Believe it or not, the two longest current winning streaks in the East belong to the Raptors and Nets. Today's NBA odds opened Brooklyne as 2-point home favorites with a total of 205.
Raptors Hoping for No. 3 Seed
The Toronto Raptors (45-30) has won three straight, which has allowed it to catch Chicago for the No. 3 seed in the East. Getting the No. 3 looks much better than the No. 4 because the No. 3 likely plays Milwaukee in the first round while the No. 4 almost surely will get a dangerous Wizards club in Round 1. If the Raptors and Bulls were to finish with the same record, the Raptors would win the tiebreaker because they are a division champion (presuming Chicago doesn't catch Cleveland for the Central title).
The Raptors are not expected to have All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry again for this game. He has missed the past four with a back injury and the team isn't going to put him on the floor until he's 100 percent ready for the playoffs. Lowry is averaging 17.9 points, 6.9 assists and 4.6 rebounds this season and 14.3 points, 10.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds in three games against the Nets. Toronto is 5-4 overall without Lowry this season.
Defense has been a big reason why Toronto has won three straight as no team has scored in triple digits. The Raptors are holding opponents to 92.7 points the last three games (fourth in the NBA) and a .429 shooting percentage (sixth in the NBA). OK, two of the wins weren't very impressive as they were against the Lakers and Timberwolves, two of the NBA's worst clubs. But Monday's 99-96 home victory over Houston certainly was quality. DeMar DeRozan had a career-high 42 points in that one, capping off a big March (23.9 ppg).
For the season, the Raptors are 35-39-1 against the NBA betting spread and 42-33 'over/under.'
Nets Playing Best Ball of Season
Brooklyn (34-40) has won a season-high five straight games to catch Miami for the No. 7 seed. Actually, getting No. 7 might be a bad thing because that seed likely faces Cleveland in the playoffs, while the No. 8 gets Atlanta -- no offense to the Hawks.
The Nets have allowed just one opponent to score triple digits in the winning streak and they have hit the century mark in each of the past four. Brooklyn blew a 16-point lead on Wednesday at the Knicks but won it 100-98 on a Brook Lopez tip-in in the final seconds. Lopez has been one of the East's best players for a few weeks. He's averaging 24.1 points on .617 percent shooting, grabbing 9.0 rebounds and blocking 2.8 shots over the past 10 games. And to think the Nets nearly traded him to Oklahoma City at the February deadline. Lopez holds a $16.7 million player option for next season. Before this hot streak it was presumed he would take it, but now maybe he opts out.
While the Nets have won nine of their past 11 overall, just one has come over a team with a winning record -- although that was Cleveland. Starting Friday, six of the Nets' final eight are vs. teams currently above .500. Brooklyn is 35-37-2 against the spread this season and 33-41 'over/under' on NBA odds.
Toronto leads 2-1 and look to win the season series vs. the Nets franchise for the first time since 2009-10. The first meeting was Dec. 17 in Toronto, with the Raptors rolling to a 105-89 victory as 12.5-point favorites at sportsbooks. That was the first meeting between the teams since the Nets beat the Raptors in seven games in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. Lowry led Toronto with 20 points and 12 assists in the victory. It was the second of a back-to-back for Brooklyn. On Jan. 30 in Brooklyn, the Raptors were -7.5 and won 127-122 in overtime. DeRozan had 26 points and Amir Johnson the tying dunk late in regulation and the go-ahead points late in the OT. Lopez had 35 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets. On Feb. 4 in Toronto, the Raptors were 7.5-point favorites again but lost 109-93. It was Toronto's first loss against an Atlantic Division foe all season. There could be some payback coming for DeRozan as he was ejected late in that game for a cheap foul on the Nets' Bojan Bogdanovic.
NBA Betting Verdict
This game should be close as the past four regular-season meetings in Brooklyn have been decided by five points or fewer. This NBA pick is easy though with how Lopez is playing and no Lowry. The Nets have covered five of the past six meetings.
NBA Free Picks: Give the points and go 'under' the total listed at Pinnacle Sportsbook.