Toronto Raptors

NBA Playoffs 2020: What did we learn about the Toronto Raptors after their first round series win?

The Toronto Raptors completed their first-ever series sweep ever beating the Brooklyn Nets in the first round.

The Nets didn't put up much resistance through the four games but there was still plenty to learn from the series.

Our staff took a look at what they learned from the Raptors' four-game sweep of the Nets.

Raptors owned the first quarter

I had the Raptors winning this series in five games not because I thought the Nets were good enough to win a game, but because I thought the Raptors would gift them one. They did the exact opposite blowing them out in three of the four games. Toronto had an average margin of victory of 20.5 in the sweep - that's a dismantling.

The Raptors made a point to come out the gate aggressively in the first quarter. They won every first period except for one - which ended up being the only close game.

Toronto averaged 32.3 points shooting 48.5 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from three in the first quarter of the Brooklyn series. They also averaged 8.5 assists on their 11.8 made field goals in the first frame. That was the series, and it's been the pattern of the Raptors' season. Through the regular season, in wins, they averaged 30.0 points on 50.0 percent shooting from the field in the first quarter. In losses, the Raps averaged 22.8 points shooting 35.8 percent from the field.

There's a distinct difference when the Raptors are locked in from the opening tip and when they're not. And while Toronto is certainly capable of making big-time comebacks, they're at their best when they get the jump on teams early. It's also worth pointing out most of the series was an early tip (1:30 p.m. or 4 p.m. ET). Most teams in the bubble have struggled to get off to a good start with the early start, Toronto didn't.

The Raptors didn't play down to their competition in the first round and never really had to sweat because of it. The competition takes a step up now in round two but if they can continue those good starting habits they'll put themselves in the best position to win the series.

- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)

Norman Powell is the real 'Playoff P'

When the Raptors get a scoring punch from the bench their ceiling raises dramatically.

As was the case in their Game 4 win where the bench provided an NBA-record 100 points en route to a franchise playoff record of 150 points, Toronto looked like an offensive juggernaut.

MORE: Raptors rewrite history in Game 4 win over Nets

The catalyst of that bench scoring outbreak was their sixth man Powell, who you may now refer to as "the real Playoff P". When Kyle Lowry went down with an ankle injury in the first half, head coach Nick Nurse elected to let Powell sublet those minutes and he responded by going off for a franchise playoff record 29 points off the bench shooting 9-for-14 from the field and 5-for-9 from 3.

This wasn't the first time that Powell exploded in this series, as his 24 points in Game 2 played a vital role in pushing the Raptors to victory.

While this season has felt like it's been going on for the timespan of 10 years, let's not forget that Powell is amongst the best year of his career. Even with a number of nagging injuries that kept him sidelined from time-to-time, Powell would pick up right where he left off every time he took the floor.

Now with Lowry questionable for the start of the series, more responsibility will fall in Powell's lap should the All-Star guard have to miss time. Norm will likely start at shooting guard with Fred VanVleet taking over point guard duties, and the Raptors will need him to bring that scoring impact to the starting unit with him.

Toronto is 9-1 this season when Powell scores 25 or more points. That looks like a benchmark to Toronto's success if they're going to keep up with the Celtics offensive firepower.

- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)

Fred VanVleet picked up right where he left off last postseason

In 2019, the birth of Fred VanVleet Jr. also signalled the birth of the playoff version of Fred VanVleet Sr.

This year, we learned that effect hasn't worn off and Jr. hasn't even entered the bubble yet, although he did make an appearance during the pregame intros of Game 1.

VanVleet was great in the first round, opening the series with a statement as he scored a team-high 30 points and 10 assists on 11-for-15 shooting from the field and 8-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc in Game 1.

For the series, VanVleet went on to average a team-high 21.3 points as well as a team-high 7.8 assists while shooting 52.7% from the field and a ridiculous 55.9% from deep while attempting 8.5 triples per game.

Had it not been for foul trouble limiting VanVleet to just 19 minutes in the closeout Game 4, his averages would probably be even more impressive.

As our Kyle mentioned above, the impact of Kyle Lowry's ankle injury could be felt throughout the roster. Should Lowry miss time to start Toronto's series with Boston, VanVleet will take on more playmaking responsibilities with Norman Powell as his backcourt mate.

Against a strong opponent in the Celtics, VanVleet will need to continue his play from the opening round.

- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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