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And now, Nets face the best team in the NBA...

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Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

I’m not even angry about the loss to the Thunder. I’m really not. About two or three minutes into the fourth quarter the Thunder decided they wanted to win the game and the Nets laid down and let them do it. I wasn’t shocked. I wasn’t yelling at my TV. This is just what happens now. And for those of us on Team Tank, a loss is a win!

Moving on, Friday nights match-up will be the first time the Nets face off against the Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors who are 21-5 and are going to be an issue not only for Brooklyn on Friday night but also for any teams trying to advance in the playoffs this spring. At one point they’d won eight straight until losing to the Nuggets at home on Monday in a close one. The Nets are on an eight-game streak, too. Fun! Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN have this one at 7:30 p.m, ET.

Injuries

Caris Levert (foot) and Treveon Graham (hamstring) are still out. No word if Dzazan Musa will suit up for Brooklyn. He played in Long Island’s loss to Canton on Thursday night.

Malachi Richardson (illness) missed Wednesday’s game and Norman Powell is out with a shoulder injury.

The Game

Kawhi Leonard is exactly who we all thought he was before his bizarre injury saga in San Antonio. It still unclear what exactly happened, but he ended up in Toronto and DeMar Derozan is in Texas and this is our reality. Would I rather still have DeMar up north taking long 2’s and being good but not great? Yes, yes I would. Because Kawhi is a monster. Kawhi is a tornado. He’s like boring Thanos. He’s also averaging a career high 26.1 points to go along with 8.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting 49% from the field and 36% from deep. He can guard basically anyone in the NBA and if the Nets wing defense is similar to Wednesday night’s performance, Kawhi is going to tear the building down.

Let’s talk about what I’m sure plenty of us are here to talk about, which is the fact that Rodions Kurucs didn’t play a moment against the Thunder. Not a lick. He was once again glued — infuriatingly glued — to the bench by Kenny Atkinson and while I don’t think he should’ve all of a sudden been thrown out there in crunch time to try and save the game, I feel like that when the Nets had solid leads in the second and third quarters, it could’ve been a good time for the kid to get some run.

I don’t, however, think it’s necessarily a Dudley vs. Kurucs thing. Or rather, a Dudley thing. Nets Twitter often calls for his head and while the traditional box score might anger some fans. All those low scoring, low almost everything else games, his contributions go beyond all that.

Are his shooting percentages terrible? Yes. Does he play impeccable defense to make up for his lack of offensive output? Not particularly, no. Is he even good? Who’s to say? But he knows where to be in Atkinson’s system, plays hard, and keeps his energy high throughout the game. He was also +12 in the Thunder game, second on the team behind DeMarre Carroll who was +15. Allen Crabbe, who shot the lights out, was -20, partially due to his absolutely disastrous defense on Paul George.

The Nets at the end of that game looked tired and unenthusiastic. I wasn’t there, and I’m not “on” the team, but, man, the energy level was just not where it needed to be. Paul George and Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams are all high energy guys and in the end that won out. The Raptors are another high energy team, and if the Nets don’t step it up BIG time, it’s just going to be more of the same. They might not even have a lead to blow this time.

Some other fun facts about Friday’s game. Russell is hosting a Coat Drive. The first 50 fans to donate will get to meet D’Angelo after the game.

Also, it’s Juventus Night at Barclays. Before the Nets take on the Raptors, fans can buy tickets to a Juventus watch party in the 40/40 CLUB beginning at 2 p.m. Juventus is playing Inter Milan. A Watch Party purchase will include Nets game ticket and the full Juventus Night Experience. The arena will be dressed in black-and-white, the colors of both teams.

Player To Watch

Kyle Lowry has entered a new phase of a career that’s had a lot of them. The quintessential NBA success story, Lowry worked his way off the bench and out of a bad reputation and molded himself into one of the most dangerous point guards in the league. There were a few years there where he was a high volume scorer next to DeMar Derozan, but now he plays a much more facilitating role, averaging a league leading 10.1 assists per game. He’s still efficient, especially now that he’s shooting less, and is carrying a 57.9 True Shooting Percentage into this one. He also makes $31 million this season and 33 next year. Wow. Literally WHAT is he going to do with all that money? Hopefully he takes some of that cash and goes out for some nice Brooklyn Pizza before the game and is too sluggish to run circles around the Nets guards.

From The Vault

I decided to include a highlight reel of Nets and Raptors legend Vince Carter for Vault video and I was reminded of a grievance that I’d like to air with all of you right here right now.

I always hear people calling Vince Carter the best “in-game” dunker of all time. This is insane to me. Literally what are these people talking about? I guess it’s supposed to mean like “oh I’m a cool basketball fan I know who the really best dunkers are!” But it’s like, have they seen Vince in the dunk contest?!?

VC is on a level so high above everyone else that he famously declared the contest “over” after his SECOND dunk in 2001 and he was RIGHT. It was OVER. Vince is the greatest dunker of all time, in games or in the dunk contest or in his backyard or at the YMCA. End of discussion.

Enjoy.

For another perspective, head on over to RaptorsHQ, our Raptors sister site on SBNation.