TORONTO — They don’t receive as much attention as Warriors guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but the Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry actually are the highest-scoring backcourt pairing in the NBA, averaging 49.6 points per game. DeRozan, who is known for his rim-attacking style, is averaging 28.4 points and Lowry, who shoots 44.9 percent from three-point range, is averaging 21.2 points.
Thanks to a schedule that is a veritable Murderers’ Row, the Nets (7-19) must tackle the Toronto pair Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre just before facing the Warriors’ Curry and Thompson — who are averaging 46.2 points — Thursday at Barclays Center and then traveling to Cleveland to meet the defending champion Cavaliers and LeBron James on Friday.
“We have a monstrous three games coming up,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said Monday. “It’s going to be a hell of a test. I do like that we’re getting more physical. We’re still not over the hump, but I feel like we’re trending in the right direction.”
The defensive burden the Nets face against the Raptors will be complicated by an organizational decision to rest center Brook Lopez, who did not accompany them to Toronto, for the third time this season to save him for the back-to-back set against Golden State and Cleveland. But Atkinson hinted that guard Jeremy Lin, who has been used off the bench for restricted minutes in three appearances since returning from a hamstring injury, might be ready for increased minutes.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” Lin said. “The staff has done a great job getting me healthy. It’s been around the clock at times, but it’s working.”
Lin smiled when asked how the Nets expect to handle DeRozan and Lowry. “We’re just going to have to come with it,” Lin said. “They’re about as tough a duo as you’ll find in the NBA of all 30 teams. The big men have to help the guards. It’s a team effort. The guards have to come with a defensive mindset for sure.”
Atkinson has encouraged the Nets to step up their physicality on defense. They crossed the line in a recent loss at Orlando when they sent the Magic to the line for 42 foul shots, but the coach said help from big men Luis Scola, Trevor Booker, Anthony Bennett and Justin Hamilton will be vital to slow down the Raptors’ guards.
“You can’t let those guys have space because they can pick you apart,” said Nets guard Sean Kilpatrick, who might be matched against DeRozan. “We have to make sure we’re being physical . . . Those are two great players and two All-Stars. You can’t deny that at all, but we have to compete.”
Lin agreed. “I would always err on the side of aggression,” he said. “I feel the one who hits first usually has a big-time advantage.”