The Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors will battle against one another in a huge game tonight that will go a long way in determining who will win the Atlantic division in the NBA this season. Coming into this season it was the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks that were expected to duel for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. But with both New York based teams having their share of struggles this season; it has been the Toronto Raptors who have taken advantage.
The Raptors currently lead the Atlantic Division with a record of 35-26 and are well on their way to making the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-2008 campaign. While the Raptors sit atop their division and are third in the Eastern Conference, the Brooklyn Nets are currently in the sixth seed in the East with a record of 31-30 and sit four games back of the Raptors for the division lead.
With the offseason acquisitions of Hall-of-Famers, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, Brooklyn was expected to be a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference and pose a real threat to the Indiana Pacers and defending champion Miami Heat. With rookie bench boss Jason Kidd running the show, Brooklyn’s start to the season was less than ideal.
The Nets started the season with a 10-21 record and Jason Kidd’s name was being thrown around in headlines for all the wrong reasons. After demoting assistant head coach, Lawrence Frank, many thought that would be the end of Brooklyn’s season. However, Kidd and the Nets recovered from their rough start and went 10-3 during the month of January, earning Kidd coach of the month honors. Talk about a real 180.
Since the calendars flipped to 2014, the Nets have posted a record of 21-9 and are starting to look like the team that many people envisioned in the off-season. The Nets battle with the Raptors tonight is another opportunity for them to take one step closer to claiming the Atlantic Division crown and a favorable match up in the first round of the playoffs. It will not be an easy game though, as the Raptors have quietly put together one of the more surprising seasons in the league.
With a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night the Raptors earned their 36th win and surpassed their win total from last season. Since they traded Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in early December, the Raptors have become one of the most consistent teams in the league. They come into tonight’s game in Brooklyn on a three game win-streak with victories in 9 of their last 11 games.
Kyle Lowry has been a force to be reckoned with for the Raptors since the Rudy Gay trade and he had a triple double for Toronto in their victory against Minnesota on Sunday night. First time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, has made huge strides in his game this season and will be looking to prove himself against a fellow All-Star in the Net’s Joe Johnson when they match up tonight in Brooklyn.
In a game that is so important for teams, expect there to be a playoff atmosphere in the arena. Make sure to tune in tonight at 7:30 EST as the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors battle in the Barclay’s centre for the Atlantic Division crown.
Commentary by Eric Kummel