Matchup: (3) Toronto Raptors vs Brooklyn Nets (6)
Regular Season Series: 2-2, split
Key Matchup: Amir Johnson vs Paul Pierce. The Raptors thrive by using their size and athleticism up front. However, against the Nets, it’s going to be interesting to see how that formula works against Pierce, who starts at PF for the Nets. Pierce is giving two inches to Johnson and probably a whole lot of athleticism as well, though, Pierce is an old savvy veteran who should feast on Johnson’s youth and inexperience. Whoever has the advantage up front may very well be the deciding factor in this series, and that may lay in the hands of both Johnson and Pierce, for their respective clubs.
The Skinny: The Nets’ bandwagon is getting awfully full. It feels like everyone is picking them in this series, and the only explanation that I can come up with is because no one in America has seen the Raptors play this season. There’s a reason why Toronto finished as the No. 3 seed in the East, and with a club record 48 wins. But Brooklyn has a “playoff-made” roster, right? We’ll see.
Brooklyn will win if: Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett turn back the clock. Pierce is going to have to win his matchup at the power forward spot and Garnett is going to have to help contribute something, anything on both sides of the ball. Sure, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson are probably the two most important players on the Nets, but contributions from Pierce and Garnett will go a long way in deciding this series.
Toronto will win if: They don’t show their playoff inexperience. It’s no secret that these Raptors don’t have much postseason experience. The advantage in that department clearly falls on the Nets side. Though, if the Raps can win that psychological battle, they should be able to prove their worth — and that they do belong.
Prediction: Raptors in six. Despite what America thinks.