Raptors return home to host Nets
TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors already have put most of their heavy travelling for this season behind them.
They defeated the Phoenix Suns 115-109 on Wednesday to complete a four-game trip with a 3-1 record and will play the remainder of their games this season in the Eastern and Central time zones.
The Raptors will be back home Friday night when they play the Brooklyn Nets at Air Canada Centre. It will be the first meeting of the season between the teams.
The Nets (11-16) will be playing the second half of a back-to-back. They lost 111-104 to the New York Knicks on Thursday at home.
The game in Phoenix was Toronto’s 16th road game, tied for the most in the league. The Raptors will be on the road for seven of their next 12 games, then will be home for 12 of their next 16.
“It’s weird, but I think it’s going to pay dividends in the long-term,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “Of course, you want to have a stretch where you go to L.A. when it’s super cold (at home), but we got our blizzard a couple days ago, so we ducked that. … It will pay dividends not having to switch time zones and going back and forth. You lose an hour, you gain an hour; that’s about it.”
The Raptors (18-8) are a league-best 9-1 at home this season, including seven wins in a row at the ACC.
They have won eight consecutive games against Brooklyn by an average of 11.3 points. Toronto swept the series the past two seasons and last lost to the Nets on April 3, 2015, at Barclays Center.
Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas earned his 110th career double-double Wednesday at Phoenix when he scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He is tied for second place with Antonio Davis on the franchise’s all-time list in that category. Chris Bosh is the Raptors’ leader with 239 double-doubles.
Valanciunas also made his fifth career 3-point shot against the Suns and has one in each of his past three games.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey feels there are more 3-pointers to come from Valanciunas.
“He works on it,” Casey said. “At some point in his career, he’s going to be able to go out there and be a lethal threat for us and really space the floor.”
In their loss to the Knicks, the Nets were led by Spencer Dinwiddie, who tallied a career-best 26 points, a season-best seven rebounds and seven assists.
“I was just fortunate to hit shots,” Dinwiddie said. “Last game I couldn’t hit the side of a barn, so today they went in and looked like a better game. That’s really it.”
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added a career-best 25 points and grabbed seven rebounds on Thursday, while DeMarre Carroll, who played two seasons with Toronto, had 13 points.
Nets forward Jahlil Okafor and guard Nik Stauskas, recently acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, had their second practice with the Nets on Wednesday but did not play Thursday.
The Nets will try to improve their 3-point shooting Friday against the Raptors after going 12-for-42 (28.6 percent) against the Knicks. They shot 44.6 percent (37-for-83) overall.
“Obviously we didn’t shoot it well, but credit to their defense,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “I thought a lot of our shots were contested, they were running us off the line and we were shooting those pull-ups off the dribble, which are much tougher shots, but I think they did a good job of contesting the 3-point line.
“I thought we could have drove it more. I don’t know what our drive numbers were. I don’t think we got to the rim enough, especially when (Kristaps) Porzingis went out (with a sore knee). We should have been at the rim more.”