NBA Pick: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets – Saturday, January 4

  • THE MATCHUP: Toronto Raptors at Brooklyn Nets
  • WHEN IS IT: Saturday, January 4, 6:00 PM ET
  • THE LOCATION: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York City, New York
  • TELEVISION: YES, TSN

It would take almost two months in order for Caris LeVert to completely recover from surgery on his right thumb. However, that didn’t stop the Brooklyn Nets (16-17) from putting up wins. Well, err, until as of late.

With that being said, LeVert is expected to make his return tonight, and this is excellent timing for Brooklyn considering they’re currently on a four-game losing streak. But here’s the problem: They host one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the Toronto Raptors (23-12).

Back on November 10, LeVert would suffer an injury in a 138-119 blowout defeat to the Phoenix Suns. Since that game and his injury, the Nets have pulled an even .500 12-12 record. Before the injury in their first 14 games without LeVert, Brooklyn would put together a winning 9-5 tally. However, since a win against the Denver Nuggets in early December, the Nets have been dismal in their last 10, only winning three and losing seven.

Statistical Comparison: Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets

Offensive Production

Points-Per-Game

  • Toronto Raptors: 110.5 PPG
  • Brooklyn Nets: 110.6 PPG

Field Goal Percentage

  • Toronto Raptors: 44.8 FG%
  • Brooklyn Nets: 44.1 FG%

Assists-Per-Game

  • Toronto Raptors: 24.9 APG
  • Brooklyn Nets: 23.8 APG

Defensive Protection

Points Allowed-Per-Game

  • Toronto Raptors: 105.3 PA
  • Brooklyn Nets: 111.7 PA

Blocks-Per-Game

  • Toronto Raptors: 5.3 BLK
  • Brooklyn Nets: 4.8 BLK

Steals-Per-Game

  • Toronto Raptors: 8.3 STL
  • Brooklyn Nets: 6.6 STL

Rebounding

Rebounds-Per-Game

  • Toronto Raptors: 46.2 RPG
  • Brooklyn Nets: 48.8 RPG

Current Stretch

Winning/Losing Streak

  • Toronto Raptors: L1
  • Brooklyn Nets: L4

Last 10 Games

  • Toronto Raptors: 6-4
  • Brooklyn Nets: 3-7

Last Five Games

  • Toronto Raptors: at Miami Heat (L 84-76), vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (W 117-97), vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (L 98-97), at Boston Celtics (W 113-97), vs. Boston Celtics (L 118-102)
  • Brooklyn Nets: at Dallas Mavericks (L 123-111), at Minnesota Timberwolves (L 122-115 OT), at Houston Rockets (L 108-98), vs. New York Knicks (L 94-82), vs. Atlanta Hawks (W 122-112)

Team Leaders

Points

  • Pascal Siakam (Toronto Raptors): 25.1 PPG, 45.7 FG%, 81.3 FT%
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets): 22.8 PPG, 42.7 FG%, 80.4 FT%

Rebounds

  • Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors): 8.1 RPG, 5.9 DRPG, 2.2 ORPG
  • Jarrett Allen (Brooklyn Nets): 10.1 RPG, 6.7 DRPG, 3.4 ORPG

Assists

  • Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors): 6.9 APG, 2.5 TOPG, 36.3 MPG
  • Spencer Dinwiddie (Brooklyn Nets): 6.3 APG, 2.9 TOPG, 30.7 MPG

In that 3-7 stretch, Brooklyn has suffered an offensive decline. In those first 14 games without LeVert, they would average 108 points-per-game, and doing this off of solid 44.4 FG% shooting, and this includes productive shooting from behind the arc as well at 32.8 3PT%. With that being said, the numbers have went down a bit in the last 10 games — they’ve been putting up 106.0 points-per-game, and just hitting 41.3 FG% of their shots. From behind the arc, they’ve been knocking down just 29.2 3PT%.

It’s looking like LeVert is close to being back in action though, with him participating in practice on Wednesday and he would also be involved in a thorough workout afterwards.

“I feel good, my body feels good, so I can’t wait to get out there and help the team,” LeVert would say to the media before they would suffer a loss at the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday.

Before he would suffer his injury, LeVert was putting up some excellent numbers to start out the season, tallying 16.8 points-per-game. However, he would struggle in his last two games before he would go in for surgery, shooting just 6-of-23 combined.

Offensively, the Nets have been solid the last two games putting up 110+ points in each contest, but the defense hasn’t been effective at all allowing over 120 points in each of those games — that’s the first time this season that Brooklyn has allowed that many points in consecutive contests. They would lose both games. In the first, it would be a tough overtime decision to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 122-115, on Monday, while taking a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, 123-111. Brooklyn would have a nearly impossible time stopping Luka Doncic, and would be outscored by a 15-7 margin in the final 6:45 of the game.

“We didn’t get a stop,” stated Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie. “Obviously, that’s what kind of ballooned their lead and we obviously didn’t make enough shots to keep pace.”

