The Brooklyn Nets’ only blemish in 2014 came at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, who got a solid performance from DeMar DeRozan in that contest.
Brooklyn won’t have to contend with the injured DeRozan on Monday night as it seeks a sixth straight victory, while visiting Toronto likely will be looking for Terrance Ross to provide another high-scoring effort in DeRozan’s absence.
The Nets (20-22), who have won 10 of 11 in the new year after a disappointing start, had their best defensive performance of the season and got 17 points off the bench from Andray Blatche in Sunday’s 85-79 win at Boston.
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Brooklyn set a season best for points allowed while holding the Celtics to 37.8 percent shooting from the field. It also marked the regular-season homecoming for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who helped Boston win the 2008 NBA title before being traded to the Nets in the offseason.
"This was the toughest game I ever had to play. Tougher than any championship game, Game 7. Tough to concentrate on what was at hand," Pierce said. "You get showered with love the whole game … every second of the game. I’m happy we got it over with and I can go back to playing basketball."
The Nets’ only defeat during their hot stretch came Jan. 11 against the Raptors, who got 26 points from DeRozan in a 96-80 victory. DeRozan, though, sprained his left foot in Saturday’s 126-118 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers after scoring 10 points in just over 21 minutes.
DeRozan, averaging career bests of 21.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists, won’t play in this contest and could be out longer for first-place Toronto (22-21), which leads Brooklyn by 1 1/2 games in the Atlantic Division.
"If I couldn’t perform or help my team, there was no point in me being out there," DeRozan said after Saturday’s contest. "I didn’t want to slow anybody down so I just decided I was not going to try and force it."
Ross did his best to pick up the slack, tying Vince Carter’s franchise record with a career-high 51 points while hitting 10 of 17 from 3-point range. He nearly doubled his previous career high of 26 set on Jan. 2.
"You don’t think about it once you try winning the game and you do whatever," Ross said. "You don’t really realize what you’re doing until it’s all over."
Kyle Lowry, who had 24 points in the first meeting with the Nets, said Ross’ performance ignited the Raptors despite the defeat.
"I’ve seen him shoot the ball before and with DeMar going down he stepped it up," Lowry said. "That’s what a team does."
Ross scored 14 points in the win over Brooklyn but had only seven in a 102-100 loss to the Nets on Nov. 26, as Blatche scored 24 and Joe Johnson added 21.
Johnson has struggled over his last two games, though, going 3 for 12 from the field and totaling 11 points. He averaged 22.9 points and shot 51.7 percent over his previous seven.
Brooklyn shot only 39.3 percent Sunday.
Patrick Patterson is expected to play in this contest for the Raptors despite breaking his nose when he was hit with an elbow Saturday. Tyler Hansbrough has missed the last 13 with an ankle injury and will be a game-time decision.