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Monday, March 10, 2014
W2W4: Nets vs. Raptors

By Mike Mazzeo

The Brooklyn Nets have a huge game on Monday night against the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors at Barclays Center. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:

The implications: The Nets (31-30) trail the Raptors (35-26) by four games in the standings with 21 games remaining. Brooklyn is riding a seven-game home winning streak, but has lost two of its first three against Toronto this season. The Nets should’ve beaten the Raptors the last time the two teams faced each other on Jan. 27, but Deron Williams had two turnovers in the final minute, which led to a 104-103 Raptors win. Given how easy Toronto’s schedule is the rest of the way, Brooklyn needs this game.

Walking wounded: Kevin Garnett (back) has missed the last five games, while Paul Pierce (shoulder) and Andrei Kirilenko (ankle) both left Sunday night’s victory over Sacramento due to injury. It’s unknown if any of them will play Monday night, which could leave the Nets extremely shorthanded in the frontcourt.

Surging Raps: The Raptors have won nine of their last 11 games. Kyle Lowry (16.8 ppg, 7.7 apg) and DeMar DeRozan (22.7 ppg) have been carrying the load, while Terrence Ross (10.7 ppg) has emerged as a threat since the Rudy Gay trade. Jonas Valanciunas (10.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg) is a tough cover for the Nets, and that’s where Jason Collins could come into play. Collins played really good defense on DeMarcus Cousins Sunday night, and has given Dwight Howard fits in the past.

Strange but true: The Nets are 5-1 in their last six games. During that span, they are getting outrebounded by an average of 46.3 to 33.8. But they’ve made up for that by collecting an average of 14.2 steals -- most in the NBA.