When: 7:30 PM EST
Where: Air Canada Centre
Watch: YES Network, Fox Sports GO
Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM
As another season for the Brooklyn Nets heads into its final weeks, the picture laid out for all fans to see depicts a young team hoping to figure things out after several losing seasons. This is the time for some belief in the future, but with the end in sight, it feels much more like relief — relief that this current Nets team can have some sort of finality on a lost season before the offseason can start to build up hope once again.
This all comes on the back of a disappointing loss, one of the worst for the team, if not the worst, this season. After leading by many as 23 points in the second quarter against the lottery-bound Charlotte Hornets, the Nets gave up 32 points and 30 rebounds to Dwight Howard and eventually lost 111-105 at home. This was the first 30-30 game in the NBA since Kevin Love had one in 2010, and only the second against the Nets — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the other back in 1978.
With 10 games left to play, the Nets first have to work through some top-tier talent. Can they build on a game they should have won, or will they get blown out by the Raptors? The answer will be based on these three things to watch.
Caris LeVert’s stock is rising and it is hard to see him coming off the bench next season. He has scored in double digits in nine successive games, a career best, and will try to finish the season the same way. LeVert is making good basketball decisions and has shown a knack for getting into passing lanes.
Many media members have noted that in order for the Nets to fast-track their rebuild, they need to really hit on one of their draft picks that landed in the 20’s. LeVert could be that pick.
While he is not quite in the discussion for M.V.P. this season, it would be amiss not to mention DeRozan DeRozan as one of the best performing, influential and important players in the NBA.
The Raptors are 53-19 and have a stranglehold on the top spot in the East, and they would not have been able to do that without DeRozan. The Raptors go deep in their guard/wing rotation with quality scorers like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell, but stopping DeRozan is still the key to stopping the Raptors tonight.
Coach Atkinson has started to cop some heat recently as the season comes to a close. Whether deserved or not, outside opinion on his coaching ability and lack of in-game moves or decisions is becoming louder. It will be interesting to see if anything changes this late, or if the Nets coaching staff will steadfastly commit to the progress and analytically-driven decisions it has made all season.