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NBA Preview: 15th December

AFTER a winning start to the week once again we look to keep things rolling in the NBA in today’s three-game slate.

Here’s the best value on offer across the association;

Toronto Raptors @ Brooklyn Nets

The Toronto Raptors head to Brooklyn to take on the Nets in a quick turnaround after their blowout win against the Kings.

After an indifferent start to the year, the Raptors are slowly starting to string together some nice performances and have won four of their last five games.

During this stretch they have been able to find some consistency in their lineup, which in turn has helped them get back to playing the type of basketball that makes them such a dangerous side.

Toronto are admittedly a tricky team to handicap from a metrics perspective because they have had such adversity with their lineups and performances that makes their statistics & league rankings seem somewhat underwhelming.

Over the past fortnight their defence has been solid – they rank third in the league in that span and have put forth a Raptors defence that better reflects that of a Nick Nurse coached team. Their emphasis on running teams off the perimeter and collapsing the paint on drives has done a good job at both limiting the frequency and efficiency of shots at the rim and on the perimeter.

While their defence has been the building block for their success, their offence is still yet to click. With a number of key players unavailable their rotations are paper thin and as a result have struggled to get production from their bench players. However, this has provided opportunity.

Big man Chris Boucher has been given his chance to shine in the starting lineup and has certainly held his own and helping to provide value in a position that has been a real weak spot for them this season behind Khem Birch and Precious Achiuwa.

It’s no real surprise that the Raptors interior scoring has seen a huge spike with Boucher’s presence given his ability to stretch the floor effectively, which in turn allows driving lanes for the likes of Fred VanVleet to attack.

One of the greatest advantages Toronto bring into this matchup is their ability to run a highly efficient transition offence.

We saw this in full effect yesterday in their demolition of Sacramento; if you let the Raptors play downhill they can put up plenty of points in a hurry. Pressing on defence and forcing turnovers will be key for Toronto here and if they can do that they should see success in finding easy buckets.

While the Nets record is reminiscent of what we’d expect from this team it doesn’t quite tell the full story for them at the moment.

Injuries and absences have certainly been a factor, and the strange regression from James Harden has certainly taken the shine off this team’s true ceiling and potential. That said, when they have a healthy Kevin Durant you’re always going to win more games than you lose.

The Nets have had a fairly soft strength of schedule and their record is definitely reflective of this.  They haven’t been able to impress against strong opponents, in particular top ten defences, who have really put pressure on the lack of scoring and creating depth currently available for this squad.

In games against opponents with highly rated defences they rate 30th in the league in spread differential and their offence rates slightly below league average.

Brooklyn are coming off a pretty heavy schedule playing four straight road games and will be their fifth game in eight nights. Toronto might be the ones on a back-to-back but I don’t believe the rest disadvantage exists for them here.

If Durant plays today this line should go up and present better value for taking the Raptors, but if he sits this is the best entry point remaining and the line will likely drop to around a 3.5 or thereabouts.

While I think Brooklyn will win this game (if KD plays), Toronto can absolutely give them a competitive matchup and I can’t lay such a big number with the home team.

Our best bet: Toronto Raptors +5.0 $1.93 at PlayUp


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