Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 7:00 PM
After Game One of the Eastern Conference opening round series featuring the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors, it looked like the composite postseason experience of the Brooklyn-ites was going to rule the matchup. Sure, they hadn’t played that much with EACH OTHER, outside of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett spending so much time together in Boston. But, at least the players (and head coach Jason Kidd) knew what it took to excel in crunch time and win playoff games.
Brooklyn won that series opener on the road thanks to a great fourth quarter. They got good shots and made them. Toronto was panicky, nervous, and a bit too worried about what the refs were doing. Mature was going to beat immature…and then take a shot at Miami.
Not so fast!
THE SERIES SO FAR
Game One: Brooklyn (+3) beat Toronto 94-87
Game Two: Toronto (-5) beat Brooklyn 100-95
Game Three: Brooklyn (-4) beat Toronto 102-98
Game Four: Toronto (+4) beat Brooklyn 87-79
Game Five: Toronto (-2.5) beat Brooklyn 115-113
Toronto has won three of the next four games, keyed by much better play in the final moments. When the Raptors got their heads on straight, their late-game disadvantage disappeared. Now Toronto only has to win one of the next two to advance, and take their own shot at Miami.
It’s amazing in the scores above how both teams seem to blow hot and cold at the same time…so that you can count on either a close low-scoring game, or a close high-scoring game. Scoreboard totals have landed on 181, 195, 200, 166, and 228…with that massive 62-point differential from Game Four to Game Five! In Game Five…there were extremes from the teams within the 48 minutes, as Toronto raced to a 26-point lead only to blow all of it. The amazing things that have been happening in the first round have been too numerous to count, so that barely registered.
Is Toronto now in the driver’s seat because home court in Game Seven is an ace up their sleeve? Or, will a new set of nerves appear when it’s time to seal the deal? Let’s study team strengths thus far in the matchup.
SERIES STRENGTHS FOR TORONTO
Much better at rebounding, with a +39 differential
Doing a good job of scoring inside the arc since the poor opener
Doing a VERY good job of earning free throws and creating foul trouble
Being the younger team may become a strength of fatigue hits the Nets this weekend
There’s a lot to like about the energy and passion of this young team. Sometimes it looks like it’s a group of Russell Westbrooks…with both the positives and negatives that implies.
SERIES STRENGTHS FOR BROOKLYN
Turnover category (+16 in differential so far)
Inside scoring (50% or better shooting 2-pointers in every game)
Like Toronto, also earning free throws and creating foul trouble
Experience was supposed to be a big one, but has gone in hiatus
If you study the boxscores, it’s very clear that Toronto took a step forward when they were able to cut down on turnovers. Let’s take those game-by-game:
Game One: 16 giveaways, and a home loss
Game Two: 20 giveaways, but they won at home anyway
Game Three: 17 giveaways, and a road loss
Game Four: 10 giveaways and an upset road victory to get back on serve
Game Five: 11 giveaways and a home victory
Toronto went 1-2 with a home loss during the 16-20-17 stretch, but then 2-0 with a road victory when turnovers dropped to 10-11. That would seem to be the key moving forward. Can Toronto play clean at least once in the next two games? If so, they win.
Game Six Vegas Line: Brooklyn by 5, total of 191
JIM HURLEY is likely to have a play in this game that’s part of a huge Friday NBA PLAYOFF PARLAY. Of course, San Antonio/Dallas and Houston/Portland are also being gone over with a fine-toothed comb for any edges that might present themselves. You can purchase the final word for Friday right here at the website with your credit card in the afternoon. If you have any questions, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to check on special combination packages that include this Saturday’s KENTUCKY DERBY and the rest of horse racing’s TRIPLE CROWN!
We’ll be looking at Game Sevens or baseball this weekend depending on what happens in all the Game Sixes. Be sure you’re reading the NOTEBOOK every day for important handicapping information. Then, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!