After splitting the season series with the Brooklyn Nets at two games apiece, the Toronto Raptors still can’t seem to shake their high-priced foes and look destined to face them within the first two rounds of the upcoming playoffs.
Make no mistake, while the Raptors beat the Nets by 16 points at the Air Canada Center in the middle of Brooklyn’s 11-1 run on January 11, that’s not the same team that we’re talking about today. Like Toronto, Brooklyn fought its way back from a sub .500 start in the first half of the regular season to emerge as an Eastern Conference power during the last two months.
And along with fulfilling some of their lofty preseason projections, the Nets recently completed a 4-0 sweep of the mighty Miami Heat.
With the playoff seeding nearly set, rumors surfaced regarding Brooklyn’s strategy to intentionally lose the Nets’ final two regular season contests in order to slide down to the sixth seed and into a first-round series with the Raptors. It was taken by many as a direct shot at the Atlantic Division champs.
For the Raptors, an opening-round series between the Nets and Bulls would not only pit two very serious threats to Toronto’s playoff existence against each other, it would also land the Atlantic Division champs a first-round matchup with the Washington Wizards.
Like Toronto, Washington last saw the playoffs at the conclusion of the 2007-08 campaign, and actually finished with five fewer wins than the Raptors did last season. In their most recent meeting, the Wizards outlasted their hosts 134-129 at the ACC in a tough overtime-loss on February 27, but Toronto took three of four games from Washington in the season series.
If the Raptors had a choice, they would rather take on the Wizards than the surging Nets in the first round.