Raptors-Nets Preview

All of a sudden, the Toronto Raptors aren't playing much defense.

Among the better teams in the NBA at stopping the opposition for most of the season, the Raptors look to rediscover that form after a pair of alarming losses when they visit the offensively challenged Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

First-place Toronto (21-15) had given up 96.4 points per game through Friday, but the Raptors played nothing like an elite defensive team in defeats to Chicago on Sunday and Cleveland on Monday. The Bulls' Jimmy Butler ripped them for a team-record 40 second-half points in a 115-113 loss before Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and LeBron James combined for 69 points in a 122-100 final the next night.

Cleveland shot 55.4 percent and went 17 of 33 from 3-point range. Chicago shot 51.2 percent.

"Until we get defense back into our repertoire, into our mentality, we're going to have a lot of nights like this," coach Dwane Casey said. "Somewhere the last couple games, we've lost our defensive thought process or whatever; we're more worried about touches than we are our defensive approach and until we get back to that ... we're gonna struggle."

Kyle Lowry continued his strong season with 23 points Monday, pushing his career-best average to 20.7 and recording his third straight double-double in points and assists.

The Raptors, though, were without starting forward DeMarre Carroll and his 11.7 points per game due to a sore right knee. Carroll had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday.

Toronto, which had won four of five before its last two, has dropped two straight to Brooklyn (10-24), falling 114-109 at Barclays Center in the most recent meeting April 3. Thaddeus Young had 29 points for the Nets, who didn't have to face the injured Lowry in that game.

Young had team highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds Tuesday, but Brooklyn fell 103-94 to visiting Boston for its seven straight loss at home. The Nets average 97.1 points, among the lowest marks in the league, and they also suffered a major blow in Saturday's 100-97 victory over the Celtics when starting point guard Jarrett Jack was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

The veteran averaged 12.8 points and 7.4 assists. Replacement Shane Larkin managed four points and two assists Tuesday and the Nets committed 14 turnovers that led to 20 points - though the giveaway total wasn't out of line with their season average of 15.0.

''If you want to make excuses, yeah. There's always a rationalization for anything bad that happens, both on the court and in life if you choose to,'' coach Lionel Hollins said. ''But I choose to say that we've got to keep working and getting better.''

Still, Jack's injury removes a key offensive option for Brooklyn - especially at the end of games.

''We're going to miss that about Jarrett because Jarrett wasn't afraid to take the shot,'' Hollins said. ''He certainly had enough confidence to believe that he could make them and he wanted the shot.''

The Brooklyn franchise hasn't dropped eight in a row at home since a 14-game slide Jan. 29-March 22, 2010.

Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, who's averaged 25.8 points in his past 10, scored 27 with eight rebounds and eight assists April 3.


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