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Game 1 Breakdown: The Raptors made it look easy

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Yes, despite even a brave run from the Brooklyn Nets in the second half, the Raptors still had Game 1 in hand the whole way. Let’s get into some numbers.

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Not much in way of analysis to be had from this one, right?

The Raptors came out strong against the Nets in Game 1 of their 2020 NBA playoffs, blew open a huge lead, let off the gas in the second half and eventually turned it back on when they needed to, on their way to a 24-point win.

But we’ll try to dig out something of value to take from that game. A lesson to learn, an interesting trend, something. Hard to learn from big wins. But try we shall.

The Starters are... Still Good

The Raptors built a 30+ point lead before slowly giving most of it back, and a lot of the giving back came with their elite starting lineup on the court. One would think that perhaps that meant that overall they didn’t perform well.

Nope.

On the night, the five starters’ plus-minus was:

Gasol: +7
Siakam: +10
FVV: +14
OG: +18
Lowry: +26 (!)

The interesting twist on those numbers? On the season, the same five players have the following net ratings (plus-minus per 100 possessions):

Gasol: +10.1
Siakam: +8.8
FVV: +4.8
OG: +6.2
Lowry: +6.0

So the two guys who found the least success in this game, have been Toronto’s most successful all season long. In case that was something you found a way to be worried about after a win like that (never underestimate the fears of a Raptors fan).

The starting lineup as a whole managed the following this game (listed beside their full season values for comparison):

Lineup | Minutes Played | ORTG | DRTG | RTG

Starters (regular season): 361 MP, 110.9, 98.1, +12.9
Starters (Game 1): 19 MP, 114.3, 104.9, +9.4

ORTG: Offensive rating, points scored per 100 possessions
DRTG: Defensive rating, points allowed per 100 possessions
RTG: Net rating, point differential per 100 possessions

A small dip, but if that’s what their numbers look like in a game in which they didn’t try for half their minutes (they had a +22 net rating in the first half, and had already started to let up towards the end of that), that’s a pretty good sign that success is carrying over to the playoffs.

What About Everyone Else?

After my concern about the Raptors’ bench looks, there were some awkward minutes midway through this one with a lot of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Matt Thomas minutes before Terence Davis got his rightful call as the bench player to take minutes with multiple starters (and Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka).

But even with that, and the lack of energy team-wide in the second half, here is how Toronto fared in each player’s minutes on the court.

Player | Plus-Minus

Lowry: +26
FVV: +14
OG: +18
Siakam: +10
Gasol: +7
Ibaka: +17
Powell: +3
Davis: +7
RHJ: +5
Thomas: +11
Boucher: +2

That’s every player to touch the court. And every single one won their minutes.

On Brooklyn’s side, only Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot managed to win his minutes (+2), while the rest of the team was buried pretty deep, all the way down to Tyler Johnson at -29.

This is a great sign. Powell still just managed to win his minutes, but Ibaka had a heck of a game, and if one of those guys steps up and scores like that every night the team is rock solid.

Worth noting, even in a very good overall game from Ibaka, that midway through the third quarter, after the starters lost interest and went -4 in 12 minutes around halftime, the Raptors swapped to a bench unit with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet trying to support Powell, RHJ and Ibaka. That unit was what really let the game get close again, dropping seven points over the course of two minutes.

As soon as Rondae checked out for Davis, things turned around for the Raptors, flattening out for a few bench minutes. Then there was a solid stretch of play where Toronto added five points to the lead with a starter-heavy unit and Davis in for Siakam (with Serge still at C). Siakam checked back in for Davis with a healthy lead and blew the game back open, going +8 in three minutes leading up to the garbage time subs. Good to see Ibaka have that success surrounded by several starters. That’s not always there.

Brooklyn is Always in Games?

Hey, remember this? From three days ago?

Oh, how about that?

On to Game 2.

Stats per NBA.com.