Game Preview: Raptors @ Nets

Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com

The Raptors kick off a three-game road trip in Brooklyn where they will take on the Nets for the third time this season and second time within a week. The Raptors defeated the Nets soundly on Jan. 13, earning a 132-113 victory that set the franchise-record for most points in a non-overtime game.

Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET

Broadcast Info: TSN1, TSN3, TSN4 / SN590

TALKING POINTS

Halfway mark

Tuesday’s matchup against the Nets will be Toronto’s 41st game of the 2016-17 season, officially marking the halfway point of the regular season. Toronto comes into the game first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference with a 27-13 record. The Raptors faced the Nets in the 41st game of the season a year ago, earning a victory to move to 26-15 at the halfway mark.

Although Dwane Casey’s team is slightly ahead of last year’s pace at this time, he’s more concerned with the bigger picture and with his team continuing to improve on the defensive end of the floor.

“We are not going to become defensive juggernauts overnight,” Casey said. “But the way we played the third quarter [holding the New York Knicks to eight points in a victory Sunday afternoon], has got to be our disposition; make people feel us. That is the way we have to play on both ends if we’re playing for something big. If we’re just going through the motions, trying to win 50 games, cool, but if we want to do something important, we’ve got to make sure we play like we did the third quarter [against the Knicks on Sunday].

The Nets know all too well how Toronto’s offence has been rolling. Giving up 132 points in regulation to the Raptors in a win last week, Brooklyn allowed Toronto the shoot 54 percent in a game where seven players reached double figures despite Patrick Patterson sitting out with a sore knee. For Casey, the scoring is an added bonus made possible by everyone knowing their respective roles on the floor.

“We have an attacker in Kyle Lowry who can also shoot the three,” Casey said. “That’s not even including when you get Patrick out there and Sully when he comes in at the four. You’ve got a dynamic centre in the low post that can score, get offensive boards, a willing passer in Lucas [ Nogueira], so we’ve got good pieces that fit. They know where each other are, their continuity from over the years, playing with each there, knowing each other, all that stuff adds together. We are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence on the offensive end.”

Taking it one game at a time

Toronto is looking for its fourth straight victory on Tuesday. The Nets are looking for something to go their way. Brooklyn is 1-15 over its last 16 games, coming into Tuesday’s game having given up 137 points in a loss against the Houston Rockets one game after giving up 132 points in a loss against the Raptors.

In the middle of a four-game stretch against teams with losing records, Casey is very aware of the importance of taking things one game and opponent at a time. Despite a defensive lapse in the fourth quarter during Sunday’s victory against the New York Knicks, he thinks the team has done a solid job of not getting ahead of itself.

“I think the players are mature going through it.,” he said. “Asking how do you keep it interesting [at the midway part of the season], sometimes tough games like the other night [at home] against Brooklyn is good. You have their attention as far as showing them stuff you messed up on during that game which is important.”

Carroll rounding into form

It has been a long road of recovery and rehab for DeMarre Carroll. Cleared to play in back-to-backs since the new year began, Carroll has had his best games in the new year, on both ends of the floor. On the season, he is averaging 10.1 points and 3.8 rebounds on 43 percent shooting in 26.5 minutes per game. Over his previous five games, those numbers are up across the board as he is averaging 16.8 points and 5.4 rebounds on 48 percent shooting in 33.2 minutes per game.

He isn’t just looking good, but feeling good and his teammates are noticing. Carroll scored 20 points in Sunday’s victory against the Knicks. Norman Powell spoke about the difference in his teammate’s health this season.

“He is out there, he is talking to you, especially in walkthrough and shootaround about the sets and how to guard and just really trying to put his input and his knowledge on the game for the young guys,” Powell said. “He's playing really well, knocking down threes, doing the dirty things for us, getting on the floor. That's really big for us. We need guys like that to come in and make an impact with their hustle and the small things.”

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