It’s felt like a minute since we’ve seen the Brooklyn Nets play basketball, but they are back at it on Friday night and in Toronto to take on the Raptors.
The Nets are rolling right now, having won 4 straight and climbed their way to 4th place in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, the Raptors have been struggling a bit. They’ve lost 3 straight and 6 of their last 10.
Good news for the Raptors is that they’re at home (10-4). They’ve been awful on the road, so the home-cooking tonight might work in their favor.
Or, let’s hope not.
WHO: Brooklyn Nets (17-2) at Toronto Raptors (13-15)
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. est
WHERE: YES Network (tv and app), WFAN-FM (radio)
Brooklyn started to separate itself from that tier of teams a month ago, and has no plans to look back. Doing so would be disastrous. If Toronto doesn’t have a pack-separating month or so, they could wind up as sellers at the deadline. Hearing that before the season may have been shocking, but rumors about Fred VanVleet in particular have started to swirl, and it makes some unfortunate sense for Raptors fans. Suddenly, Toronto is in year four of the post-Kawhi era. VanVleet has a player option following this season; Lord knows he’d be attractive to some contending teams for the right price. The Raptors, well...they don’t seem to be contending.
Toronto’s offense is a basketball writer’s dream, but an avid watcher’s nightmare. It’s like watching someone try to get the last bit of ketchup out of the bottle. It’s like watching someone try to bike through snow. There are a lot of fun ways to say it really hurts to see. The Raptors shoot the sixth-most mid-range shots in the league with the seventh-worst percentage. They both take and make the fifth-fewest threes (Cleaning the Glass). They may be the worst jump-shooting team, all things considered, in the league. It’s hard to have such a floundering half-court offense when you never turn the ball over and grab a ton of offensive rebounds, but Toronto has found a way to do it. Many of their offensive possession devolve into tough 16-footers out of isolation (although Pascal Siakam makes a ton of ‘em), and their primary initiators often don’t drive into the paint with enough chutzpah to collapse the defense and create easy looks off kick-outs. VanVleet is a player 30 NBA teams would love to have, but he’s been overburdened this season, and it’s starting to take a toll. He probably shouldn’t have this load to bear.
For more on the Raptors, check out Raptors HQ.