WHO: Brooklyn Nets (21-22) at Toronto Raptors (31-12)
WHAT: The Nets are hoping to head into Toronto with a hot hand and steal one from the first place Raptors.
WHERE: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, CA
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. EST
HOW: YES, SN1; NBA League Pass
THE STORY: Game Preview
Toronto is, by any measure, one of the best teams in the league. The Kawhi Leonard gamble has paid off and their defense is one of the most ruthless in the league, holding opponents to 107.9 points per game with a 107 Defensive Rating. They also possess the fifth best True Shooting Percentage in the league at 57.5% and round out their attack with 11.3 threes per game.
Their biggest threats, other than Kawhi who will get his own paragraph because he deserves one, are Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and the injured Valanciunas. They also have just a ton of great role players like Danny Green, Fred Van Vleet, OG Anunoby, and Norman Powell. So many team players who know the system and play hard make for a tough opponent on any night, even when Kawhi sits. They’re 6-2 when The Claw gets some rest.
Serge Ibaka is having the best season of maybe his entire career, putting up 16.1 points, grabbing 7.3 boards, and blocking 1.4 shots per game. He’s still a good defender and he’s abandoned the idea that he can be a volume three-point shooter. Trying to do too much can sometimes hinder a players actual skills. He and Pascal Siakam make for a formidable frontcourt duo. Siakam is having a breakout season basically doubling his scoring from 7.3 to 15 points per game, shooting 57 percent from the field and 34 percent from deep, and just generally playing good, hard, smart basketball.
For more on the Raptors, check out: Raptors HQ
Just over a month ago, the Raptors traveled down to Brooklyn and — despite having a mostly healthy lineup — managed to lose to the Nets in OT.
You might think that was one of the more embarrassing losses of this fine Raptors season, but the reality is: The Nets are... not bad! They’re currently sitting seventh in the east, one game under .500, which marks significant progress from their past several seasons, in which they’ve been recovering from a series of disastrous management moves that saddled them with bad contracts and left them with no draft picks. Progress!
In fact that OT win turned the Nets season around. They’d lost eight straight before that win, and that game started them on a 13-4 tear.