Nets and Raptors Split Season Series 2-2
I - BKN 102; TOR 100
II - TOR 96; BKN 80
III - TOR 104; BKN 103
IV - BKN 101; TOR 97
NBA PLAYOFFS - ROUND ONE
The Great White North
BROOKLYN NETS: Toronto's Coach Casey Said Beware What You Ask For. The Flatbush Hoops Playoff Hunt For Canadian Raptor Starts Now!
Here's what concerns me heading into today's Game One against the Toronto Raptors - the Nets ability to defend Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
They represent two of the Raptors top three scorers. If Toronto's back court starts raining down from the perimeter, running up and down the floor, and generally proves too much for Brooklyn's aging legs, stubbed toes, and creaky ankles to handle, the Nets will be in for a long series.
Jason's Kidds might be better off keeping this game in the paint, securing rebounds, and imposing a physical half court affair upon the Raptors. Controlling the tempo, utilizing their size, and getting to the line will work against Toronto, despite the Nets being accused of featuring a predictable offensive philosophy. That's an issue for another series. For now, this match-up is a matter of Toronto's ability to thwart Brooklyn's decided experience advantage.
Toronto's ignorance, coupled with their overall youth and athleticism, are additional wild cards to beware. The pressure is on Brooklyn to win, not the Raptors. Despite winning the Atlantic Division title, the Toronto Raptors are free to play unencumbered by lofty expectations. It is the Nets who are favored to win this series.
Last season, the Nets wilted in the playoffs, because let's face it, they had no backbone. What the Nets have now, are players who know how to close out games. The only question is, will their bodies let them? Nevertheless, no player on either team can match the playoff experience Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett possess.
That's exactly why GM Billy King made the move to import both veterans. Coach Jason Kidd is also tremendously experienced (as a player that is...) at managing the closing moments of a playoff game. The Nets should be well prepared for this aspect of play.
The Nets 5-5 record in April provided every reason why they should prevail over the Raptors, while also putting on display every reason why the Nets can just as easily lose this series in miserable fashion. Maybe the joke is on us, and Jason Kidd did forego the final games of the season for sake of looking ahead towards the playoffs.
Deron Williams did not play in the first two games of the season series. In the first meeting, Kyle Lowry scored 24 points, and had 5 assists. In the second meeting of the season, Kyle Lowry was limited to 12 points and 4 assists. However, DeMar DeRozan dropped 26 points, pulled down 7 rebounds, and had 5 assists.
In the third meeting, Deron Williams played 29 minutes off the bench. He scored 9 points, but led the floor with 11 assists. Kyle Lowry however, led all scorers with 31 points, while DeRozan sat out with an ankle sprain. In the final meeting of the regular season, Deron Williams made his first start against the Raptors, and scored 18 points, with 5 assists. Kyle Lowry scored 21 points, with 7 assists and 8 rebounds. DeRozan scored another 14 points, but was outdone by Shaun Livingston that night, who scored 18 points. The same will be expected from Livingston throughout the series, with the hope his sprained toe is up for the task.
There is growing concern whether Deron Williams can still push an offense up the floor with speed. He forced the action in Utah far more than he has with Brooklyn. Ankle problems have clearly affected his style since his arrival. These days, he most often settles for walking the ball up the floor.
Shaun Livingston might be a better option for that role, while Williams plays off the ball. In any event, this post-season will be Deron Williams' chance to prove his naysayers wrong. He has been experiencing increasing criticism, and is now in position to change his narrative once again.
Three is always better than two, and so, Joe Johnson stands out as someone who could break the Raptors back in crunch time. After all , that's when he's best. The triad of Johnson, Livingston and Deron Williams should prevail.
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said, if in fact the Nets tanked a few games in order to set up a match-up against his club, that they had better be careful of what they asked for.
On that note, let the games begin! The Hoops of Flatbush playoff run, starts now.