Toronto Raptors Take Out Nets in 5 Games, Move onto Face the Celtics
It is uncertain whether or not the NBA season will return, but assuming it does – and jumps right into the postseason – the reigning champions will begin their title defense against the undermanned Brooklyn Nets.
At 46-18, the Toronto Raptors overcame an array of injuries to own the second best point differential in the Eastern Conference.
While their offence has yet to find a consistent flow and really take off – due in large part to the lack of fluidity that has been attributed to by the massive heap of injuries – the Raptors have remained an incredible defensive unit. As a team they gave up the fewest points per game (106.5) and have the second best defensive rating (105.2) in the entire league. Holding opponent’s to the lowest three-point percentage and second lowest field goal percentage has helped transform the Raptors into a legitimate contender despite the offseason loss of superstar Kawhi Leonard.
If the standings are to remain as currently constructed, the Raptors first round opponent will be the Nets. As the champs begin this hypothetical scenario, they find themselves on the opposite end of the bracket from the hungry and dangerous Milwaukee Bucks.
So what sort of challenges do the Nets present for the Raptors?
The honest answer is quite simply not much.
A large part of the issue here is that one team is focused on the postseason, while another team has their sights on next year. The Raptors are eager to defend their title, whereas the Nets are led by an interim coach, are without their two superstar players, and as for every player that remains in the fold, they each have seemingly found their names get tossed around in trade rumours at some point during the season.
Defensively, the Nets are a top-10 team in the league, but on the other end of the ball, they struggle mightily. They rank 23rd in offensive ratings and without the playmaking abilities of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, have very few scoring options outside of Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. In LeVert’s credit, he has given the Raptors something to worry about, averaging 23.3 points across three games against the defending champions on 60-percent shooting from the field.
Otherwise, the Raptors have won the season series over the Nets, winning three of the four regular season matchups, combining for a +8 net rating across the four games. Moreover, the Raptors would be at full health for the potential playoff series, while the Nets have ruled out both Durant and Irving for the remainder of the campaign.
As per usual, the round one matchup is more like a tune-up, and the Raptors should have no issue taking it against the Nets in five games and proceeding to face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.