Toronto was fortunate to have homecourt advantage in its opening round playoff series with New Jersey. It allowed the inexperienced Raptors two games at home to shake off their playoff butterflies. They didn't play particularly well in either game against the Nets but still managed to escape with a split after dropping the opener.
The plot should thicken Friday night when the series resumes at the Meadowlands, where Toronto was trounced by double digits in both regular-season meetings with New Jersey.
The Nets return home realizing they squandered a golden opportunity to lead the series 2-0. They gave up 31 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2 (including an 11-1 deficit at the free-throw line) and allowed the Raptors to score the final seven points in a contest that was an offensive mess from start to finish.
In fact, the first two games of the series were painful to watch. New Jersey shot .416 in the two games. The Nets defense checked the Raptors to .410.
New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank is hoping that a change of venue will perk up Vince Carter. The Nets go-to guy shot 8-of-24 in Game 2 as a sequel to a 5-of-19 Game 2.
Toronto coach Sam Mitchell switched defensive assignments late in the second game putting Anthony Parker on Carter; the ploy worked like a charm. Carter ended up going 2-for-8 with two turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Parker's brief defensive success prompted him to suggest that guarding Carter isn't as difficult individually as it might seem. Maybe that will be enough to get Carter going.
The Raptors were 17-24 on the road this year, and of the 16 playoff teams, only Washington, Orlando and Golden State had fewer wins away from home. They have lost 16 of 23 all-time at the Meadowlands.
Frank has warned his team not to think just because they are playing in the swamp again that everything is going to be peachy.
Toronto has 'covered' at a 49-29 clip on the road and it has cashed 15 of its last 17 on the highway when playing on Friday. However, the Raptors are 0-7 against the spread on the road after losing two of their last three games.
New Jersey is 11-3 ATS at home when playing six or less games in 14 days. Toronto can match that, getting the money in 15 of 20 on the road under similar circumstances.
The Raptors have knuckled 'under' in 26 of 41 on the road and in 13 of their last 14 outings after playing two straight games at Air Canada Centre. They have been on the low side in 13 of 18 against division foes and the Nets have followed suit in 32 of 49 against division opponents.
Five of the last six series showdowns in the Garden State have stayed below the 'total'.