Playoff Preview: Lowry and DeRozan Should be the Focus of Nets Defense
The Nets and Raptors start their best of seven series Saturday afternoon at 12:30 in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. Toronto is coming off of a franchise record, a 48 win season, and looking to win their first playoff series in 13 years. Despite Toronto’s terrific season, odds makers still have the sixth-seeded Brooklyn Nets as the favorite to win the series, the only lower seed in any first round series to be the favorite. The Nets will not be taking this Raptor team lightly, especially with the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar Derozan front and center.
In four games against Nets this season, Lowry averaged 22.0 PPG, 6.0 APG, and 4.8 RPG. while hitting 13 of 27 from behind the 3-point line. His quickness and versatile offensive game were huge factors in all four games against the Nets. Nets guards, especially Deron Williams, had trouble staying in front of Lowry, enabling him to create easy scoring chances. The matchup problem spans greater than Lowry though because DeRozan has emerged as one of the more athletic shooting guards in the league this year.
The fifth year guard, DeRozan, set career highs this year with 22.7 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 4.3 RPG. The ability to play above the rim and consistently hit perimeter shots will cause Head Coach Jason Kidd to ponder different defensive strategies to harass this talented, yet inexperienced playoff performer. The obvious choice will be Shaun Livingston, whose length and defensive prowess have been integral for the Nets’ success since Kidd inserted him into the starting lineup.
A positive for the Nets is the fact that their strength in defense exudes through assignment recognition and cohesiveness, as opposed to individual shutdown mode a la Bruce Bowen. Livingston will give DeRozan trouble, but his Net teammates will do their best to converge on his drives, too. The Nets knack for creating turnovers should help with any deficiencies they have in the quickness department, not to mention Kevin Garnett in the lane acting as the last line of defense. KG missed two of the four matchups against the Raptors this season.
Regardless of how the Nets play it, Lowry and DeRozan will be the key to any series victory for Toronto. The offense runs through the guards, and Head Coach Dwane Casey has utilized their strengths brilliantly this season. The Nets experience should be an advantage, but the Raptor backcourt will have their say like they did in their season series. Expect Kidd to have a defensive game plan similar to the one his Dallas teams had against Kobe Bryant and Lebron James during their playoff run in 2011, strength in numbers. Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko, and Mason Plumlee will be sure to be putting a few hits and blocks on these two come tip-off tomorrow.
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