At 35-26, the Raptors lead Brooklyn by four in the division, and have won six of their last seven. Toronto has been able to withstand Brooklyn's 2014 surge thanks in large part to a renewed offense. In February, the Raptors scored a season-best 103.4 points per game (they're averaging better than that in March: 104.7). That's because they've turned the ball over far less. Their 12.4 turnovers per game rate in February was nearly a gull giveaway better than the month prior, and a drastic improvement from the 14.1 mark they turned in during the season's first full month.
Demar DeRozan is part of this offensive renaissance. He didn't play in the last meeting between these two teams, but he got back on the floor since January 31, and has scored 30+ points in seven games since returning. Since the break, DeRozan is shooting 46.6% from the field, and he's even gotten some long distance tries to fall of late -- three of the five he has attempted in his last three games. Also with a hot hand? Kyle Lowry, who, believe it or not, was almost shipped out of Canada earlier this winter. Lowry posted a triple double Sunday night against the Timberwolves, and will look to take on Deron Williams to try to give Toronto the breathing room they need in the East.
Meanwhile, the Nets know how much this game means to them. A win would put them three back of the third seed and give them their eighth straight win at home. They'll need the momentum to carry them through a tricky week before the schedule lets up a bit in the second half of the month. Don't be surprised if Brooklyn tries to play a faster game. Toronto is 24th in the league in pace, and their 97.1 opponent points per game in fourth best in the league, so the Nets might want t try to make an aggressive move early on their home floor to put the Raptors back on their heels . Both teams played on Sunday, so the fatigue factor should be a wash. Brooklyn had only 10 fast break points the last time these two teams played.
Key to the Game: The interior. The Nets have been outscored 82-74 in the paint in their two losses to the Raptors, but their one win against Toronto? Brooklyn was +20 (48-28). The Nets have to be tough at the rim, can't allow Lowry to easily penetrate, and have to control the boards. It's the only way they'll slow down a very hot Raptors squad.
Player to Watch: Marcus Thornton. Depending on how the banged up Nets come through after the shootaround and warm ups, Brooklyn may be shorthanded. Thornton could be called upon to play more minutes, and the way he's been shooting lately, that shouldn't be a problem. Thornton has proven he has the ability to take over a game, and the Nets may need him to do just that.