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.

Tweet of the Night: J.R. Smith impressed by Iman Shumpert’s crossover on Paul Pierce

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The Brooklyn Nets are headed to the playoffs while the New York Knicks have been eliminated, but that didn’t stop the Knicks from dispatching their crosstown rivals once again, taking the season series 3-1 on Tuesday with a 109-98 victory despite playing without Carmelo Anthony and mostly without Tyson Chandler. In the three wins, New York has outscored Brooklyn by an average of 23.3 points.

Iman Shumpert had some particularly fine moments in the contest, including this off-the-backboard alleyoop and a deadly crossover that put Paul Pierce to the ground:

J.R. Smith was thrilled about the move during the game, and expressed his feelings once again after the contest:

Curry, Hollinger, Bledsoe and more around the league react to accomplishments and failures as season winds down

Magic Johnson, Kevin Love, Others Remember Jackie Robinson

James Park is the chief blogger of Sheridan Hoops. You can find him on twitter @SheridanBlog

Chris Bernucca’s Postseason Award Choices

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Image.AdamSilverTransparency is a two-way street.

For years, NBA media members – echoing the sentiments of its passionate fan base – wanted more transparency from Commissioner David Stern and his executive staff. Whether it was a lottery drawing, a suspension in the playoffs or a referee scandal, folks felt like they were entitled to an explanation. And they were.

Stern grudgingly came around. He arranged for the media to meet with referees prior to the season about rules changes. He allowed the media into the lottery drawing. He okayed press releases that admitted, Yes, we blew that call.

Since replacing Stern as commissioner less than three months ago, Adam Silver has taken the NBA’s transparency up a notch. He declared that there will be an open dialogue about officiating and is walking the walk by making internal memos available to the media.

But Silver is getting something back, too. At All-Star Weekend this year, the media presented the notion of transparency with regard to how its members vote on postseason awards, and the commissioner bought in. 

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PODCAST: Michael Scotto on Brooklyn’s Playoff Chances and Fixing the Knicks

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The Brooklyn Nets are legitimate contenders to dethrone the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference – whether or not LeBron James wants to admit it – as I outlined in my latest column.

As for New York, the futures of Carmelo Anthony and Mike Woodson will be impacted heavily if the Knicks fail to reach the playoffs – a likely scenario.

With the Nets seemingly entrenched as the fifth seed and the Knicks on the brink of mathematical elimination, I joined WFAN Sports Radio 660 AM and host Demetri Adrahtas. We discussed Brooklyn’s playoffs chances and the team’s x-factors along with a blueprint for Phil Jackson to fix the Knicks and what to do with Carmelo Anthony.

Here’s the podcast in its entirety:

More Basketball Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Sheridan Hoops Radio on BlogTalkRadio

Michael Scotto is a Sheridan Hoops NBA columnist. You can follow him on Twitter

DraftStreet Fantasy Spin: Wednesday, April 2, 2014

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draftstreet Paul Pierce killed my DraftStreet.com fantasy team last night. Just when I thought I found someone special for cheap ($11,277) he turns his play around and stabbed me in the back. But I’m a sucker for punishment and I’m using PP again tonight.

Last night at DraftStreet I fared pretty well but didn’t make any money. I was in the top 20% in a few of my pools and if Pierce would’ve showed up I probably would have won some cash.

Anyways, on to the next one.

Tonight I’ll be playing with a bonafide fantasy machine, that is when he’s not suspended or rapping on the side. Guess who yet? That’s right, DeMarcus Cousins.

Boogie, as he’s known to many, is the perfect fantasy player because he can score, rebound and block shots. I paid $21,008 for him but I think it will be worth it if he can stay in the game. Side note: Cousins only plays about 32 minutes per game, yet he averages 22 points and 12 rebounds a night, crazy.

My DraftStreet Lineup Today
Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 7.34.45 AM

 

 

Fresh off giving away $150,000, DraftStreet is running satellites for yet another $100,000 contest. Look for them in the NBA lobby for a chance to win a voucher to the NBA $100K Playoffs Big Score and a $20,000 first place prize. This one starts on April 19 and finishes on April 20, the two-day format being a wrinkle common to NBA playoff leagues. If you don’t have a DraftStreet account, you can sign up using this link.

Remember to register at least 10 minutes before the roster deadlines. Wednesday’s games begin at 7:00 PM EDT.

Wednesday’s NBA games

Detroit Pistons at Indiana Pacers
If Indiana lost would it really surprise anyone? They have been dreadful over the last three weeks. Sadly, I think they’re beginning to realize they can’t score and lost all confidence. If you want fantasy, you don’t want the Pacers.

Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks
The Nets are a better team with equal talent. New York is so terribly coached they risk falling from the playoffs with the second best scorer in the game.

Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic
The Cavs have been without Kyrie Irving on and off for some time now. Folks in Cleveland, thank Luol Deng for his services and say your farewells because the door won’t hit him on the way out.

Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards:
Jared Sullinger at $11,069 is a great fantasy option. He’s proven a lot of people wrong this year overcoming a back injury and being able to stay healthy during the latter part of the season.

Houston Rockets at Toronto Raptors
The Rockets are without Dwight Howard, look for Omer Asik ($8,262) to step up. Kyle Lowry isn’t playing, so keep him off your team.

Chicago Bulls at Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks haven’t defeated the Bulls this season and that isn’t changing tonight. The Bulls have been on a tear since January and the Hawks have been slowly on the decline.

Milwaukee Bucks at Miami Heat
Does this game even need a preview? Miami can make Milwaukee its puppet if they want but chances are LeBron James will only play a few quarters because it’s a blowout. If you’re looking for fantasy on the Heat, look at the bench.

Memphis Grizzlies at Minnesota Timberwolves
This is one game where Kevin Love isn’t a good fantasy option. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are a tough pair to score on and surely have plans to deny Love at the rim.

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs.
This is fun. The most well-organized team against one of the most exciting teams. Golden State stole a game in Dallas last night (literally) and have momentum, but wait, so does San Antonio, the winners of 18-straight.

New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets
Anthony Davis can score 30 all day against Denver. They will try but will fail to keep one of the league’s best young big-men off the glass. The Nuggets have fallen off this year, maybe they shouldn’t have fired George Karl.

LA Clippers at Phoenix Suns
The Clippers are having another great season with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leading the charge. Paul will play but Griffin is out. For Phoenix, Goran Dragic at $15,098 isn’t a bad purchase.

LA Lakers at Sacramento Kings
I hope Chris Kaman put Icy Hot on today. DeMarcus Cousins will be attacking him all night. An easy choice for fantasy is Cousins, as I mentioned above.

Click here to play fantasy basketball with me.

Brett Poirier is a contributor to Sheridan Hoops.