- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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THE GREAT AVENGERS: The Nets (20-22) are 1 1/2 games behind the Raptors (22-21). After winning five straight, Brooklyn is 10-1 in January -- the only loss in Toronto Jan. 11. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Nets are the first team to start January 10-1 or better in back-to-back seasons since the 1995-96/1996-97 Chicago Bulls (11-0, 10-1). That’s pretty darn good company. Also: With a 10-1 record in January, the Nets have already clinched their best January winning percentage in their NBA history (38 years). Hmm ... sounds like Jason Kidd has a pretty good shot at this Coach of the Month award for January, huh?
MOVING ON: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett made their emotional return to Boston Sunday night. The tributes and the ovations for them were great. The game was ugly. Still, the Nets won. They are holding their opponents to 100.4 points per 100 possessions since Jan. 2, the fourth-best defensive efficiency rating in the NBA over that span. They are 8-0 when starting Shaun Livingston, Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson, Pierce and Garnett, so there’s no reason to change anything, which means a fifth straight game of Deron Williams anchoring the second unit. Johnson is just 3-for-12 in his last two games, but the reserves have picked the starters up.
THE BIG THING IS ...: The Raptors won’t have leading scorer DeMar DeRozan (21.8 points per game), who didn’t travel due to an ankle injury. High-flying swingman Terrance Ross is coming off a franchise-record tying performance in which he poured in 51 points.
7dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo