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Gameday: Nets @ Raptors, Dec. 14 - Raptors Republic

Gameday: Nets @ Raptors, Dec. 14 - Raptors Republic
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It’s a long season. The Raptors losing 4 out of 5 is only notable if it’s a true precursor to future failures, and it most likely isn’t . The Brooklyn Nets come to town, an ensemble of shot-makers and underrated bigs. Generally only so good as their star of the night – in most cases one Kyrie Irving, Caris Levert, or Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie is the only healthy one right now, so it’s a good thing he comes to play often.

Ever since taking over the starting point guard job, Dinwiddie is putting up 24 & 7, while leading the Nets to a 9-4 record without the aforementioned duo of Irving and Levert. Impressive stuff, and perhaps what Dinwiddie has deserved all along – an offense to call his own.

This matchup is intriguing for a few reasons. The Raptors have really performed well against teams that are overly reliant on one or two players. However (comma) that strategy seems to be getting a bit stale, as it hasn’t worked much lately. The Nets also hoist up a lot of threes, and might invite the idea of the Raptors vacating certain defensive lanes to pressure Dinwiddie, and having him use his length to pass over the top and create open looks. It also happens to be the case that the Nets floor spacers do their best shooting from the corners, with Joe Harris and Taurean Waller-Prince.

So, do the Raptors finally break away from the rampant, blitzing defense that sustained (and even improved) a very good record while Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka were away, or do they attempt to stymy someone who’s recently had the keys turned over to him? You could certainly try. Dinwiddie runs nearly 50-percent of his possessions in the pick n’ roll, often times serving looks to one of Jarret Allen, Harris or Waller-Prince after shrinking the defense. The Nets seem primed to falter when tertiary scorers have to become tertiary creators, at the very least when Allen is on the floor. DeAndre Jordan has been a pretty good release valve in the middle of the court for the Nets this year, so you could change the looks intermittently. The only worry is that the Raptors defenders will do a poor job of picking up their boxing-out assignments and a really good rebounding team (the Nets) will eat them alive on the glass.

On the other side of things, the Nets defense is quite susceptible to the pass. And the Raptors have been a pretty good passing team for most of this season, even if things have been a little dry while they’ve attempted to break their offensive out of it’s five game funk. The Nets are also without a player who would profile as a typical “Siakam stopper”. Even as the fatigue has seemed to catch up to Siakam, as the Raptors defense demands endless running from him, and the Raptors offense leans on his isolation (perhaps more often than it should), he’s still a walking mismatch and a terror for other teams to try and stop.

Most importantly, though, the middling Nets defense provides a real opportunity for Lowry to regain his offensive form. To impose his terrific pick n’ roll play on the opposing team, and to lift up the lineups he’s a part of, regardless of who plays with him. The Raptors offense has been without an identity as they’ve been less capable of pushing in transition, shooting worse, and shuffling different players in and out. This Nets game can be what the Bulls game wasn’t.

Fred VanVleet (knee) is a game time decision, Stanley Johnson (groin) is doubtful, Matt Thomas (broken finger) is doubtful.
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