Series: Nets Lead 2-1
Heading into Game 4 against the Brooklyn Nets, there are no more excuses. The Toronto Raptors understand that they need to hit first on Sunday. With the Nets owning a 2-1 series lead, the Raptors want to establish themselves early and play the way they have all season.
The first time a young team makes it to the postseason, the bright lights provide a built-in excuse. For the Raptors, there were the jitters in Game 1, and pressure in Game 3. After playing in front of a much tamer Nets crowd than what they saw at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors showed in Game 3 that the road didn’t bother them. What did bother them was allowing Brooklyn to dictate the tempo of the game.
Despite playing nowhere near their potential on Friday night, Toronto had an opportunity to steal the game, falling just short after a pair of missed free throws and an out of bounds call that went against them. When the ball goes up at Barclays Center on Sunday, the Raptors need to take care of the ball, slow Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, and play like their backs are against the wall.
What To Watch
Jonas Valanciunas: After Valanciunas attempted just four field goal attempts in Game 3, look for the team to go to him more on Sunday. While the team focused on establishing him early in the first game of the series, foul trouble messed up Raptors head coach Dwane Casey’s normal rotations on Friday. Still, the Nets have no answer for his size and four field goal attempts — particularly when he made all of them — is not enough.
Taking care of the ball: Through three games, the Raptors are averaging 19.6 turnovers to the Nets’ 10.3 per game. In a series that has been painfully close — according to the AP, in seven games this season, the Raptors have outscored the Nets 678-677 — Toronto cannot continue to keep shooting itself in the foot while giving Brooklyn extra opportunities.
Small forward struggles: Terrence Ross has had a tough experience so far this postseason. The sophomore has struggled to find his rhythm on either side of the floor since getting into early foul trouble in Game 1. For the Raptors to be successful moving forward, they have to get some production out of this position even if it’s solely on the defensive end of the floor. Casey could elect to switch things up on Sunday after going deep into his bench in Game 2.
Healthy bodies: After Game 3 Casey told the media that Kyle Lowry banged his knee, had a knot on his elbow and took a shot to the lip that required a stitch to close. Amir Johnson left the game in the second half to get his back stretched before returning. Valanciunas came up hobbling after a possession. John Salmons has been playing despite a sore back and Landry Fields took a hard foul diving out of bounds for a loose ball on Friday. While each player expects to be available on Sunday, with only a day in between games, they are likely to be playing through various bumps, bruises and ailments.
– “Come out with high energy tomorrow night and understand that we have to play with a lot of energy, knowing that we have to get at least one game in their place before we go back home.” – DeMar DeRozan on the approach in Sunday’s game
– “We’re a mentally tough team. We’re never going to give up. When we’re down we’re going to fight and claw until it’s over. We take pride in that. We’re going to continue to do that. We’ve just got to be a little more physical. We’ve got to be physically tough.” – John Salmons on matching Brooklyn’s physicality
– “We’ve got to be a lot stronger when we’re being aggressive. Especially when you’re getting hit. They’re reaching in trying to steal the ball, we’ve got to be more conscious of that. I think a lot of our turnovers come from that. We’re trying to be aggressive and they might get a hand in, it might be a foul and they might not see it and we lose the ball. When we’re being aggressive, we can’t look for a foul.” – DeMar DeRozan on the cause of some of Toronto’s turnovers
Raptors: Kyle Lowry (G), DeMar DeRozan (G), Terrence Ross (F), Amir Johnson (F), Jonas Valanciunas (C)
Nets: Deron Williams (G), Shaun Livingston (G), Joe Johnson (F), Paul Pierce (F), Kevin Garnett (C)
Nets: Brook Lopez – fractured right foot (out)
Last Time They Met: Raptors 98, Nets 102 – Apr. 25th, 2014