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Game 3 Breakdown: The Raptors say it’s over

With three games down, and Toronto cruising, there’s not much more to be said about the opening round series between the Raptors and the Nets.

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

We said in the Game 2 breakdown that it felt like the series was over. The Nets had made their big swing adjustment, messing up the Raptors’ offense for a few quarters, and had still fallen short at the end of the game. This, even with Toronto shooting poorly on the afternoon.

For Game 3, the Raptors were going to come prepared, so even if the offense still struggled, they should be less impacted than in Game 2. Failing that, it made sense that Toronto would likely see some shooting regression, resulting in a more comfortable win.

Given the outcome of Game 3, I’d call that pretty comfortable.

Deja Vu?

Game 3 was very similar to Game 1, except without the big let-up in the middle of the game. Just like Game 1, the starters got out ahead quickly in the early going. Just like Game 1, Serge Ibaka had a very nice scoring game off the bench (in spite of some early struggles in this one) and powered the bench to big wins in their minutes.

It may actually be worse than Game 1 though. The Game 1 in which partway through it was clear the series was going to be a sweep.

For example: the lowest plus-minus of any non-garbage time Raptors player in Game 1 was Norman Powell, who was +3, while Kyle Lowry led the way with a +26.

In Game 3, the lowest plus-minus for any non-garbage time player was again Norman Powell, but this time at +12. Lowry again led the way at +27. Eerily similar. But better.

8th Man

Before the playoffs, we pointed out how every shred of evidence pointed to Terence Davis as the clear cut 8th man to slot into the rotation behind the main seven guys. He got a short stint in Game 1, then disappeared in Game 2, but with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson out for this game, TD got the first (and ultimately, only) crack at that 8th man role.

Well, guess who led the Raptors in net rating (point differential per 100 possessions) in this game?

That’s right, Davis was +15 in only 17 minutes played, which translates to a +40.4 net rating. That’s an incredible figure even in a single game. Or would be most games, except this game the Raptors absolutely destroyed the Nets.

Player | Net Rating

Davis: +40.4
Siakam: +36.2
Lowry: +36.0
Gasol: +33.5
OG: +30.6
FVV: +28.6
Ibaka: +28.5
Powell: +28.5

That’s... robust. Every single player had the team absolutely dominating their minutes in this one.

Anyway, back to Davis. He was part of the second most used lineup on the team in this one besides the starters (we’ll get to them in a moment). And it went pretty well, I’d say.

Lineup | Minutes Played | Net Rating

KL-TD-NP-OGA-SI: 8 MP, +28.4

I’d hope to see a lot more of that lineup, and others similar to it, moving forward. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The Starters Are Back

The Raptors came out strong again, with a clear intent to get Gasol more involved in the offense. Even with him missing nearly every shot he took (1-for-7 from the field), his passing and activity in the offense opened up enough for the Raptors to run away with this one.

The results for the starters are incredible relative to last game.

Game | Starting Lineup Net Rating

Game 1: +9.4
Game 1 first half: +22.7
Game 2: -36.7
Game 3: +37.4

I thought breaking out the early Game 1 results before the let-up happened would be interesting as well. Game 2 was quite an outlier, and man alive it is amazing the Raptors won that game.

VanVleet Can’t Miss

So Fred VanVleet is just never going to miss a shot again, huh?

For the series, he is now shooting 55 percent from distance on over 10 attempts per game. Which is insane. But look closer and it gets more crazy as you zoom in.

VanVleet has always been effective shooting the ball in catch and shoot situations. His elite ability to relocate and find open space off the ball, and then absolutely nail open shots, is impressive enough and a reason why it is frustrating when the Raptors run offense through his hands as the primary creator.

But in these playoffs so far, he’s just good at everything. His three point shot profile with total attempts in the playoffs compared to the regular season (there are overlaps here, a shot can be open as well as catch and shoot, for example):

Regular Season Shot Type | 3PA | 3P%
Catch and shoot: 209, 44.0%
Pull-up: 162, 32.7%
Wide Open (6+ feet of space): 194, 45.4%
Open (4-6 feet of space): 118, 39%
Contested (<4 feet of space): 62, 19.4%

Playoffs Shot Type | 3PA | 3P%
Catch and shoot: 8, 62.5%
Pull-up: 11, 45.5%
Wide Open (6+ feet of space): 7, 57.1%
Open (4-6 feet of space): 11, 54.5%
Contested (<4 feet of space): 3, 33.3%

Just, hotter shooting across the board. Now, he likely won’t keep all that up. But if his pull up three proves to be a long term improvement and not just variance, it very much could change his ability to initiate offense and beat defenses on his own.

There were a bunch of good signs in this one, with Pascal scoring in volume, VanVleet shooting the lights out again, and contributions up and down the roster.

Expect just one more warmup game before dealing with (almost certainly) Boston.

All stats per