The Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets were both perceived to have advantages that could influence the outcome of their first-round series.
While at polar opposites of the spectrum, those advantages have been a factor to some extent and offer insight into why these teams are tied at two games apiece as the series shifts back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
The Nets are comprised of older and wiser players with a been-there-done-that mentality. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett earned a ring with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Their head coach, Jason Kidd, is only one season removed from his playing career and won it all with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. The list of seasoned, high-priced veterans also includes the sharp-shooting Joe Johnson and point guard Deron Williams.
Obviously the Raptors can’t match that battle-tested experience, but they are able to counter with youth and, more importantly, athleticism, not to mention the high energy that goes along with that combination.
Fifth-year guard DeMar DeRozan has risen to the challenge in his playoff debut. His backcourt partner, 28-year-old Kyle Lowry, has finally found a home in the league, guiding the Raptors into new territory after spending time with the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets. Furthermore, Jonas Valanciunas is quickly emerging as a top-tier center and will continue to be a core piece in Toronto for many years.
Then there is Terrence Ross, who, like his fellow sophomore Valanciunas, has taken major steps forward in his development this season.