Monday afternoon went how many hoped a lot of the Raptors previous Round 1, Game 1s would go. Toronto looked mostly in control throughout and they now enter Game 2 this Wednesday afternoon with a 1-0 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets.
Toronto as a franchise now approves to 2-10 in such opening playoff games, but the work isn’t done yet. Fifteen wins remains before the Raptors can claim themselves as back-to-back champions, and three more are needed versus the Nets to advance to Round 2.
Usually we’d be talking about how it’s important for the Raptors to win both the first two games at home, but with a neutral site in the Disney Bubble that is not the case. All that really needs to happen is for the Raptors to play similar to the way they did in Game 1: make shots, play solid defense, and limit any offensive run by the Nets.
In other words, score more baskets than the opposing team. Given the talent disparity between these two teams, it really is just that simple.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 1:30 PM ET
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Brooklyn – Caris LeVert, Rodions Kurucs, Joe Harris, Garrett Temple, Jarrett Allen
Toronto – Patrick McCaw (knee – out), Oshae Brissett (knee – out)
Brooklyn – Jamal Crawford (hamstring – out), Kevin Durant (achilles – out), Kyrie Irving (shoulder – out), DeAndre Jordan (opted out of bubble after testing positive in June), Wilson Chandler (opted out of bubble), Nicolas Claxton (out – shoulder), Spencer Dinwiddie (opted out), Taurean Prince (opted out of bubble after testing positive in July)
The Raptors jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first quarter of Game 1, thanks to a 37-point opening 12 minutes. They followed that up with a 36-point second quarter to lead 73-51 at halftime. Starting each game by being able to make shots, specifically open shots, will most likely lead to a clean sweep, and would be ideal again Wednesday afternoon for Toronto. And despite getting many shots off early in the shot clock, not many of the Raptors’ attempts looked rushed.
Only one of their 25 shots in the first came with seven seconds or less left on the shot clock — which was a three-point attempt. Everything else came within seven and 22 seconds. A majority of the attempts came between seven and 15 seconds, where they shot 7-for-15.
In opposition, the Nets took five of their 22 first quarter attempts late in the shot clock and made one of them. Meanwhile, they shot 41.2 percent when getting a shot off before the seven second mark. Also, the Raptors also forced them into five turnovers and allowed no offensive rebounds. All told, the Nets were most pushed around in that first quarter by Toronto and it set the tone for the game.
If they play hard early, the Raptors should be successful again.
Some Raptors fans got nervous in the third quarter when the Nets outscored the Raptors 35-22 and cut the lead to as low as eight with just over two minutes left in the frame.
I’m here to say don’t panic this series. The Nets may take a game, or the Raptors will sweep even with moments like that third quarter. Part of it may be Toronto becoming a little too confident or easing up with big leads, another part may just be the typical ebb and flow of playoff basketball. (We’ll panic about big leads slipping away if it’s the Bucks, Celtics, Sixers, Heat, or even the Pacers.)
But also, the Nets just started to hit their shots that quarter, even when the Raptors played good defense. In all, Brooklyn was 8-of-11 from the field with a defender two or four feet within distance and 3-of-5 with a defender two or less feet in proximity. That’s just simply good shot making. Meanwhile, the Raptors settled into a somewhat poor run of 37.5 percent shooting for that third quarter.
Obviously, you’d ultimately like to play a strong full 48 minutes consistently in any game, but it’s nothing to panic when playing the Nets.
There were obvious (and expected) standout moments from Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and it was great to see Pascal Siakam score and attack even if he shot 4-of-13 from the field (Lowry wasn’t any better with 3-of-14).
What did stick out was Serge Ibaka going off for 13 of his 22 points in the first half, and Gasol and Anunoby added 13 and 12, respectively. And that’s before we even consider Terence Davis scoring 11 off the bench.
The Raptors continue to be such a well-balanced team that it’s not clear who is going to step up each game to be a helping hand on offense. In Game 1 it was Ibaka coming out early, and it’ll be interesting to see who from the team core will be next in Game 2.
It would be great if it’s another starter between Gasol or Anunoby, but keeping the bench active will be important in the playoffs. We’ll see if Ibaka, Davis, Norman Powell — or all three — can provide the off-the-bench energy in Game 2. (Or, knowing the Raptors, if someone else comes in to give the team a lift.)