Raptors, Nets kick off postseason in Toronto

By The Sports NetworkApril 19, 2014 at 10:02 AM
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(SportsNetwork.com) - Two Atlantic Division rivals kick off the 2014 Playoffs on Saturday afternoon when the champion Toronto Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets at Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors won the Atlantic Division crown for the first time since the 2006-07 season. Their last postseason appearance came a season later when they were bounced in five games by the Orlando Magic. That division-winning team lost in six games in the opening round to the then New Jersey Nets.

The Raptors were able to fend off the Nets for an Atlantic Division title and captured the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They battled the Chicago Bulls for the No. 3 spot and had the tiebreaker between the teams.

Toronto set a franchise record for wins with 48 and ended the season with nine wins in the last 12 games.

The teams split their four regular-season meetings with each team winning once at home and once as the visitor. The Nets are 5-3 in their last eight versus the Raptors, but Toronto is ready for its first postseason appearance in some time.

"We just gotta go out there and play. Study film, study them, and get ready for them," said All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan. "We know we can beat them, we beat them twice this year. It should be fun. We understand they're an experienced team. We got our advantages and disadvantages. It could go both ways."

The experience factor clearly favors the Nets with future Hall of Famers in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The pair won a title in Boston and were perennial playoff contenders. Nets' players like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko and Shaun Livingston also have plenty of postseason experience.

"I like right where we are," Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said after a season- ending loss at Cleveland. "A good place. We've been playing some pretty good basketball of late. We've rested and guys have gotten their work in at the same time of healing some of the injuries they've had - some nicks and bruises healed. Now it's time to figure out a way to win a game on the road."

The Raptors are by far the hotter of the two teams heading into Saturday's matinee, although they did lose their regular-season finale in Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks bested Toronto, 95-92, but Raptors head coach Dwane Casey played his reserves more than his starters.

The Nets dropped four of their last five in the regular season and fell from the fifth seed to sixth. Was it by design? The Nets will never say, but they did slip down the standings.

After a 10-21 start where Kidd looked a little lost on the sidelines, Brooklyn turned it on and finished the season with a 34-17 record.

The Raptors made a major splash during the season. They sent Rudy Gay packing for Sacramento and took off from that point. Toronto went 41-22 post-trade and played as well as any team in the Eastern Conference.

The teams have split the last six meetings in Toronto.


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