. This is the first night of a back-to-back for the Nets. They head to the ATL tomorrow night.

Visiting Brooklyn for some Friday night fun will be the Atlantic Division leading Toronto Raptors. They've won their second straight division title and will have homecourt advantage in the first round. They're on a three game winning streak and beat up on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV, WFAN 101.9 FM on the radio. Tip is after 7:30.

Hand in hand

On Wednesday, the Celtics beat the Pacers, the Bucks beat the Bulls and the Hornets beat the Pistons. Last night, the Cavaliers beat the Heat. Here's an updated look at the standings at the bottom of the East

2014-2015

Record

Games behind

Tiebreaker situation

Games remaining

Milwaukee

37-38 own tiebreaker over Hornets and Heat, split series vs. Pacers, lead 1-0 vs. Celtics(next games are 4/3 and the last day of the season, 4/15), lead 2-1 vs. Nets (final meeting on 4/12) 7

Brooklyn

34-40

-

own tiebreaker vs. Charlotte and Indiana, lost season series to Celtics and Heat, down 2-1 to Milwaukee 8

Miami

34-41

-

own tiebreaker over Nets and Celtics, down 2-1 to Hornets (final meeting on 4/7), lost series vs. Pacers and Bucks 7

Boston

34-41

Won season series vs. Nets, Hornets, and Pacers, down 1-0 to Bucks, lost season series vs. Heat 7

Charlotte

32-42

1.5

lost season series to Nets, Pacersand Celtics, lead 2-1 vs. Heat, won season series vs. Bucks 8

Indiana

32-43

2

split series with Bucks, lost season series to Nets and Celtics, own tiebreaker vs. Hornets and Heat 7

Tonight, the Hornets visit the Pacers and the Bucks go to Boston.

Injuries

Nothing doing for the Nets.

Kyle Lowry missed the last game due to a back injury and is questionable.

The game

Here's a look at what these teams have been doing this year:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Toronto

Record

34-40 45-30

Pace

94.94 95.59

Offensive Efficiency

101.1 108.2

Defensive Efficiency

104.6 104.9

Turnover Rate

14.5 13.3

Assist Rate

16.3 16.3

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.4 29.1

Rebounding Rate

48.7 52.7

Free Throw Rate

26.8 29.7

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49.1 50.8

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.2 50.8

The Raptors won the first meeting in December and the second one in January while Brooklyn won the most recent contest in February.

It's been a rough second half for Toronto. They've gone 9-13 and have allowed 106.2 points per 100 possessions, fifth highest in the league. They have the same record as the Chicago Bulls, but the Bulls swept the season series. They'll be playing all of the teams battling with Brooklyn in the playoff chase (Orlando excluded) so we're gonna need to keep a close eye on their games.

Brooklyn has an outside chance of meeting the Raptors in the first round. They're currently 2.5 games behind the sixth seeded (and slumping) Milwaukee Bucks. If they can somehow grab the six seed and Toronto grabs the three, it'll be a rematch of last postseason's seven game series. There are a lot of hard feelings between the two organizations and another competitive series will only add to it.

The Nets should be thankful for Brook Lopez. He saved the day on Wednesday and hit the game winning shot to beat the Knicks. He's been the best player on the Nets over the past two weeks and will be the main reason for them getting into the playoffs. Tonight, he'll be matched up with Jonas Valanciunas. JV has developed into a solid third option for the Raps offense. He can step out and hit the occasional jumper but he's best on the inside. He's one of the best on the offensive glass and that figures to come into play against one of the weaker defensive rebounding teams in the Association. Brooklyn can counteract that to some extent by keeping JV busy on defense. That's easier said than done as Valanciunas is only allowing teams to shoot 46 percent near the rim and only commits two fouls per game.

Markel Brown will draw Demar DeRozan on defense. DeRozan lost a good amount of time this season to injury and hasn't played as well as he did last season. While DeRozan is getting to the rim a bit more than he did last season, he's seven percent worse inside of three feet this year. Brown has been a welcome addition to the Nets and has matched up well against the opponent's best perimeter players. If he can keep playing like this, he can contribute to the Nets for the foreseeable future.

Player to watch: Greivis Vasquez

Vasquez comes off the bench when Lowry is healthy, but he's still a key part of their team. Vasquez has been a quality point guard in his four years (it feels like he's been in the NBA much longer) in the league, but he can also move off the ball and play shooting guard as well. Toronto's bench is sixth in scoring, averaging 38.8 points a night. A lot of that is due to Louis Williams, but Vasquez can score as well. Assuming Lowry sits this one out due to his back injury, GV will start once again.

He may not be the "old" Deron Williams, but if he can play anything close to what he's been doing recently, then the Nets will take it. D-Will has averaged a bit over seven assists a night over the last ten games along with the occasional good shooting game. It's important for Williams to play well because he makes the Brooklyn offense more versatile and most importantly, he keeps Jarrett Jack on the bench. It seems as if every time the Nets are building up a nice sized lead, it quickly evaporates once Jack gets in. As we draw closer to the end of the season, we should see Williams get the overwhelming majority of the minutes.

From the Vault

The Golden State Warriors are having the most dominant season since the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. With that in mind, let's ride on back to '96 and watch Michael Jordan make life difficult for the Raps.

More reading: Raptors HQAt the HiveIndy CornrowsCeltics Blog, and Brew Hoop