Brooklyn Nets v Toronto Raptors

NBA Playoff Preview: Brooklyn Nets vs. Toronto Raptors

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REGULAR SEASON RECORDS

Brooklyn Nets: 44-38 (6 seed)

Toronto Raptors: 48-34 (3 seed)

KEY INJURIES

None.

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possessions)

Brooklyn Nets: Offense 104.4 (14th in the NBA), Defense 104.9 (19th in the NBA)

Toronto Raptors: Offense 105.8 (9th in the NBA), Defense 102.4 (9th in the NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1. The Deron Williams – Kyle Lowry matchup: Kyle Lowry has been a key contributor in the Raptors’ return to the postseason for the first time since 2008, and he may be the best individual player in the series. Deron Williams, meanwhile, has had an inconsistent season in part due to injuries, and in part due to not being needed to carry the load nightly on a veteran Nets team. Williams will need to help slow Lowry defensively and keep pace in running his team from a numbers standpoint. At the very least, Brooklyn’s team defense needs to contain Lowry and prevent him from taking over at times the way he’s proven capable of doing throughout the regular season.

2. Experience vs. Exuberance: The Nets have a veteran roster built for the postseason, with players like Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett who have been there many times before. Toronto, meanwhile, has three starters who have never tasted the postseason. Jason Kidd has been there as a player, but has never had to make the adjustments necessary that a seven-game series requires from a head coach, while Dwane Casey has postseason experience coaching as an assistant, most recently on the 2011 Mavericks squad that won the title.

3. The best of the best: This may be one of the more competitive first round matchups, regardless of conference. The Raptors have the best record in the East since trading Rudy Gay in December, while the Nets have the best record in the conference since Jan. 1. The teams split the regular season series at two games apiece. This is a matchup between two teams who got used to winning essentially the entire second half of the season, and neither one is going to be an easy out.

PREDICTION

The postseason is where the Nets having that huge payroll will pay dividends. They have three guys that can take the game over offensively on any given night in Johnson, Williams and Pierce, and developed role players throughout the season that can provide what’s needed on both ends of the floor to simply get the job done. It won’t be easy, but this series will prepare Brooklyn for the challenge that awaits in the later rounds, and the Nets’ experience will end up being the difference.

Nets in 6.

Kobe Bryant with spin move around LeBron James (VIDEO)

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The game itself went about how you’d expect one between a title contender and a high lottery team to go — the Cavaliers 120-111 win over the Lakers was never really in doubt.

But the fans in Cleveland wanted to see some vintage Kobe Bryant, and they got it late when he spun around LeBron James and hit the reverse lay-up.

LeBron had 29 points on the night, and Kyrie Irving had 35. Kobe finished with 17 and got a standing ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Suns’ Markieff Morris, Archie Goodwin get in scuffle on the bench

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Just another magical day in the Valley of the Sun, where clearly Jeff Hornacek was the problem….

During an early timeout in the Suns’ game at Golden State, Markieff Morris tried to explain something to Archie Goodwin, who is seated. This conversation gets heated quickly, and teammates eventually have to step in and separate the two teammates.

The Suns have shopped Morris around as the trade deadline approaches, this isn’t going to help his value.

We should find out more about what happened after the game ends, although I’m sure both sides will play it down as “nothing.”

Kawhi Leonard drains game winner to beat Orlando (VIDEO)

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This is how much Gregg Popovich trusts Kawhi Leonard on offense now: Tie game with 13.3 seconds remaining, and the play design is a 1-4 flat isolation for Leonard. It’s the kind of play teams will call for LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Popovich just called it for Leonard.

And he was rewarded with a game-winning bucket.

Leonard finished with 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 21, and the Spurs head into the All-Star break with a 45-8 record, on pace to win 70 games this season. And that still would only get them a two seed.

Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffers shoulder dislocation, leaves game

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had been back just six games after suffering a torn labrum in the preseason that required surgery. The Hornets had won four of those six, were playing improved defense, and looked like a potential playoff team in the East.

Now this.

He went straight to the locker room and did not return to the game (the Pacers got the win).

You can see the injury above. In a scramble for a loose ball, the Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi falls on MKG’s arm, dislocating his shoulder.

We don’t know the severity of all this and if MKG is going to miss time beyond this game. But it isn’t good.