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Nets begin tough back-to-back in Toronto

Los Angeles Clippers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images

That was one that got away. The Nets didn’t just lose to Charlotte Wednesday at Barclays Center. They lost, ugly. After going up by 20 in the second quarter, the Brooklyns showed a lack of killer instinct again and second year player Devonte Graham torched them for 40 points, including the dagger. The Nets couldn’t solve the Hornets zone with Joe Harris and Taurean Prince failing to open up the court. It was a preeminent example of not being able to adjust. On to the next one ... vs. the defending NBA champions.

Where to follow the game

YES Network and NBA TV on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:30.


The Nets will be without five players. In addition to Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert and Wilson Chandler (who will be serving the last game of his 25-game suspension), Nic Claxton is also sitting this one out. He hurt his hamstring early in the week while playing in the G League. No word on his return. And this will be their first game without Iman Shumpert.

Irving will miss his 14th game Saturday (and his 15th on Sunday when the Nets return to Barclays to face Philly).

“He did on-court work today with no contact,” Kenny Atkinson said after Friday’s practice. “Still not cleared for that. No timetable on when that’s going to happen. I will say the on-court, non-contact stuff has been ramped up.”

For the Raptors, Stanley Johnson and Matt Thomas are out. Fred VanVleet (right-knee contusion) has missed the past two games and is listed as questionable.

The Game

Is this the Rondae Hollis-Jefferson revenge game? RHJ averaged 9.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 23.6 minutes in 234 career games (147 starts) with Brooklyn between 2015 and last season. He signed with the Raptors last summer after the Nets renounced his rights to build up their cache of cap space. He’s averaging 8.0 points per game along with 5.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 20 minutes a game, all off the bench. He still hasn’t solved 3-point shooting, hitting one out of every five he takes. Look for Nick Nurse to use him against Spencer Dinwiddie.

The Raptors have dropped four of their past five games while the Nets have won four of their past six. Still, Toronto has won 33 straight home game vs. Atlantic Division rivals and are 15-1 vs. Brooklyn since the 2015-16 season. Even MVP candidate Pascal Siakam has dropped off. In the past five games, they have shot 39.6 percent from the field and 27.2 percent on 3-point attempts.

What’s the problem? As a French-Canadian might say, it’s ennui. Eddie Mark of Raptors HQ, our sister site, wrote Saturday...

They’ve been dealing with a lot. Injuries and uncertain futures. New faces. New roles. Vague expectations. Not to mention that they’re still picking up the pieces after a painful breakup. Last year was the most special season of our team’s history. And just as we’d all begun falling in love with our new status as champions, forty percent of the starting lineup immediately annulled the marriage and split — left us high and dry for some slickster with a cool car, who vainly calls himself Hollywood. Let’s give our guys some time to get it together.

No doubt, Toronto fans see the wounded Nets as their best hope to get back on the right track. But a number of teams have thought that of late and been surprised.

From the Vault

Kawhi Leonard returned to Toronto this week to receive his NBA championship ring (which Nick Nurse said is so big it should be considered furniture) and a tribute for the ages. It’s hard to remember a better tribute for a player who left following a championship. It included a very distinctive recall of The Shot Heard Round the World, his four-bouncer that sealed the Eastern Conference championship last year in Toronto.

Always classy, Toronto.