Game Preview: Raptors @ Nets
The Raptors are in Brooklyn to take on the Nets in the final game of a three-game road trip. After dropping the first two games to Boston and Orlando, the Raptors would like to get back on track against Brooklyn. The Nets are on an eight-game losing streak and has lost their last 11 games at home.
Tip-off: 12:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: SN1 / TSN1050
The Raptors were victorious in each of their previous three meetings with the Nets this season. The most recent contest was a 119-109 win where DeMar DeRozan had 36 points and 11 rebounds while Cory Joseph scored a career-high 33 points as he started in place of a resting Kyle Lowry. That victory moved Toronto to 28-13 on the season. Since then, the team has gone through a challenging period where they have lost eight of their previous 10 games.
“We haven’t been in this situation since I've been here,” Patrick Patterson said. “As far as losing as much as we have been, losing this much in a row and playing this poorly, it’s been awhile since we’ve done this so this feeling is definitely something new since I've been here. For all of us. We haven’t been in this hole at all since I’ve been a Raptor.”
Despite a string of frustrating losses, there is no panicking in the Raptors locker room.
“We’re never going to fall apart,” Patterson said. “Since I've been here, we’ve had such a tight-knit family, we’e always battled through everything. Whether it’s a problem within the team, us losing, no matter what it is, we always came out on top. We always came out of the hole together, as a family. No matter what.”
Bumps and bruises
DeMar DeRozan has missed six of the previous seven games with an ankle sprain. Patrick Patterson left six minutes into Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic because of a sore knee. Kyle Lowry was excused from Saturday’s practice because he was feeling under the weather. It’s been a few weeks of injuries and lineup changes for the Raptors, but Dwane Casey’s squad is refusing to feel too badly for themselves.
“Kyle’s under the weather a little bit,” Casey said. “DeMar’s still hobbling a little bit, he’s not hobbling a little bit, but he’s still tender. Pat went through practice [on Saturday] so we’ll see how he feels. Everybody’s nicked up right now. There’s nobody in the league that’s 100 percent. I think right now it’s just getting through everything, the little nicks and bumps and bangs, flu or whatever it is, right now is the most important thing.”
The past few weeks have been difficult for Toronto, but the effort level remains the same. Coming into Sunday’s game, the Nets are 9-41 on the season. Casey is hoping his team disregards that entirely.
“We don't have the right or the reason to overlook anyone’s record,” Casey said. “Our margin for error is very small if we don't come out, participate and compete, and stay focused and have attention to detail.”
VanVleet providing boost off bench
With DeMar DeRozan out and Patrick Patterson unexpectedly unavailable in Friday’s game, Toronto’s rotation became shorter. One player who took advantage of the opportunity in lineup changes was Fred VanVleet. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had a talk with reserve point guards VanVleet and Cory Joseph prior to the team’s game against the Magic and he told Joseph he planned on giving him a break from his usual minutes to give VanVleet an opportunity to get some playing time.
VanVleet was the first point guard off the bench in Friday’s game, but Patterson leaving the game opened an opportunity for Joseph to get into the game as well. In the fourth quarter the Raptors went with a three-point-guard lineup, playing VanVleet and Joseph along with Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell and Lucas Nogueira.
Although the lineup shuffle didn’t pay off with a win, VanVleet getting valuable game experience now will help in the future if he is needed.
“Fred’s been playing well,” Casey said. “I just wanted to give him an opportunity. Cory knew going in, the situation, we didn't expect Pat to go down and be another man down. I thought Fred came in and did an excellent job.”