The Nets are a new squad in 2014, and tonight, they take on the one team that made them look like the old squad.
After a one-game emotional roller coaster in Boston, the 20-22 Brooklyn Nets return home to take on another division rival, the Atlantic-leading 22-21 Toronto Raptors.
The red-hot Nets are a league-best 10-1 in January, with the only loss coming to this Raptors team. It was as much of a schedule loss as you’ll ever see: it was the fifth game in eight nights for the team and the second half of a back-to-back, the first a grueling double-overtime win over the defending champion Miami Heat.
The Nets know this game’s implications: the teams have split the first two games, and a victory for the Nets would pull them within 0.5 games of first place, with the upper hand in case of a tiebreaker.
“It’s payback time, just like New York,” Andray Blatche said, referring to the Nets beating the New York Knicks after losing by 30 in their home arena in December.
The Nets will go with the same longball starting lineup of Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett, electing to bring Deron Williams off the bench once again. The Nets are undefeated when that lineup starts the game.
The Raptors may have stumbled into leading the worst division in basketball, but they’re not without talent. They’re without leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, and his replacement in the lineup was Terrence Ross, who only scored 51 points in the team’s last game.
The Nets have surged offensively in January thanks to a barrage of three-pointers. They’ve attempted nearly six more three-pointers per game since the start of the new year, which not-so-coincidentally coincides with Brook Lopez’s departure and the team’s rocketing offensive rating.
But the Raptors are one of the league’s best teams at limiting the three-pointer: they allow opponents to fire off just 19.5 attempts per game, one of the lowest figures in the league. The Nets will have to solve that perimeter defense to keep their offense clicking.