New Jersey Vs. Toronto
ONE - Eastern Conference
New Jersey Nets (6th seed) Vs. Toronto Raptors (3rd seed)
In this first-round match-up, the best team in a weak NBA Atlantic Division, the Toronto Raptors (47- 35), takes on the division’s second-place club, the New Jersey Nets (41- 41). The season series between the two ended tied at two apiece. On paper, both teams look fairly even, with the Raptors holding a 78.7% to 72.7% edge in free shooting. The Raptors look better up front, while the Nets are tougher on the perimeter.
In his first year with Toronto, center Rasho Nesterovic (6.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.1 BPG) has provided defense and points. He’s done well in tandem with power forward, Chris Bosh (22.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG). Bosh, who was sidelined for most of December with a knee injury, has looked good recently. In the final game of the regular season he played 36 minutes, scoring 23 points, grabbing nine rebounds, dishing off five assists and notching two blocks. From the outside, point guard T.J. Ford (14 PPG, 7.9 APG, 1.3 SPG), who had some ankle problems in January, has posted 19 double-doubles this season, including 13 points and 10 assists on April 14.
For the Nets, veteran point guard Jason Kidd (13 PPG, 9.2 APG, 8.2 RPG, 1.6 STPG) is still a major force. On April 14, he scored his 12th triple-double of the season with 13 points, 14 rebound and 11 assists. Kidd has the unnerving ability to be everywhere and anywhere. Guard/forward Vince Carter (25.2 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 4.8 APG), who has had two triple-doubles in April, creates even more havoc than Kidd. Up front, the Nets get solid rebounding from both forwards and their center, while small forward Richard Jefferson (16.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.7 APG) can score baskets in bunches.
Determining factors in this series include the pace and tempo of the game. If the Nets can continue to complete the quick and long outlet pass and score in an up tempo contest, then they will have the edge. Vince Carter returns to the hostile environs of his former club, which could lead to some contentious play. For the Raptors to win they have to slow the game down and box out and control the Nets’ dynamic backcourt. Home court goes to the Raptors, while the Nets have the advantage in experience.
Maddux Sports Series Prediction:
New Jersey Nets in 7 games.