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Nets host the Raptors on Super Bowl Sunday

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NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Toronto Raptors Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

New lineup, same old mistakes. The Brooklyn Nets changed things up in hopes of breaking out of their slump against the Indiana Pacers. They fell behind by a bunch, fought all the way back, and wound up losing anyways to the Pacers. Where have we seen that before?

Coming into Brooklyn will be the Toronto Raptors. They’re still a sure bet to have home court advantage for much of the East playoffs, but they’ve been in a rut as of late. They lost to the Orlando Magic on Friday night and have lost eight out of their last ten games. This is also the first half of a back-to-back. They head home to play the Los Angeles Clippers tomorrow night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV, WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Noon tip so make sure you tune in early.

Injuries

Jeremy Lin is out, but has been making some progress and might be back soon.

DeMar DeRozan has been bothered by a sprained ankle and is questionable to make his return today. Patrick Patterson is questionable with a knee injury.

The game

Toronto won the first game in December and the second one in January.

The Raptors have been in a deep slump since they last played the Nets. They've gone 2-8 in their last ten games and have averaged only 101.5 points per 100 possessions in that time span. On the whole, the offense is second in the NBA, but their recent struggles have caused them to give up the Atlantic Division lead to the Boston Celtics.

In an article for The Athletic, Seerat Sohi makes the case for getting Toronto’s major players an early rest:

The facts are tried and true. When either Lowry or DeRozan misses time, the other tires himself out trying to make up for the lost production. It’s especially likely this season, as DeRozan’s usage rate has already jumped from 29.7 to 34. When Lowry’s not on the floor, DeRozan has a hand in even more Raptors possessions, finishing 42.6 per cent of them. Moreover, both stars are coming off their first deep playoff run and they played for Team USA in the Olympics.

There’s a good chance this is the most extended period of time they’ve played basketball without a rest.

The Raptors are playing like a team that can’t wait for the all-star break, and the three players paramount to their playoff run — DeRozan, Lowry and Patterson — are either injured or limited. Instead of waiting until the break, Feb. 16, and risking further injuries, why not simulate an early break and shut them down?

The season is a slog for everybody, and for teams with championship aspirations like the Raptors, you have to be extra careful in managing your rotation and keeping your best players healthy for the playoffs.

Jonas Valanciunas will tangle with Brook Lopez on the inside. With DeRozan out, JV has been doing a bit more on offense to pick up the slack. The overwhelming majority of his offense comes from within five feet, but he can step out to 18 feet and knock some jumpers down. Valanciunas has been one of the best rebounders in the league, and it's going to take a team effort to keep him off the glass. Lopez hasn't made a three pointer in his last three games, but if you're looking for a positive, the majority of his shot attempts have come near the rim. Of course, he isn't *making* those shots right now, but that should change at some point.

Player to watch: Norman Powell

With DeRozan out, Norm has stepped into his roe and done well. The second year man out of UCLA is averaging 15 points a game on 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from three point range as a starter. He's been driving to the rim more this season and it's helped him get to the free throw line more often as a result. He's one of the better reserves in the league and someone coach Dwane Casey can count in any role he's put in.

Caris Levert's first NBA start didn't go well, but he shouldn't be discouraged. Levert has been one of this season's bright spots and has quickly earned the trust of Kenny Atkinson. Bojan Bogdanovic will be back after getting Friday off to rest, but look for Levert to lead the bench players in minutes.

From the Vault

It’s Super Bowl Sunday (go Falcons), so we’re taking two trips into the Vault to celebrate the occasion. First, head on back to Super Bowl 46 (played on February 5, 2012) and see Eli Manning work his magic against the Patriots.

And secondly, head on back to Super Bowl 46 and watch the Purple One do his thing. Long live Prince.

More reading: Raptors HQ