Nets Gameday: Raptors visit Brooklyn for first leg of home-and-home

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets
Kessler Edwards dunks against Toronto Raptors forward Yuta Watanabe during the first quarter at Barclays Center.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Time is running short for the Nets to dig themselves out of a play-in round spot. They did what they had to on Saturday in a close win over the Milwaukee Bucks and now they’ll face the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center in the first of a home-and-home on Monday (7:30 p.m.).

The Nets are a game back of the Raptors entering Monday’s contests and they sit three games back of the Boston Celtics for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn has already faced Toronto two previous times this season, with wins back on Nov. 7 and Dec. 14, and will see them for the final two times on Monday and Tuesday.

The Nets will still be playing shorthanded since Kevin Durant still won’t return for either game against Toronto and is more likely to play Thursday when Brooklyn hosts Miami. Kyrie Irving will also remain off the floor because of the current New York City vaccine mandate, though optimism continues to grow that he could play at home before the regular season is over.

Brooklyn is also still waiting on Ben Simmons to be ready to play, which means success against the Raptors will fall on Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and the rest of the Nets’ role players. They have become accustomed to picking up the extra workload while Brooklyn tries to wait out the returns of some of their best players.

Goran Dragic made his Nets’ debut playing in limited minutes, but could see more playing time against the Raptors in both Monday and Tuesday’s games. He finished Saturday’s win with six points and was on the floor in crunch time.

“They deserved it,” Nets coach Steve Nash said on Saturday.”I think that’s the message to the team here. They’ve had some tough weeks here and we’ve asked them to stay together. … If we can weather this period where we are undermanned and we’re struggling, the rewards will be there later.”

The Raptors have dropped two straight games entering Monday’s game and have gone 1-4 in their last five games as they sit 2.5 games back of the Celtics for sixth. Their latest loss came on Saturday in a 127-100 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

“They’re obviously not happy, right?” Toronto coach Nick Nurse told the Toronto Star on Saturday. “It doesn’t really matter. What matters is how you respond to it when the ball goes up next, and we’ll have to wait and see on that.”

Toronto will be without OG Anunoby when they travel to Brooklyn and Fred VanVleet is also questionable for their game against the Nets since he’s been dealing with soreness in his right knee.  VanVleet has been having a strong season for the Raptors averaging 21 points and 7 assists per game.

He has been the go-to in many facets of Toronto’s game and leads the NBA in minutes per game with an average of 38 this season.

Nets Notables

If the Nets win, it would extend their winning streak against the Raptors to four games which would match their longest win streak against Toronto all-time. … In his first five games as a Net, Seth Curry has averaged 19.2 ppg (.507 FG, .474 3FG, .800 FT), 4.0 rpg and 3.8 apg in 32.0 mpg, scoring 20+ points three times. … The Nets have outrebounded the Raptors 108-76 (+32), including a 31-21 (+10) advantage on the offensive glass.

Nets Injury Report

  •  Kevin Durant (left knee MCL sprain) — Out
  • Joe Harris (left ankle surgery) — Out
  • Kyrie Irving (ineligible to play) — Out
  • Ben Simmons (return to competition reconditioning) — Out

Raptors Injury Report

  • Fred VanVleet (right knee soreness) — Questionable
  • OG Anunoby (right finger fracture) — Out
  • Isaac Bonga (G League – on assignment) — Out
  • David Johnson (G League – two way) — Out

How To Watch

Monday’s game will air on YES Network with Ryan Ruocco, Sarah Kustok and Michael Grady on the call. WFAN 101.9 FM / 660 AM will broadcast the game on the radio with Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw calling the action.