The surging Brooklyn Nets (22-15) will try to extend their current NBA-long 6-game winning streak Tuesday night when they host the last place Toronto Raptors (14-23). Toronto is coming off of a loss to Milwaukee on Sunday, but has been playing better recently. They have won 10 of their past 14 games dating back to December, but are only 3-3 in January. This will be Toronto’s first road game of the month, where they are only 4-15. The Nets are coming off of an impressive 11-point win against Indiana and will look to continue their longest winning streak since 2006.
These two teams have already met twice this year with Brooklyn winning both games. The first meeting was the first game of the season and first NBA game ever in Brooklyn. The second game was last month when the Nets went north of the border and squeaked by the Raptors after nearly blowing a double-digit fourth quarter lead.
Injuries: The Nets will probably be without Gerald Wallace who did not play on Wednesday. Wallace always wants to play but it will be up to Nets athletic trainer Tim Walsh if Wallace is allowed to play. Toronto will not have Andrea Bargnani who is also involved with many trade rumors right now. They also won’t have Jonas Valanciunas and Linas Kleiza is a game time decision.
Deron Williams vs. Jose Calderon. Advantage: Williams
The Raptors came into this season planning on moving on from Calderon and starting Kyle Lowry. Lowry played well in the beginning of the season, including in a game against the Nets, but injuries pushed Calderon back into the starting lineup. Since he returned to the starting lineup, Calderon has played extremely well and is averaging 11 ppg and 8 apg. Even though Lowry is healthy now, Calderon has continued starting. Deron Williams has been playing very well recently, including on Sunday against Indiana. This is the Deron Williams who the Nets signed to a max-contract in the summer.
Joe Johnson vs. Demar DeRozan. Advantage: Johnson
DeRozan is a proven scorer and is averaging 18 ppg and 5 rpg this year. His problem is his consistency. There are some games where he can score 30+ points and look like an all-star, but there are also nights when he doesn’t show up and scores under 10 points. Joe Johnson is a very good defender and it would not surprise me to see DeRozan have an off game.
Keith Bogans vs. Landry Fields. Advantage: Neither
Fields is a classic case of a player being over-valued because he was a Knick. The former Manhattaner has been injured for most of the year and has only scored over 10 points once. He has been very disappointing for Toronto and is only averaging 4 ppg and 5 rpg. Bogans will start for the Nets assuming that Gerald Wallace cannot go.
Reggie Evans vs. Ed Davis. Advantage: Davis
Since Bargnani’s injury, Ed Davis has stepped in and played surprisingly well. In his last 5 games, he has had at least 11 points and 8 rebounds in 4 of the games and is coming off of a 20-12 performance on Sunday against Milwaukee. Reggie Evans will probably struggle to guard him because he is capable of making an occasional mid-range jumper. Reggie is coming off a game where he only had 6 rebounds, but he too has been playing great lately.
Brook Lopez vs. Amir Johnson. Advantage: Lopez
Like Ed Davis, Amir Johnson has been playing very well recently. He has started the last four games for the Raptors and has had at least 13 points and 8 rebounds in all the games including 22 and 14 on Sunday. Johnson is a pretty good rebounder and Lopez will need to box him out. Brook is coming off of two sub-par first halves against Indiana and Phoenix. However, Lopez was excellent in the second half on Sunday.
Prediction: Nets 106, Raptors 89.
Both of these teams are playing pretty well right now, but the Nets are clearly playing better. They have won their last 4 games by at least 10 points and their offense right now is simply too smooth for the Raptors to stop it. Expect this to be another relatively close game until the fourth quarter where the Nets pull ahead for good.