Raptors-Nets Playoff Preview: Five Key Factors

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lowryThe twists and turns for the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors over the course of the regular season could almost rival those of the red and purple weddings on a certain Game show based in Westeros.

Brooklyn had championship aspirations ever since it acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on draft night, but ended the 2013 calendar year at 10-21, with All-Star center Brook Lopez out for the season, and searching for answers under rookie head coach Jason Kidd. While Pierce and Garnett were important in getting the Nets into the postseason, Kidd’s insertion of another offseason signing, Shaun Livingston, into the starting five is what really propelled the team on both ends.

Toronto’s aspirations were thousands of miles from lofty. Head coach Dwane Casey readily admitted throughout the season that the Raptors did not expect to reach the postseason. They offloaded Rudy Gay in a deal that most thought would get the team closer to Canadian prodigy Andrew Wiggins, not the postseason. But surprisingly, everything was coming up Raptors.

Kyle Lowry pushed past the dogged trade rumors and had a tremendous regular season. DeMar DeRozan finally developed into an All-Star scorer and lived up to his lucrative contract. Jonas Valanciunas continued his improvement. Native son Drake became a team brand ambassador, and the team took home the Atlantic Division title and the third seed in the East.

So that’s how the Nets and Raptors, and not the Knicks or Celtics, became the two Atlantic teams to reach the postseason. And now they face one another in what could be the most tightly contested series in the conference. Here are five factors you should look out for over the course of the next two weeks.

Roy Hibbert Receives NBA Officiating Memo, Plans To Be “On Point”

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Mike Bantom, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Referee Operations, is cracking down on a very specific point of contention.

The issue at hand? Verticality.

Secondary defenders are permitted to challenge an oncoming offensive player so long as they stay “vertical.” However, according to a memorandum sent to all owners, general managers, coaches and officials over the weekend, there has been a noticeable increase of players bending, if not breaking, the rule.

We have noticed that defenders have been turning sideways when jumping to defend
an oncoming offensive player on drives to the basket. This is illegal and referees are
being instructed to call this a blocking foul.”

The memo contained links to videos showcasing examples of rule violators, including Spencer Hawes, Jonas Valanciunas, Greg Monroe and Jared Sullinger. It also contained one linked example of a slight turn which is deemed legal, as illustrated by Alexis Ajinca.

In addition to those addressed in the memo, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert was also a recipient.

Scotto: Nets Want Raptors, Not Bulls in Playoffs

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1909fuhgeddabouditThe Nets and Bulls are on course for a potential rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series.

Is this the ideal scenario for Brooklyn? As they say in the borough, “Fuhgeddaboudit!”

It’s been a frigid winter in Brooklyn, and a trip to the “Windy City” could dampen any hopes of the Nets springing ahead to the next round.

Rookie Rankings, Week 11: Sizing Up the Sophs

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With the midway point of the regular season approaching, we thought it would be a good idea to give the rookies a Anthony Bennettbreak and rank the sophomores for two reasons.

1. It is a nice change of pace and gives the reader something new.

2. This rookie class is god-awful and we are running out of ways to describe how bad it is.

At the end of the season, NBA coaches are asked to vote for five players for an All-Rookie Team. We defy anyone who has watched this season to go five-deep into the rookie pool.

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NBA Rumors and News for November 2, 2013

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Saturday, November 2

Daily Trivia: Who coached the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA Championship? Answer below.