Today, the Brooklyn Nets (47-32) will play their last road game of the regular season in Canada against the Toronto Raptors (31-48). Brooklyn is coming off two impressive road wins in Boston and Indiana and is hoping to improve upon the best road record in franchise history. A win today will be their 24th on the road. Although Toronto is out of the playoff picture, they have won 4 of their last 5 games including 2 straight against the Bulls, which has helped Brooklyn. Toronto is currently 10th in the east and they can improve their lottery positioning with a loss in this game.
The Nets will be going for the season sweep over the Raptors today. They are 3-0 against Toronto this year, even though all 3 games were pretty close. The Nets won the first game ever in Brooklyn against Toronto after their opening night game against the Knicks was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.
After Friday’s win in Indiana, the Nets have locked up home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now, all they have to play for is to try to catch Indiana, who is in 3rd. In order for that to happen, Brooklyn will need to win all 3 of its remaining games and Indiana will need to lose all 3 of theirs. Indiana will be visiting Manhattan today, so there is a good chance they will lose. Both games start at 3:30 pm eastern. Even though the Nets have a very small chance at catching the Pacers, P.J. Carlesimo will not rest his starters until he knows that Indiana is uncatchable.
Injuries: Andrea Bargnani is out for the season for Toronto. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross are day-to-day. For the Nets, Gerald Wallace is doubtful. Deron Williams, who suffered an ankle injury late in Friday’s win is likely to play with the Nets still in the race for the 3-seed.
Deron Williams vs. Kyle Lowry. Advantage: Williams
Lowry had a great start to the season and has had some good games against the Nets, but this has been a disappointing season for him. He is a talented guy and the Raptors gave him a chance to star in Toronto, but he is only averaging 12 points and 6 assists per game. He has averaged 25 ppg in 2 games against the Nets this season. Deron had a great first half in Indiana on Friday but cooled off in the second half and may have tweaked his ankle. Still, he has been unbelievable since the all-star break and I expect that to continue.
Joe Johnson vs. Demar DeRozan. Advantage: Johnson
DeRozan has had a nice season, averaging 18 points and 4 rebounds per game. He is a good scorer, but still needs to work on his shooting and defense. Joe Johnson is coming off back-to-back 20+ point games and might be heating up at the perfect time for the Nets.
Keith Bogans vs. Rudy Gay. Advantage: Gay
Bogans will start if Gerald Wallace can’t play. Bogans has cooled off recently and is 0-11 from the field this month. This will be Rudy Gay’s first game against the Nets as a member of the Raptors. He was the biggest name moved prior to the otherwise quiet trade deadline. The Raptors brought Gay in hoping he would lead them to the playoffs this year. He has obviously come up short. With Toronto, he is averaging 19 ppg, but is shooting only 41% from the field. If he wants to chuck up 20 shots tonight, the Nets will not have a problem with that.
Reggie Evans vs. Amir Johnson. Advantage: Evans
Amir Johnson is a double-double threat every night, but he is also inconsistent and not very talented. Like Reggie Evans, many of his stats come from good hustle. He is averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds over his last 2 games. Reggie got ejected on Friday in Indiana, but still managed to secure 12 rebounds. He has been awesome recently.
Brook Lopez vs. Aaron Gray. Advantage: Lopez
Gray will start if Valanciunas cannot go. Gray has only scored in double-digits once this season and is averaging 3 points and 3 rebounds per game. The Raptors will need to play small if Valanciunas is out of the lineup, and Brook Lopez might have another huge game. If he can get Gray into foul trouble early, Lopez might end up with 30 points.
Prediction: Nets 108, Raptors 99.
The Nets have been clicking on the road lately and I see no reason for them to let down their guard in this game. Brooklyn’s offense has been great lately and Toronto has been inconsistent the whole season. The Nets will spoil the Raptors’ attempt to play spoiler in this game.