Raptors look to continue home dominance of Nets

The Toronto Raptors can clinch the season series against the visiting Brooklyn Nets with a victory on Wednesday night at Tampa, Fla.

The Raptors, who have won their past 10 home games against the Nets, won the first game of the season between the teams 123-117 at Brooklyn on Feb. 5. The teams will meet again in the regular season April 27 at Tampa.

The Nets, who defeated the host New Orleans Pelicans 134-129 on Tuesday night, have not won a road game against the Raptors since Feb. 4, 2015.

Kyrie Irving had 32 points and eight assists Tuesday as the Nets (39-19 overall) improved to 16-12 in road games this season.

They were playing without two of their major stars Tuesday in Kevin Durant (thigh injury) and James Harden (hamstring).

Harden, who already had missed seven games, had a setback in his rehabilitation on Monday, and Nets coach Steve Nash said Tuesday he is out indefinitely.

“James, he’ll be back when he’s back,” Nash said before the game in New Orleans. “That may not be until the playoffs. It may be sooner. I don’t know. We have no control over that other than working as hard as we can to support him and getting (him) back to full health to play again.”

Harden is averaging 25.2 points, 10.9 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game.

“The No. 1 priority in some respects has to be survival,” Nash said. “We have to not overburden the rest of the roster. Everyone’s going to have more responsibility than they did in the past, and sometimes that can be too much exposure, physically, when you haven’t been used to that. So we’ve got to be careful, but at the same time, we don’t have a lot of options. So how do we navigate that? It’s going to be very tricky.”

The Raptors (24-34) know all about adversity. After going 1-13 in March, they are 6-4 in April and are on a three-game winning streak. The game Wednesday will complete a five-game homestand.

The Raptors have used an assortment of starting lineups. When they defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 112-106 on Sunday, they were without OG Anunoby (left calf), Kyle Lowry (rest), Pascal Siakam (left shoulder) and Fred VanVleet (left hip).

Regardless of who is playing, Raptors coach Nick Nurse adheres to certain principles.

“I want our guys to play the right way,” Nurse said. “I don’t know who’s in or who’s out or who is coming back when or whatever. There are some standards we would like to play to, and it’s as simple as that. It’s kind of the way we should probably live anyway.”

Lowry appears set to return against the Nets. The status of the others was to be determined.

There has been some continuity evolving with new centers Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie working into the lineup. Players such as Gary Trent Jr., Paul Watson Jr. and Yuta Watanabe have stepped up.

“We go out there and we play hard, and we play defense,” Nurse said. “We share the ball and we execute to get the shots that we want. Sometimes a lot of them go in, sometimes they don’t, but as long as you continue to work that way, let the chips fall where they may.”

–Field Level Media

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