NEW YORK – If Dwane Casey has any concerns coming to Brooklyn, they aren’t about his players.
The Toronto Raptors have already proven they can handle the road just fine.
As for his boss, general manager Masai Ujiri, who figures to hear an earful Friday night?
“I told him I wasn’t going to sit next to him or anything like,” Casey said Thursday, “but he’s fine. He’s seen a lot, so he’s going to be OK.”
Casey is confident his young Raptors will be as well when they face the Nets in Game 3 of their first-round series, which is tied at one game apiece.
Some of the best action came before it even started.
Ujiri ended his comments at a rally before Game 1 in Toronto with an expletive about Brooklyn, earning a $25,000 fine from the NBA.
The lost money may be the least of Ujiri’s concerns if some of Brooklyn’s most passionate fans spot him in the Barclays Center crowd.
“Very, very eager to see how they respond to the ‘F Brooklyn,”‘ Nets centre Kevin Garnett said. “Very, very eager to see how they respond to this kid.”
The Nets are counting on the usual home boost in a building where they were unbeatable for two months during the regular season. Brooklyn won a franchise-record 15 straight games, tied for the longest home winning streak in the NBA this season, in February and March before dropping two down the stretch after they had clinched a playoff spot.
Yet home-court advantage hasn’t meant much in this post-season, where Chicago and Houston both fell into 2-0 holes in their own arenas, so the Nets realize they can’t rely too much on it.
“We understand that this is not going to be easy by any means,” Nets veteran Joe Johnson said.
“You just look around throughout the playoffs, a lot of teams have been losing at home.”
The Raptors were one of them, with the Nets winning the series opener. Toronto bounced back for a 100-95 victory in Game 2, overcoming its turnover problems by overwhelming Brooklyn on the boards and getting 30 points from All-Star DeMar DeRozan, including a franchise playoff-record 17 in the fourth quarter.
Now the Raptors need a breakthrough on the road, where they have lost 12 straight in the playoffs since beating Philadelphia in Game 1 of the 2001 Eastern Conference semifinals, and are just 3-15.
But Toronto was 22-19 away from home this season, a franchise record for victories and tied for the most among East teams. Casey knew the Raptors had learned how to handle the road in December, when they beat Dallas in overtime and followed that two nights later by handling Oklahoma City its first home loss.
“Being a young team, it’s very unusual, because I’ve been with older teams that some of their eyes get big in places like Oklahoma City and back in the day, in Portland,” Casey said.
“So again, it’s a trait they have that you can’t put your finger on why they have some resolve that they do on the road. But this is going to be the first playoff atmosphere that they have and it’s going to be exciting to see how they react under the bright lights.”
According to DeRozan, they act the same on the road no matter the circumstances.
“We understand, you want to call the underdog, whatever you want to call it, we go in there with that mindset. We feel like everybody’s against us and we’re out there to go against everybody,” he said. “That’s our mindset, honestly, every time we step on the road.”
The Raptors won in their first trip to Barclays Center this season, and they were the opponent in the first regular-season game there in 2012, so they’ve already seen Brooklyn at its best.
This time they will see it at its angriest – or at least, Ujiri will.
“I don’t know if their GM is going to be here or not,” Johnson said, “but I’m sure Brooklyn is looking forward to it.”