The Toronto Raptors reached another milestone on Friday, but they didn’t get too hyped up about it.
With their talent and well-balanced scoring, the Raptors overwhelmed the Brooklyn Nets, throttling them 117-92 to take their first 3-0 series lead in franchise history.
For a second successive game, three Raptors scored more than 20 points. The NBA defending champs led from wire to wire, giving themselves a chance to complete the sweep in the best-of-seven series on Sunday.
Pascal Siakam had his hottest-scoring game of the series with 26 points, while adding eight rebounds and five assists. Fred VanVleet continued his remarkable postseason with a 22-point afternoon, including six more three-pointers for a total of 17 in three games. Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Kyle Lowry also had a double-double: 11 points and 10 boards.
Five Raptors scored in double digits in the well-rounded performance, including Norman Powell (11 points). Toronto had a series-best 35 assists on 46 field goals and crushed Brooklyn on the boards, 56-42.
Chasing the team’s first sweep doesn’t seem to be a major talking point for the players. “Not much,” said Siakam, when asked what it meant to him. “I didn’t even know that actually.”
In normal times, Game 3 means a change of scenery in a playoff series, as it typically shifts from the first city to the second. It normally resumes in a new arena, with different fans, sounds, mascots and in-game entertainment.
The teams obviously did not fly anywhere, because the Disney bubble is home to the entire playoffs.
Ibaka said the lack of travel pays off. “It’s perfect, you have time to rest your mind, body and get ready for the next game,” he said.
The only noticeable difference was the in-arena video components. The virtual fans, cheers and promo videos were Raptor-themed for the first two games, so the Nets control that for Games 3 and 4.
“They had the volume up pretty loud in there tonight, I don’t know if it was a little louder than we had our’s turned up for our home games, but you could definitely tell the difference for sure,” VanVleet said.
Toronto held Brooklyn’s Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot to 10 and Caris LeVert to 15.
Nets starting small forward Joe Harris didn’t play; he left the bubble for personal reasons. It’s another big blow for the severely depleted Nets roster already missing a boatload of players including Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.
Tyler Johnson replaced Harris in the starting lineup and led Brooklyn with 23 points. But each time Brooklyn made a little surge, the Raptors would vault ahead, never allowing the Nets within striking distance of the lead.
The Raps’ bench provided a burst in the second quarter, including an 11-point blitz from Ibaka that featured a trio of three-pointers and kicked off a 47-point contribution from Toronto’s bench.
VanVleet launched a playful shot right at the buzzer as the first half closed – from beyond half-court – and it banked hard off the backboard and right through the twine, giving Toronto a hearty 57-42 lead going into the locker room. He barely celebrated before trotting quickly out of the gym.
Marc Gasol had three points on 1-of-7 shooting on another tough scoring day. But Toronto’s veteran big man helped in other ways: six assists, five rebounds and two blocked shots. He also helped hold Brooklyn centre Jarrett Allen to four points and no field-goal attempts, as the Raps gave him different looks and prevented him from rolling to the hoop.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sat out Friday’s game with a swollen left knee. Terence Davis got more than 17 minutes off the bench and had nine points. The Raptors emptied their bench in the last few minutes.
“It is a skill, learning how to play hard each and every playoff game,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said. “I think getting the fourth one will give us a day or two extra rest. I’m really happy with the top seven [Raptors players] – they’re going to play a lot of minutes for us. We played it that way last year. I think taking care of business will help us.”