After battling for first place in the Atlantic Division, the (6 seed) Brooklyn Nets and (3 seed) Toronto Raptors will meet in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Both teams surprised many by making the postseason. The Raptors shipped Rudy Gay, one of their best players, to the Sacramento Kings, and the Nets were without their big man, center Brook Lopez, for a majority of the season (65 games). Playing in a considerably weaker Eastern conference, both were able to persevere through roster transitions and manage close to fifty wins. The Raptors finished two-shy, with a 48-43 record, while the Nets fell six games short of the mark, ending the season (44-38).
Led by Kyle Lowry & DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors are in position to challenge the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers of the world, but they’re an inexperienced bunch going up against playoff-hardened veterans led by Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, flanked by all-stars like Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Health has been an issue for the Nets, with significant contributors missing major minutes. If KG and Andre Kirilenko can stay in the game and off the trainer’s table, the Nets can pull the upset and advance to the next round. You won’t find any back-to-back games during the playoffs, and that bodes well for the ankles of Deron Williams.
Head Coach Jason Kidd went from a coach that wouldn’t last to the all-star break, to a strong candidate for Coach of the Year. The turnaround his team made was tremendous, and completely unexpected after his decision to remove Lawrence Frank from the coaching staff. Coach Kidd took his 10-21 team into Oklahoma City and played a Thunder squad that has every chance of winning it all, and defeated them 95-93 to start the new year with a bang. They’ve been on a run ever since that few could match this season. Since January 2nd, the boys from Brooklyn have only lost 17 of their last 51 games! Four more wins keeps them advancing in the NBA Playoffs, while New York Knicks… well… they’ve always got next season, right?
-Joseph Haas, HaasStyleInterpretations.com