It wasn't pretty, but the Toronto Raptors handled their business in Game 2 of their first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets, coming up with the 104-99 victory.
What do the Raptors need to do to take a commanding 3-0 victory? Here are three things to watch in Game 3 on Friday.
Where to watch
Date: Friday, Aug. 21
Time: 1:30 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet (Canada), YES Network and NBA TV (USA)
Location: The Field House, Orlando, FL
Three Things to Watch
The Raptors didn't get much out of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in Game 2.
In his 17 minutes of play, Gasol went scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting from the field and recorded more turnovers (three) than assists (two). Ibaka was able to get on the scoreboard, but he shot only 3-for-9 from the field (including 0-for-4 from 3-point range) and committed five fouls in 25 minutes.
With both Gasol and Ibaka struggling, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse elected to close the game with Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, a lineup that played a grand total of two minutes together during the regular season. As I made note of after the game, it's a lineup myself and many others have been interested in seeing more of for a long time, but Nurse went to it because he had to, not necessarily because he wanted to.
"I thought Serge played well, but I think the five best guys finished the game," Nurse said afterwards. "OG was doing such a good job on (Caris) LeVert. Even though he wasn't scoring much, he had to be out there. Freddy and Kyle had to be out there, Norm had to be out there and Pascal had a decent game going … it was a tough one because that group with Serge was rolling, and we made the switch to go small and it worked out OK."
This isn't a series the Raptors necessarily need Gasol and Ibaka to be at their best, but it would certainly help if they could provide more of a punch than they were able to in Game 2, especially if Jarrett Allen continues his strong play. Gasol was a factor in Game 1, coming up with 13 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes, while Ibaka was the team's second-leading scorer with 22 points off the bench. We know they're capable of it.
Norman Powell, in attack mode
Powell was one of the many Raptors who was unable to get it going from 3-point range in Game 2, but he made up for it by attacking the basket relentlessly.
Powell was tied with VanVleet for game-high honours with 24 points on 11-for-17 shooting from the field. Of the 24 points he scored, 18 came in the paint.
There was his big-time dunk over Rodions Kurucs in the second quarter...
ON HIS HEADTOP pic.twitter.com/GFXKqKVWEc- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
...but Powell came alive in the fourth, scoring 12 of the team's 30 points. He used his size to power through Chris Chiozza and Joe Harris en route to the basket, as well as his speed to blow by Allen a couple of times.
The beauty with this Raptors team is that one of five players are a threat to go off in any game. (As our Gilbert McGregor wrote ahead of Toronto's final seeding game, this season's Raptors became the first team in 46 years to have five players - Siakam, Lowry, VanVleet, Powell and Ibaka - average at least 15 points per game during the regular season). And yet, when Powell plays with purpose like he did in Game 2, good things seem to happen.
How the Nets defend the Raptors
In Game 1, the Nets played a drop coverage, which helped the Raptors drain a franchise-best 22 3-pointers.
In Game 2, the Nets decided to switch more aggressively, which took the Raptors out of the flow of their offence at the start of the game.
Nurse said after the game that when teams do switch against them, they try to screen less and call more plays.
"You do a little more cutting and a lot less setting of screens," he explained. "Then we just try to stay away from ball screens, too. We tried to run some more off-ball, pin down actions and quite a few set plays. We usually like to play a pretty open concept type offence but tonight we were calling a lot of plays just to move 'em around and create a bunch of switches before we attacked the paint."
In a nutshell, it's the difference between the Raptors doing less of this...
...and more of this:
So how will the Nets defend the Raptors in Game 3? Time will tell. But if they do decide to switch as they did in Game 2, it puts an even brighter spotlight on Gasol and Ibaka because both of them have the potential to punish smaller defenders in the post. Otherwise, it puts a lot of pressure on the guards to create everything.
The official injury report has not yet been made available. However, the Nets announced that Joe Harris has left the NBA Campus in Orlando due to a "non-medical personal matter." As ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski noted, the Nets would have to push the series to at least a Game 6 for Harris to return because of the NBA's quarantine rules.
Game 1 - Toronto Raptors 134, Brooklyn Nets 110
Game 2 - Toronto Raptors 104, Brooklyn Nets 99
Game 3 - Friday, Aug. 21, 1:30 p.m. - Sportsnet
Game 4 - Sunday, Aug. 23, 6:30 p.m. - TSN
Game 5 - Tuesday, Aug. 25, TBD - Sportsnet*
Game 6 - Thursday, Aug. 27, TBD - TSN*
Game 7 - Saturday, Aug. 29, TBD - Sportsnet*
* Games 5-7 If necessary
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