Nets-Raptors Preview


The New Jersey Nets' last game representing the Garden State won't even be in the United States, and the franchise already seems ready for the move to Brooklyn.

The visiting Nets and the Toronto Raptors close their disappointing seasons Thursday night, and the loser will finish in last place in the Atlantic Division.

New Jersey (22-43) played its final home game Monday, falling 105-87 to Philadelphia. After 35 years in the Garden State, the club will begin play in Brooklyn next season.

"I'm excited," said rookie guard MarShon Brooks, born in Long Branch, N.J. "I'm a little sad leaving New Jersey, but I'm Brooklyn ready. I have the whole offseason to think about Brooklyn."

Brooks, a bright spot over the past six games with an average of 16.5 points, led New Jersey with 18 on Monday in front of a rare sellout crowd.

"It was really just an eerie feeling, just some mixed emotions," coach Avery Johnson said. "And I think it finally hit me during the course of the game that this was it for us playing here in New Jersey."

The Nets' website already features the Twitter hashtag #HELLOBROOKLYN, and it's doubtful many of their fans will make the trip north to Toronto (22-43).

New Jersey has dropped five straight while the Raptors have lost four in a row. Both clubs are playing without their starting point guards, with the Nets' Deron Williams sidelined by an injured right calf and the Raptors' Jose Calderon out with an eye injury.

The similarities don't end there, with both teams getting injury-plagued campaigns from their 2010-11 top scorers. Toronto's Andrea Bargnani has been limited to 31 games due to a calf problem while New Jersey's Brook Lopez played only five games because of foot and ankle issues.

Third-year swingman DeMar DeRozan has been forced to shoulder the load for Toronto with Bargnani out. DeRozan showed some frustration as he was ejected from Monday's 92-86 loss at Milwaukee for throwing the ball after he was whistled for traveling.

"We talked about it after the game and it's a teaching moment for him," coach Dwane Casey said. "It's part of his maturity process. When you're the man on the team, you've got to be responsible for that."

James Johnson had 22 points and a career-high 13 rebounds Monday. The former Bulls first-round draft pick is averaging 15.6 points over his last five contests.

"I'm putting things together," he said. "Now that we have a couple of guys out I'm finally putting the pieces together and it's working out."

New Jersey has won two of three from Toronto this season. The Raptors, whose first game as a franchise was a home victory over the Nets in 1995, have won eight of the last 11 meetings in Canada.