Maybe Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov will get his money's worth from this year's team. Well, that's impossible since the Russian will pay about $80 million in luxury taxes, but it now seems like the Nets can at least win a playoff round or two despite the season-ending loss of All-Star center Brook Lopez. Brooklyn looks to win its sixth straight game Monday against visiting Toronto, and the Nets are 4-point favorites on NBA odds with a total of 190.
Division Lead In Sight
As disappointing as the Nets (21-21 ATS, 21-19-2 O/U at sportsbooks) have been, they could find themselves leading the horrific Atlantic Division by the end of this week. Brooklyn is only 1.5 games behind first-place Toronto entering this one and the Raptors seem to have hit a wall after playing well following the Rudy Gay trade.
It's the second of a back-to-back for Brooklyn as it won 85-79 at Boston on Sunday for not just its fifth straight win but the 10th in the past 11. Somehow the loss of Lopez, arguably the best offensive center in the NBA, has helped things. Defensively Lopez wasn't great and things have tightened up since Kevin Garnett moved from power forward to center even though KG is 107 years old.
It will be very interesting to see what KG and Paul Pierce have in the emotional tank for this one as Sunday's game was their first one back in Boston. Clearly that meant a lot to both guys. Garnett put the finishing touches on the win with a steal off Rajon Rondo and an uncontested layup to give the Nets an 82-77 lead. Neither Pierce nor Garnett really played all that well but they were pretty much cheered at every turn. Class move by Boston fans.
Star Nets point guard Deron Williams continues to come off the bench since returning from an ankle injury. He still led the team with 34 minutes played against Boston but had only seven points. Apparently that will continue for the time being with Shaun Livingston remaining in the starting five. Why mess with success?
Take a look at our NBA Picks of the Day for more free plays.
The Raptors (25-18 ATS, 22-21 O/U at sportsbooks) lost 126-118 to the visiting L.A. Clippers on Saturday in the second of a back-to-back for Toronto, which had been playing very good defense. Terrence Ross had maybe the most unlikely 50-point game in NBA history for Toronto, tying Vince Carter's team record with 51. Ross had 10 3-pointers. His previous career high had been 26. I'll bet my house he doesn't sniff 50 again in his career. Supposedly, Ross is the first player in NBA history to score 50 points in a game while averaging less than 10 points per game.
The news got worse for Toronto as leading scorer DeMar DeRozan left that game early with a foot injury. He didn't even make the trip to New York so obviously is out. X-rays were negative, however. That means more playing time for the likes of John Salmons and Greivis Vasquez, both part of the Gay trade. Reserve swingman Patrick Patterson has a broken nose but will play through it.
According to Nets backup center Andray Blatche this is "payback" time. Why? Brooklyn's only loss of the New Year was 96-80 at Toronto on Jan. 11 in which the Nets coughed up a 10-point lead. DeRozan had 26 points to end Brooklyn's five-game winning streak at the time. Patterson had 14 points and 12 boards. It was the second of a back-to-back for the Nets, who had won a draining overtime game over Miami the night before. So you could almost see that loss coming. Brooklyn is 2-6 in the second of back-to-backs this season for sports bettors. The teams also met Nov. 26 in Toronto, a 102-100 Nets win. Toronto still had Gay back then and he was lousy, shooting 3-for-12 with seven turnovers.NBA free pick: This smells like a possible letdown game for the Nets, but they can see the division lead now and won't squander the chance against a Raptors team missing its best player. We are backing a Brooklyn cover with our NBA picks as Toronto doesn't seem to like Mondays, covering only two of its past nine on the day.