By their standards, Toronto are in a mini-rut, having lost two of their past three games. The first was against the Thunder, and the second against a LeBron-inspired Cavs team. Despite the losses, they still find themselves sitting comfortably atop the east, and don’t look like moving. With a 53-19 record, they are 4.5 games ahead of Boston in second and 10.5 games ahead of Cleveland in third.
The Nets are at the other end of the Eastern Conference standings. They are 23-49 and in 13th, just a couple of games from the Hawks in last place. They have been playing solid basketball of late though, and if it weren’t for a second half collapse against Charlotte on Wednesday, could have been on a three-game winning streak.
Three keys to the game
Toronto’s dominance at home – Though they lost their most recent game in Canada, Toronto are 29-6 at home this season, and a trip there has generally meant a guaranteed loss for most opponents. Brooklyn will struggle to be an exception to this rule; they are 9-25 in their 34 away games this season.
Lowry’s hot shooting – This hasn’t been Kyle Lowry’s best season in the NBA by any stretch of the imagination, but he is on a serious shooting streak of late. In his past three games he has connected on an incredible 18 3-pointers, and is hitting them at a rate of 62.1%.
The Nets’ point guard party – Brooklyn have made considerable inroads this season, and going forward they appear almost spoilt for choice at the point guard position. D’Angelo Russell has come back from injury to steal away the starting position from Spencer Dinwiddie, who himself has put in a terrific season. Caris LeVert has been running the offense for the second unit in his second season for much of the year, and he too appears likely to be a decent NBA player in the future. If these guys can figure out how to combine together, they could cause Toronto some trouble.
Matchup to watch
Kyle Lowry vs D’Angelo Russell – Lowry’s 16.6 points per game this season is nearly six points less than last season, but he is still connecting on 40.3% from 3-point range while dishing out 6.7 assists a night. As well as averaging 23.7 points on 62.2% shooting in his last three games, Lowry is also dishing out 8.3 assists.
Russell has spent much of the year on the sidelines, but has started returning to some of the form which made him such a highly touted second overall pick in 2015. He is averaging 16.1 points and 4.9 assists this season, though in his last six games this is up to 20.2 points. When these sides met just last week, the young guard showed the Raptors what he can do with seven 3-pointers in the first quarter alone.
Toronto Raptors predicted starting lineup
PG – Kyle Lowry | SG – DeMar DeRozan | SF – OG Anunoby | PF – Serge Ibaka | Jonas Valanciunas
Brooklyn Nets predicted starting lineup
PG – D’Angelo Russell | SG – Allen Crabbe | SF – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson | PF – DeMarre Carroll | C – Jarrett Allen
Lowry has been at his facilitatory best in the three games between these sides this season, racking up double figures in assists in these outings. DeRozan had just 15 points in last week’s game against the Nets, but in the two prior he was dominant. In the first game between the sides this season he went 14-for-19 on the way to 31 points, and in the second he racked up 35 points.
The over/under points total for this game is set at 221.5, and though last week’s game between the sides resulted in just 218 points, expect this one to go over. Two of the Raptors’ last three games have pushed 260 points, while three of Brooklyn’s last four have gone higher than 221.
This will be an easy win for Toronto. DeRozan and Lowry have both taken a liking to the inexperienced Nets this season, and will do so again in this game. With the talented but raw Allen at center, Brooklyn often struggle to defend powerful big men, as evidenced by Dwight Howard’s historic 30-30 game earlier in the week, so expect Valanciunas to put up big numbers.
The Nets won’t be able to compete, and Toronto will wrap things up by the third quarter in what will ultimately be a 119-107 win.
The game will be broadcast locally on Sportsnet One and YES. Tip-off is at 7:30pm ET.
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