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Game Day Preview: Raptors look to finish strong against Nets

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Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot happening tonight: Kobe is playing his final game, the Warriors are gunning for win number 73, teams are jockeying for playoff positioning, the Blue Jays are playing host to the Yankees, the NHL playoffs are starting and, most importantly, the Toronto Raptors are playing the Brooklyn Nets.

To be specific, 66 per cent of the Raptors are in Brooklyn to take on a professional basketball team whose best player on the court will be Bojan Bogdonavic.

It’s understandable if you’re having trouble hyping yourselves up for this utterly meaningless marquee match-up. According to the team, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll are all sitting this one out (they didn’t even travel to Brooklyn). That means the starting lineup probably looks something like this:

  • Cory Joseph, PG
  • Norman Powell, SG
  • Terrence Ross, SF
  • Luis Scola, PF
  • Bismack Biyombo, C

Tonight’s game is just about finishing off these final 48 minutes of regular season free of injuries, getting on a plane and getting ready for the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be at least a little fun.

The most exciting thing about this game will (hopefully) be our first extended look at Bruno Caboclo playing regular season NBA minutes. The 20-year-old Brazilian is officially two hours away from being two hours away.

Last time both Lowry and DeRozan sat for the same game, Norman Powell and Delon Wright went off for 27 and 18 points, respectively. It’s reasonable to expect even bigger games from the two rooks against an opponent barely above some of the teams they faced with the Raptors 905 earlier in the year.

Brooklyn, of course, is awful. They recently became even more awful by deciding to sit down their two best players – Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young – for the rest of the season in order to prevent them from running into one another and rupturing each other’s Achilles.

Regardless of the opponent, Dwayne Casey will push his skeleton squad for a full 48 tonight.

Keys to the Game

Professionalism from start to finish

The Nets are far from elite competition, but as the Raptors showed in the first half last night against Philadelphia, the late-season grind coupled with a weak opponent can cause guys to take plays off. There’s no need to kill yourself trying to embarrass the opponent, just get the job done and go home.

Feed the young talent

Tonight is the perfect opportunity to continue giving the rookies and young players some NBA run. At this point Norman Powell has proven himself and looks ready for the spotlight, but Wright, Bebe and Bruno have an opportunity to show how much they’ve truly developed.

Protect the three

Brooklyn is far from a stellar offensive team, but credit where it’s due, they’re ranked 13th in the league in 3 point shooting percentage at 35.2%, albeit on 18.3 attempts per game – 27th in the Association. The Raptors can’t let the Nets heat up from outside like the 76ers did last night, or the game could get more uncomfortable than expected.

X Factor: Bruno Caboclo

Because why not? The kid has been putting in work all season with the 905 and snapchat and he deserves to get some time in the big leagues. I wouldn’t expect him to come in and impact the game in a super meaningful way, but it’s the last game of the regular season and anyone who’s hardcore enough to sit through this entire game deserves a treat.

Now, on to the playoffs.

This post was written by Matt Jamieson. 

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