With home-court advantage back in their hands, the Raptors return to Air Canada Centre to host pivotal Game 5 after tying up the series with a road win over the Nets on Sunday.
A number of interesting storylines have swirled above this Round 1 series. Did Brooklyn intentionally slip to the 6 seed in order to duck a first-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls?
How would the dynamic of a super-veteran team taking on a playoff-inexperienced bunch come into play?
Would Toronto’s Rodney Dangerfield act of ‘No Respect’ solidify their team’s psyche, or would their over-analysis and second guessing of the officiating backfire?
The series thus far has hinged on two important facets. First, PG Deron Williams averaged 23.5 ppg in Brooklyn’s two W’s and put up just 12.5 ppg in their two losses.
The Nets need their 9th-year, 3X All-Star PG to produce in order to win. When Williams is on at the offensive end, Brooklyn’s shooters get spacing, and their bigs and wings have more room to operate via cuts and post-ups.
Second, the Raptors’ propensity to turn the ball over combined with Brooklyn’s long-armed defense and ability to make steals has been a momentum killer for coach Dwane Casey’s squad.
However, in Sunday night’s 48 in Brooklyn, the Raptors took care of the rock, committing only 10 turnovers while totaling 9 steals in their 87-79 Game 4 victory. On the other hand, the Nets turned it over 16 times with only 6 total steals.
Since scoring only 14 points in Game 1, fifth-year 2-guard DeMar Derozan, a 2014 All-Star reserve, has gone for 30, 30 and 24 in the last three contests.
Look for coach Jason Kidd to stress getting the ball into Joe Johnson’s hands early in tonight’s game. On Sunday, the 7X All-Star was held to 7 points on 2-7 shooting. In Brooklyn’s Game 3 win, the thirteenth-year veteran had 29 points on an efficient 11-17 from the field including 3 of 4 from deep.
Tune in to YES this evening at 7:30 PM ET to see who will take control of this seesaw series with a critical Game 5 win!
The 27-47 Toronto Raptors have only eight regular season games remaining and will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
With nothing to play for but pride and player development, coach Dwane Casey has started to give his younger guys more run. One such baller who has capitalized on this opportunity is 20-year-old rookie Jonas Valanciunas.
The 6’11” Lithuanian center was picked 5th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. However, he stayed in Europe last year due to contractual obligations. In his first season with the Raptors, Valanciunas has played in 55 games and started 50.
The Eurohoops-experienced rookie has come on of late, and Toronto is starting to see a return on their investment in the future franchise center. Valanciunas played in all 15 of Toronto’s March contests and averaged 11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 1.1 bpg in 27.1 mpg while shooting 62% from the field and 82% from the line.
Over the last three games, Valanciunas has improved to 16.3 ppg, 9.7 boards and 3.7 blocks. He has scored in double figures in nine straight games, averaging 15 ppg over this span while shooting an impressive 69% from the field.
The big Lithuanian has played professional ball since he was 16 years old, so he’s far more seasoned than most rookies and can withstand the long NBA 82-game schedule.
As fantasy teams enter the home stretch, Valanciunas would be a great addition to a roster looking for points, boards and blocks at a reasonable price.
Remember the famous Lithuanian saying: If you run from a wolf, you may run into a bear.