Brooklyn Nets: 3 things to watch in final meeting with Raptors

Brooklyn Nets Fred VanVleet. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Fred VanVleet. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets D’Angelo Russell (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

1. Beating Raptors could have a ripple effect

Besides the importance of picking up a win at home, the Brooklyn Nets have the opportunity to create a potential ripple effect with a victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.

The Raptors would be locked into the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference with a loss. By extension, that would clinch the top seed in the East for the Milwaukee Bucks.

If the Bucks should happen to win their next game Thursday night against the Philadelphia 76ers, it would lock up the NBA’s best record for Milwaukee.

Thus rendering Saturday night’s matchup with the Nets at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee meaningless to the host Bucks.

Considering Milwaukee has three double-digit victories in three tries against Brooklyn this season, any incentive for Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer to rest anyone with a hangnail on Saturday night is a good one.

Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has been dealing with a sprained right ankle, All-Star wing Khris Middleton is nursing a sore groin and the Bucks have other bumps and bruises as well.

Of course, Milwaukee can accomplish the same goal itself by beating the 76ers regardless of the Brooklyn-Toronto outcome, but this is a game the Nets very much need with a potentially ridiculously difficult back-to-back looming Saturday and Sunday on the road against the Bucks and Indiana Pacers.

Seeing that Brooklyn is a combined 0-5 this season against those two teams, anything the Nets can do to make their own path even slightly easier is essential.

The Pacers are locked in a death struggle with the Boston Celtics for homecourt advantage in the 4-5 slots in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket and that race is likely to come down to the final day of the season, with the 76ers on the verge of clinching the No. 3 spot outright.

So while it’s unlikely Indiana will have any reason to sit important players when Brooklyn comes calling on Sunday, there is a chance the Nets can help their own cause in Milwaukee by eliminating the Raptors from consideration for the top seed.

Brooklyn controls its own playoff destiny, but in order to maintain that control the Nets have to win the games in front of them. They can still finish with 43 victories if they were to run the table.

But in order to get to 43, a team first has to get to No. 40 and that means a focused effort against a very good Toronto club on Wednesday.