With LeVert returning to the starting lineup, it appears that there’s a real possibility that can happen soon with him placed beside Dinwiddie, who would put up 19 points against the Mavericks and is averaging 25.7 points-per-game ever since Kyrie Irving was taken out of action due to a right shoulder impingement.The chance of LeVert’s comeback becomes even more likely if Garrett Temple is still injured. If he is and is forced to miss the game against Toronto, it’ll be his second straight game out of action because of a right knee contusion — Brooklyn believes that this injury is just a short-term nothing-burger.

Injury Report

Toronto Raptors

  • Patrick McCaw: Day-To-Day (Arm)
  • Pascal Siakam: Out (Groin)
  • Marc Gasol: Out (Hamstring)
  • Norman Powell: Out (Shoulder)
  • Matt Thomas: Out (Finger)
  • Dewan Hernandez: Out (Ankle)

Brooklyn Nets

  • Caris LeVert: Probable (Thumb)
  • Garrett Temple: Probable (Knee)
  • Kyrie Irving: Out (Shoulder)
  • Nicolas Claxton: Out (Hamstring)

In their last six games, the Toronto Raptors have gone a losing 2-4, and they were historically terrible from the three-point line during Thursday’s night game against the Miami Heat. They would go 6-of-42 from behind the arc in the 84-76 loss in South Beach.

The game against Miami was the first time that Toronto was held under the 80-point mark since January 20, 2017, and that would take place at the Charlotte Hornets. The 6-of-42 three-point shooing would be an absolutely dismal mark of just 14.3%. To make matters worse, they would struggle massively to get inside against the Heat, and couldn’t find a way around their zone defense.

“That was a frustrating game for everybody,” said a frustrated Fred VanVleet after the Toronto Raptors guard would miss 10-of-11 shooting the three. “It happens a few times throughout the year. I don’t know to that extent. But what are you going to do? We’ve just got to keep playing, keep shooting and try to find a way. We kept fighting until the end. They didn’t make much more than us. They made just enough to get the win.”

Leading Toronto in scoring was Serge Ibaka with 19 points, while Kyle Lowry was held to just 15 on 4-of-16 shooting. From behind the arc, he would only hit two of his 12 attempts. The 14.3 3PT% from the team was the lowest for the Raptors since March 11, 2017 — they would go 2-of-15 from the three-point line to hit 13.3 3PT% in that game. Their opponent: At the Miami Heat. Can someone say Deja Vu?

In the last 17 games between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors, the Raps have won 16 of those meetings, with the Nets just grabbing one win back on December 5, 2018 where they would win in overtime, 106-105, at the Barclays Center. This season on December 14, Toronto would grab a 110-102 win at home, with Pascal Siakam putting up 30 points in that game.

So, Who’s Going to Win?

With the Brooklyn Nets, they’re having offensive struggles, especially with trying to find secondary options for scoring — the Nets are hoping that LeVert’s return will be effective in improving that as the season progresses.

Spread:

  • Toronto +1 (-105)
  • Brooklyn -1 (-110)
Money line:

  • Toronto +100
  • Brooklyn -115
Total Points:

  • Over 216.5 (-110)
  • Under 216.5 (-110)

At this point, however, it’s not clear if he’ll be back in the starting lineup against the Toronto Raptors, or if he’ll be coming off of the bench to return to action. Right now, head coach Kenny Atkinson has said he might be playing both of those roles.

Toronto was completely suffocated in their loss against the Miami Heat, and honestly, I wouldn’t expect much more performances like that from the Raptors. I mean, sure, they would miss Pascal Siakam, Pau Gasol and Norman Powell that night, but Toronto is much better than what we witnessed on Thursday, even without them.

GAME FORECAST
According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Toronto Raptors have a 58.2% chance of winning the game over the Brooklyn Nets and their 41.8% figure.

With that being said, don’t expect Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet to consistently put up 3-of-23 on the stat sheet when it comes to their three-point shooting. It was just way too dismal, and completely out of the ordinary for T-Dot. Give me the Toronto Raptors to clean things up to deliver us a much better performance, and as a result, hand the Brooklyn Nets their fifth consecutive defeat in a nail-biter.

BETTING PREDICTION: Toronto Raptors 108, Brooklyn Nets 107

My Pick
TORONTO RAPTORS (+1)
Andrew Powell / Author

Andrew Powell has been working with The Sports Geek since November 2018 providing analysis and predictions in both the realms of sports and politics. Studying journalism through the University of Michigan, Powell's experience in sports includes tenures at mainstream newspapers The Williamsport Sun-Gazette and The Lock Haven Express, and he would also be affiliated with FOX Sports Radio 1340 AM in Hopewell, Virginia. In politics, it would include a stint with Mad World News and multiple with the Republican Party. From the Super Bowl to The Kentucky Derby to President Donald Trump's hair, Powell has you covered at The Sports Geek.