What to watch for against the Raptors

Jon Presser, Contributor

Tonight, the Nets take their NBA-best five-game winning streak north of the border, when they play the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. It should be a good game between two Atlantic division rivals who have started to play much better basketball of late after slow starts to their respective seasons.

The division-leading Raptors have won six of their last eight games, and 10 of their last 15, coinciding with the trade of veteran Rudy Gay and promotion of second-year man Terrence Ross into the starting lineup. Toronto has now reached the .500 mark at 17-17, and enter tonight with a three-game lead over second-place Brooklyn.

The Nets beat the Raptors in their one previous meeting this season back on November 26 in Toronto, a game in which Andray Blatche scored 24 points and the Nets shot 50.6% from the field as a team. Brooklyn has won four of the last five meetings overall between the two teams, but they’re only 14-21 in Toronto all-time.

kyle lowryThe two teams were involved in trade discussions earlier this season, but ultimately the Raptors were unable to find a suitable trade package for point guard Kyle Lowry, who is still on the team and expected to start tonight.

Lowry is averaging 15.9 points per game and 7.5 assists per game, and he enters tonight 9th in the NBA in APG and 11th in steals per game at 1.74 SPG.

Key Matchup: It’ll be interesting to see how the Nets match up with Lowry, with Deron Williams out tonight and Shaun Livingston playing a career-high 51 minutes last night. Five Nets played 35+ minutes in last night’s double-overtime victory, and fatigue may be a factor against a Raptors team that hasn’t played since Wednesday.

Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are young, athletic guards who could give the Nets trouble on the second day of a back-to-back. Containing that Toronto back court will be a major emphasis for the Nets tonight, who have been playing much better defense over the last five games, a key factor in their recent success.

Player to Watch: Despite being involved in one of the most memorable moments of the season last night, Mirza Teletovic only played 14 minutes against Miami, and the Nets may need to lean on him for a heavy workload today. Paul Pierce played 44 minutes and Alan Anderson 35, so we may see a lot of Teletovic in Toronto.