On Friday, April 18, NBA.com’s Ian Harrison explains how the Toronto Raptors are considered the weakest Eastern Conference team in the 2014 NBA playoffs despite winning a franchise-record 48 games. Today, the Atlantic Division champs will try and prove doubters wrong when they host the Brooklyn Nets in a game that will be televised nationally and streaming live on ESPN’s family of networks.
The Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, will be the site for Game 1 of this best-of-seven series between the third-seeded Raptors and Nets, who come in as the No.6 team in the tournament. Opening tipoff is scheduled for 12:40 p.m. EST (11:40 a.m. CST/10 a.m. MST/9:40 a.m. PST), will be broadcast on ESPN and streaming live via the Watch-ESPN (online) application.
For Brooklyn, so much has been made of this team’s lackluster finish that today’s opener will be a good barometer of the Nets’ state of mind, as well as Jason Kidd’s abilities as a first-year head coach. An ESPN report from April 19 details their recent struggles, caused partially by Kidd’s decision to rest his starters down the stretch.
“We had a plan from training camp, and we stuck with the plan throughout the year,” said the former 10-time NBA All-Star when asked if his team had “tanked” in the late going. “We dealt with injuries, we kept minutes down, we never went away from the game plan or the big picture, and we felt we would be the No. 3, 4, 5 or 6 seed and we would have to find a way to win a playoff series no matter who the opponent is.”
Kidd’s first-round opponent will be a team with as much, if not more, skepticism surrounding its postseason success. Dwane Casey’s Raptors not only represent the franchise’s first playoff team in six years, but also understand what all the fuzz is about, and therefore, embrace the challenge.
Furthermore, if comments made by the San Francisco, Calif., native in an April 17 report mean anything, the mere possibility that Kidd was angling for a Nets-Raptors matchup serves as motivation for everyone in the locker room.
“It would tick me off if that was the case. If they did, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for,” Casey said. “For us, we were going to take whoever came to us, whether it was Brooklyn or Washington or Charlotte. We were prepared for all three teams.”
Which team will rise to the challenge and silence its critics in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference first-round series? According to NBA oddsmakers at ESPN.com, a long-range bucket favors the Toronto Raptors [-3] versus the Brooklyn Nets [+3], and the OVER/UNDER is set at a combined total of 193 points this afternoon.
Don’t miss what is sure to be an exciting contest between two teams with plenty to prove. Tune to ESPN at 12:30 p.m. to watch the Nets battle the Raptors, or simply visit Watch-ESPN to watch a free live stream feed of this 2014 NBA playoffs opener.