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Nets go for 40th win vs. Raptors at Barclays

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Nets weren’t able to down the Bucks on the second half of a back to back Monday night, so Brooklyn remains a half game out of the sixth seed, a half game ahead of the eighth seed, and a game ahead of ninth heading into Wednesday nights matchup with the Raptors. The Nets next three games will be against the Raptors, Bucks again on Saturday, and then Pacers on Sunday. Presumably, if they want to hold onto one of those playoff spots, they’re going to need to win at least one of those games. Two would be nice, but one seems required. It’s going to be tough. The Raptors are 55-23 and just three games behind Milwaukee for the best record in the NBA. Let’s get into it.

Where to Follow the Game

YES Network at 7:30pm, ET. (Next My9 game is Saturday).

WFAN Sports Radio 66AM and 101.9 FM


Allen Crabbe is still out dealing with a knee injury.

OG Anunoby (head) and Patrick McCaw (thumb) both missed Monday’s game, we’ll see if they return for this one. Danny Green (thumb) is probable.

The Game

Every time I glance at the Raptors roster I’m shocked to see Marc Gasol. He hasn’t been the flashiest pickup, averaging 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game in his time in Toronto so far, but he’s a guy who can play stellar defense, move the ball, and hit some big shots when you need him to. He’s also able to play behind the three point line, which opens up space for Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam to get cleaner looks at the hoop. He’s a perfect counterpart to those two, and fits nicely into the role of third best player on this team. And yes, I said third best. Which means Kyle Lowry is either fourth or fifth depending on how you feel about Serge Ibaka.

Lowry looks significantly slower this season, and D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie need to take full advantage and get past him and to the rim if the Nets want to win this one. Jarrett Allen was setting some monster screens for DLo against the Bucks, and if Eric Bledsoe was having trouble fighting through them, then Lowry should be no problem. The Raptors do happen to employ Danny Green and Fred VanVleet, who are plus guard defenders on their good days, so it might not always be easy pickings. The Raptors have the 5th best defensive rating in the league at 106.9, but that’s a team stat. On the individual side, Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, and Danny Green can all create serious problems for whoever they’re matched up with on any given night.

The Nets are going to have to stay at that same level of fight they showed on Monday if they want to win this one. The Bucks game was sloppy, and the Nets turned the ball over 23(!) times, but if they can shore up some of that and harness the adrenaline, they should be just fine against a team that’s a hair worse than Milwaukee. It just seemed like there were some communication issues compiled onto some overexcitement. Balls slipping out of hands, passes being missed, that kind of thing. The fight is great, but this young Nets team is now going to have to learn how to adjust and keep up a high level of energy without looking overwhelmed.

Kawhi Leonard is obviously scary, averaging 27.3 points per game against the Nets this season. But do you know who else is scary? D’Angelo Russell, who’s averaging 27 points against the Raptors this season to go along with 9.3 assists. Toronto is 2-1 against Brooklyn, with that one loss being the one that sparked the Nets seven-game winning streak back in December. It’s kind of fun having a star player who is expected to lead the team night in and night out, and for the most part delivers. We haven’t had that in quite some time. I like it. Kawhi though, is still terrifying, and is obviously a level or two ahead of DLo still in the echelon of current NBA All Stars. He’s the kind of player that just changes the chemistry of a basketball game with all he’s able to do on the court, and while “shutting him down” isn’t really an option, I’m sure Kenny will try his best to throw DeMarre Carroll and Rodions Kurucs his way to try and slow him down.

Player to Watch

Pascal Siakam is probably going to win Most Improved Player this season. Too many media voters are using calculators to measure whose numbers jumped the most. They should be measuring heart too. D’Angelo has improved himself and his team, saved the season as Richard Jefferson argued quite vociferously on ESPN’s “The Jump.”,

But Siakam’s jump has been both enormous and unexpected. He went from starting scoring 7.3 points and starting in 5 games as basically a non-factor for that Toronto team to starting almost every game this season, scoring 16.8 points, grabbing 6.8 rebounds, shooting 54/35/78 and basically just becoming a mini Kawhi.

Obviously, the addition of Kawhi has propelled this team to new heights, but without Siakam, we’d probably be seeing a lot more Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby and such to try and make up for that gap in scoring. The Raptors score 114.4 points per game, seventh in the league, but Siakam is second on the team in points per game behind Kawhi. Everything else is made up of guys like Lowry and Serge Ibaka and Danny Green scoring in the low-teens. Siakam gives them that extra bump, and it’s one they might be able to ride pretty deep into the playoff this season.

Playoff Watch

Nothing important Tuesday night as the Nets, Pistons, Heat and Magic were all off. That changes dramatically Wednesday. Lots of scoreboard watching and depending on how things go, a very very big evening for the four teams seeking three spots in the post-season.

The Magic play Knicks in Orlando; the Pistons play the Pacers in Detroit; and the Heat play the Celtics in Miami. Go Knicks! Go Celtics!

Going into the night, the Nets are in seventh, a half game behind the Pistons, a half game ahead of the Heat and a full game ahead of the Magic. Again, they hold the tiebreaker over the Pistons and Magic.

From The Vault

Enjoy, I know these guys are going to.

For a different perspective, head on over to Raptors HQ, our sister site on SB Nation.