After a defensive battle in game four, the Toronto Raptors will host a pivotal game five against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. With the series tied at two, both teams will be looking to swing the momentum in their favor with a victory in game five.
For the Raptors to come away with the win in game five, they will need to control the pace of the game. Coming into this first round series, much of the outside chatter surrounded the Brooklyn Nets and their veteran leadership and playoff savvy.
What has not been talked about as much is the area’s where the Raptors hold the edge over the Nets. While the Raptors do have substantially less playoff experience than the Nets, the reason for that is because of the team’s youth. The Raptor’s have two sophomore players in their starting line up and overall have one of the youngest rosters in the league.
While the Raptors have one of the most youthful rosters in the league, the Nets one of the oldest. If the Raptors are able to take advantage of their athleticism and run the floor, they will have a good opportunity to take a 3-2 victory in the series.
Terrence Ross is arguably the most athletic player on the Raptors, and he is due for a breakout game. Ross had a terrific regular season for the Raptors, but has struggled in his first four playoff games. While he has provided solid perimeter defense on Joe Johnson at times, Ross has not been able to find his shooting range.
Ross has scored just 10 points in all four games combined against Brooklyn. Despite his struggles, Ross has proven that he can be a streaky shooter, and it may only take a few fast break dunks to get him back on track.
For the Brooklyn Nets, they will want to get out to a much better start than they did in game four. The Nets struggled shooting the ball early in game four and the Raptors snowballed that into a 35-22 lead after the first quarter.
While the Nets were able to recover from their early deficit in game four, it will be a different story on the road in game five. With a roaring home crowd behind them, the Raptors may not give up a lead so easily.
Brooklyn will also need more from Joe Johnson and Deron Williams. After combining for 51 points in their game three victory, the Nets starting backcourt combined for just 17 points in their game four loss. The Nets will also need to contain DeMar DeRozan if they to secure a win in game five.
DeRozan is most comfortable shooting jump shots in rhythm. If the Nets defense is able to force DeRozan into taking a few dribbles before his shot, it will become more difficult for him to score.
Most people expected this opening round series to be competitive and last at least six games. Well now the Raptors and Nets are down to a best of three to determine who fill face the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in round two. With the way the first four games have ended, it’s looking like these guys might go the full distance.
Commentary By Eric Kummel