Six factors that can separate the Nets and Raptors in Game 7

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com


VIDEO: Nets-Raptors: Game 7 Preview

TORONTO – How silly of us to think that one of these teams would win this series in six games. We should have realized that the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets have some sort of reciprocal gravity that keeps one team from ever pulling away from the other.

They’ve played 10 games this season. They’ve each won five, with a total combined score of Raptors 767, Nets 766. Eight of the 10 games have been within five points in the last five minutes.

So it’s only fitting that this first round series will come down to a Game 7 on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC).

For the Raptors, this is an opportunity. A win would give their young core 4-7 more games of playoff experience against the defending champion Miami Heat. It would give head coach Dwane Casey additional job security. And it would help establish the franchise’s place on the NBA map.

For the Nets, this is another referendum. If they can’t get past the first round, what exactly did they spend $104 million in salary and another $92 million in luxury taxes on? And where the heck do they go from here?

“They have more to lose than us,” DeMar DeRozan said Saturday.

Indeed. But payroll won’t determine which team gets their first Game 7 victory (since the Nets came to the NBA). These six factors will.

The nail

Though the Nets lost Game 5, they established some things offensively. One of those was Joe Johnson operating from the middle of the floor, a set that made it difficult for the Raptors to double-team him. The Nets didn’t go to that set much in Game 6, instead using Johnson back in the low post and in pick-and-rolls with Deron Williams more often.

But the Nets did take the middle of the floor away from Kyle Lowry, who scored just three points in the paint or at the free throw line in Game 6 after scoring 14 in Game 5. They took away the Raptors’ primary offensive actions and often had them trying to improvise with less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock.

DeMar DeRozan will make some tough shots, but if it’s only tough shots that he’s getting, Brooklyn is in good shape.

Minutes distribution

The Raptors have been at their best when reserves Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson are on the floor. They may sacrifice some defense by playing big minutes with Lowry, Vasquez, DeRozan and Patterson on the floor together, but their regular small forwards have come up empty offensively all series.

Terrence Ross is gaining experience and John Salmons is a bigger body to put on Johnson. But Raptors coach Dwane Casey shouldn’t hesitate to go to the three-guard lineup early and often, because the positives on offense will outweigh the negatives on D.

Lowry, Vasquez, DeRozan and Patterson are a plus-23 in 54 minutes together, but played just 12 minutes over the last two games.

The 3-point line

Neither team has shot well from 3-point range in the series, but both teams have attempted 22 threes per game. If one team – or just one player – gets hot, it could be the difference. With the attention that Johnson draws, Brooklyn is more likely to get open looks. That’s why Alan Anderson has replaced Shaun Livingston in the starting lineup.

Patterson, of course, puts a fourth shooter on the floor for Toronto. He can punish the Nets’ defense for its focus on Lowry and DeRozan.

Toronto on the roll

One of the bellwethers of this series has been Amir Johnson, who has averaged 14.7 points in the Raptors’ three wins and 4.3 points in their three losses. A lot of Johnson’s production has come as the roll man, catching passes from Lowry and Vasquez. The Nets’ weak-side defender needs to meet the roll man – whether it’s Johnson or Jonas Valanciunas – before he gets too close to the basket.

Transition

Both teams have averaged less than 10 fast break points per game, but have been at their best when they’ve been able to get out into the open floor. Williams pushed the pace from the start in Game 6, which allowed the Nets to get into their offensive actions early in the shot clock and before the Raptors could get set. That produced easier shots.

When the Raptors made a little bit of a run in the fourth quarter, they were getting some easy baskets in transition as well.

Turnovers

After averaging 19.3 turnovers in the first three games, the Raptors have averaged just 13.0 in the last three. But it was an issue that popped up again in the fourth quarter on Friday, keeping them from being able to cut the Brooklyn lead to single digits. Any extended turnover issues in Game 7 (for either team) could end their season.

17 Comments

  1. Gambler says:

    i hope miami breaks brooklyn leggo BRON BRON

    -raptors fan

  2. GEOJAM says:

    Another win for the refs

  3. celentano says:

    D’ont get to much high hopes for your Bkn,if they play against the Heat in a 7 game series the refs favors the Heat as usual!

  4. nick says:

    We The North

  5. nick says:

    Its raps 99-89 is final score + No 3 peat for the Heat!!!

  6. FINALS says:

    GO RAPTORS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Michael Jones says:

    BKN IN 7!!! RAPTORS ARE GONNA BE TOO EXCITED AND THROW AWAY THE GAME

  8. Inder says:

    Go canada

  9. RaptorsTO says:

    Go Raptors!!!!

  10. okc2014 says:

    Experience over youth. But Raptors will probably win. Or I would like to see them win. They deserve it, they fought really hard right form the start of the regular season. And survived and got better after Rudy Gay left. Brooklyn Nets started off really slow. Joe Johnson is a bum (to me). I like the way Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett made lemonade from lemons. The Nets have come along way but I see major changes yet again next season. Which hints that they are a work in progress. Regardless, this game should be amazing and I’m tuning in.

  11. jonjohnjonas says:

    Go Raptors!

  12. x says:

    BKN is a better match-up against the heat. . . and BKN also has higher chance of winning against the heat. so yeah, BKN in 7!!!

  13. jdub455 says:

    Breaks… and who hit open shots… who ever has the advantage on those on a game 7 will win… the nets though have a bit of an edge despite of the raptors homecourt bec of their veterans…

  14. BeReal says:

    It will be a close game, refs will end up deciding this game in Nets favor, no doubt.

  15. x says:

    oh yeah! do or die game! this situation was experienced by KG and paul pierce before, also by the nets last season. hope that they win this game. . . go nets!!!

  16. FrankL2010 says:

    Go Raptors! WE THE NORTH

  17. Henrik Jensen says:

    i have one factor as well, for ones in kidd’s coaching career, play garnett more minutes, come on, he is one of the most versitile defenders in the league, give him a shot now that you need him, then you might even be able to win it