Yet let’s not sell Toronto short, they set a franchise record for victories with 48 and won the Atlantic Division for the second time ever, earning a No. 3 seed. This will be their first playoff appearance in six years and they will be closely scrutinized by NBA basketball handicappers.
Built to Win Now
In spite of having a head coach with no previous experience, the Nets ownership rolled the dice with Jason Kidd. Brooklyn started the season 5-14 and appeared doomed from the start.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce played like they were in the twilight of their careers; Deron Williams and Brook Lopez could not stay healthy and the Nets had about as much chemistry and trust with each other as Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”.
Eventually, Brooklyn figured how to play together and from the start of 2014 to Apr. 8, the Nets were 33-13 and a very trustworthy wager with NBA picks at 30-16 ATS.
While it has been widely discussed they participated in tomfoolery like Kidd pretending to spill water on the floor earlier this season, in losing four of the last five to avoid Chicago in the first round, Brooklyn has the matchup they wanted and Garnett and Pierce have played in a combined 267 postseason games compared to Toronto’s complete roster at 156.
Consistency and Depth Matter
The general consensus among those looking over the NBA odds was the Atlantic Division was going to be won by default. Most sportsbooks and preseason magazines had Toronto finishing third in the division and when they traded Rudy Gay, it looked like a salary dump and another year in the lottery.
However, removing Gay and his poor shot selection and lack of defense made the Raptors a better team. Toronto finished seventh in points allowed this season at 98.0 per game and was one of only three teams to finish in the Top 10 in the metric – Offensive Efficiency. (The Spurs and Clippers were the other two)
DeMar DeRozan has grown into a true star at shooting guard and Kyle Lowery is a far better than average point guard.
Coach Dwane Casey also has a good bench that he can depend on without significant drop off.
Toronto never got flustered and since Jan. 8, they lost two consecutive games only twice and rang up 32 victories, playing .653 winning percentage basketball.
The NBA odds series price was Brooklyn as +100 and within 60 minutes of release, they were changed to -120. These teams split four games with each squad winning a road contest.
You cannot underestimate the importance of playoff experience. Besides Garnett and Pierce, Williams and Joe Johnson have been through the wars and what he lacks in coaching experience; Kidd knows a thing or two about the playoffs.
The Nets have been playing “different” lineups down the stretch looking to create mismatches and they will undoubtedly to the same against the Raptors.
Coach Casey will have to find solutions for the Nets changeup lineups. What would help is if Toronto can own the glass with big man Jonas Valanciunas and others up front.
This would allow the Raptors to control tempo on both sides of the floor and work the ball to find the shots on the floor they prefer. Toronto players also feel they have something to prove, not being respected when these teams convened in the regular season and according to Raptors players, an undertone of Brooklyn acting superior, despite having the poorer record.
Too much experience for Brooklyn and ultimately the matchup problems will undo Toronto in a hotly-contested long series.
NBA Basketball Series Free Pick: Brooklyn in seven