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 Day: Lack Of Playoff Experience Not A Concern For Toronto

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Amir JohnsonWith less than two days to go before the start of the 2014 NBA Playoffs, it’s an exciting time to anticipate all of the action set to take place. As one of the more surprising teams this season, the Toronto Raptors are gearing up to kick off the post-season with their scheduled match up against the Brooklyn Nets.

Despite clinching the Atlantic division and earning the three seed for the Eastern Conference, there are still doubts surrounding the inexperienced Raptors. This will be the first time in the playoffs for many of the players on this roster, but they’re not letting that serve as a point against them.

One of the more notable reactions being made come from Raptors Forward Amir Johnson. Taking to twitter to voice his thoughts, he asserted the confidence that he has in his team.

Tweet of the Day: Kobe Bryant Among Many NBA Players Reflecting On Season’s End

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Wednesday is the final night in the NBA regular season.

It brings with it a lot of fun and excitement, as all 30 teams are in action. It also features quite of a few games of great import, seeing as there are more than a few teams jockeying for position in the playoffs.

More than anything, for a lot of NBA athletes, it brings a moment of reflection:  An entire year of hard work is coming to a close. For some, the reflection is less inviting:  An entire season has seemingly gone to waste.

Don’t believe me on the latter? Check out Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant’s response to this season.

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PODCAST: Better to Finish 2nd than 1st in Eastern Conference?

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Would you sacrifice the possibility of hosting a Game 7 at home in the Eastern Conference finals if it meant a smoother path toward getting to those Eastern Conference finals?

That is a question the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat have to be asking themselves with seven days left in the regular season.

Bernucca: Have Pacers Lost Belief in Themselves?

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Believe it or not, there’s someone out there who doesn’t think the Indiana Pacers are coming apart at the seams. Lance Stephenson

“Everybody goes through this,” Spurs guard Tony Parker said last week after San Antonio manhandled Indiana, 103-77, on the Pacers’ home court. “I’m not worried about them. They’ll still make it to the Eastern Conference finals and they’ll still play Miami.”

Parker is somewhat right. From time to time, every championship contender has a stretch during a season where they look ordinary. Addled. Even awful at times.

Last month, the Miami Heat lost three in a row and seven of 11, including a home contest to Denver and a visit to New Orleans after which Chris Bosh plainly said, “We suck.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder welcomed back Russell Westbrook as they came out of the All-Star break and immediately lost three straight and five of eight, including a home loss to Cleveland and a road setback to the L.A. Lakers. The Houston Rockets were a pedestrian 8-8 in December, losing at home and on the road to Sacramento, at Utah and being blasted at Oklahoma City and Indiana.

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