Raptors-Nets Preview

The Associated Press

The New Jersey Nets are missing a pair of stars, so they are hoping Kris Humphries can help pick up the slack.

Humphries has eight double-doubles in his last 12 games heading into Wednesday night's third matchup of the season between the Nets and the visiting Toronto Raptors.

New Jersey (14-29) is missing Brook Lopez (knee) and Deron Williams (sore right calf). Lopez is out a few more weeks while Williams could be back after missing the last two games.

Humphries, though, is averaging 15.3 points and 11.7 rebounds over his last 12. He had a career-high 31 points and 18 rebounds in Monday's 105-99 home loss to Milwaukee, becoming the first Net with at least 30 points and 18 rebounds since Derrick Coleman had 31 and 18 on Feb. 5, 1994.

Still, coach Avery Johnson felt New Jersey could have done a better job of taking advantage of the forward's effectiveness.

"Try to figure out a way to get Humphries double-teamed, and if he is double-teamed, we gotta have proper spacing," Johnson said.

Humphries never reached that level of play in three seasons with Toronto from 2006-09, never scoring more than 17 points in a game.

He played well last season in three starts against the Raptors (14-28), averaging 16.7 points on 56.8 percent shooting to go with 15.3 rebounds per game. These clubs have split two matchups this season, with Humphries making 3 of 12 shots for nine points although he has totaled 24 rebounds.

The visiting team has won each meeting, and that's not surprising since the Nets have been better on the road than at home. New Jersey has lost nine of its last 10 at the Prudential Center, where it's allowing opponents to shoot 49.0 percent - the NBA's worst home mark.

"My guys battle, they play hard, we know defensively we haven't been great," said Johnson after Monday's defeat. "But they're in games. There are no moral victories, but I can't hang this as the most disappointing loss. You see our guys, they're diving on the floor."

One bright spot is MarShon Brooks, second in the league among rookies with 13.8 points per game.

"We just got to be professionals about it and be ready to play Wednesday," Brooks said.

Toronto is without injured point guard Jose Calderon, but his absence due to a sprained ankle didn't hurt the team in Tuesday's 96-88 victory at Cleveland. Calderon's replacement, Jerryd Bayless, had 20 points and seven assists and helped hold Cavaliers rookie star Kyrie Irving to 5-of-17 shooting.

"He was my biggest nightmare," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said of Irving. "Jerryd did a good job of containing him."

The Raptors improved to 3-0 against the Cavs while going 11-28 against everyone else. They moved one-half game ahead of the Nets and out of the Atlantic Division basement.

Andrea Bargnani had 19 points, his most in three games back after missing 20 with a strained calf. He's averaging 26.8 points in his last four games against New Jersey.

"He's gonna bounce back pretty good. I'm not concerned about him," Casey said. "I want us to continue to grow as far as our offensive rhythm is concerned, and most of all keep our defensive focus."