- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- The Brooklyn Nets are back home. In the regular season, that was a good thing. We’ll see how they fare on Friday night in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first round playoff series with the Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center. The series is tied at 1-1. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
For Brooklyn? The Nets were 22-4 at home after Jan. 1, good for the third-best home record in the NBA over that span. They won a franchise-record 15 straight games during that stretch. Kevin Garnett is eager to see the atmosphere inside the Brooklyn arena. He’s never played there before. There has also never been a game at Barclays Center after an opposing executive said “F--- Brooklyn” before. What kind of treatment will Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri receive from the fans? Surely Brooklyn will give him a Bronx welcome.
Swing game: We’re not sure how much these statistics matter, given that they occurred in the past. Nevertheless, there’s probably a reason teams that win Game 3 when a best-of-7 series is tied at 1-1 go on to win that series 76.8 percent of the time. Putting the Raptors in a 2-1 deficit would put all the pressure on them to win Game 4 on Sunday night. Lose, and the same pressure is on the Nets facing a return trip to Air Canada Centre for Game 5 on Wednesday night. Allow us to also point out that Toronto has lost 12 straight playoff games -- tied for the fifth-longest streak in league history. Again, not sure it matters, but if you’re an optimist, this should make you pretty optimistic.
Livingston in: Shaun Livingston has an illness and missed Wednesday’s practice and Thursday’s morning shootaround as a result. But Nets coach Jason Kidd says Livingston will play. Livingston is shooting 57.1 percent in the series. His defense and post-up ability are quite valuable. It would have been bad if he didn’t play.
Snag some boards, will ya? The Nets are being outrebounded 97-67 in the series. That’s bad. Really bad. One of the reasons they lost Game 2? How about a 52-30 disparity on the glass in favor of the Raptors. That, of course, prompted Paul Pierce to say the Nets were “soft.” Time to respond.
Other things we wonder: How will the Nets adjust defensively against DeMar DeRozan? He hit some tough, contested jumpers in Game 2, en route to scoring 17 of his 30 points in the final quarter. Brooklyn can live with that. It’s the drives to the rim that they can’t live with. Can Joe Johnson score against Landry Fields? You’d figure he’s going to want to make up for that two-point fourth quarter. Will the Nets get any positive production from their bench (36.8 percent shooting)? Will Deron Williams (37.1 percent) and Paul Pierce (33.3 percent) regain their shooting touches at home?
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1dMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo
16dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford