Raptors’ Hot Hand Too Much As Nets Fall in Game 1

C+

Final: 08/17/2020

L 110 – 134

Just as much of Brooklyn’s 2019-20 season has been, Game 1 for the Nets against Toronto was landed somewhere between “blowout” and “close-but-not-quite.” 

A strong third quarter was not enough for Brooklyn to counter a 33-point first-half deficit, as the reigning champion Raptors took the 134-110 victory on Monday. Toronto shot 22-of-44 from three in the game, powered by eight three-pointers from Fred VanVleet. 

The first half for Brooklyn was largely one to forget. Outside Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Nets did not shoot well and allowed the Raptors to score 73 points, the most allowed by the franchise in its history in a playoff first half. As Brooklyn struggled to stop Toronto, a 16-5 Nets run at the end of the half that reduced deficit from 33 to 22 brought some hope.

In what initially looked like a game in which the Nets would be overpowered, Brooklyn entered the third quarter looking to carry a punch. Caris LeVert built on his eight first-half assists and continued to filter the defensive attention he was receiving into looks for others. 

Brooklyn used the paint to its advantage in the third quarter, scoring 20 of its 35 points in the frame inside while holding the Raptors to just 22 points. The bank was even open for Jarrett Allen, who closed out the third quarter with a buzzer-beating bucket. 

Brooklyn cut the deficit to as little as eight behind its third-quarter efforts and an extended 44-20 run, but the team could not break past that plateau. VanVleet continued to hurt the Nets throughout the contest, coming up with big shots when Brooklyn needed a stop. The Raptors brought a relatively balanced offensive attack as seven players finished in double figures and out-scored Brooklyn 39-24 in the fourth quarter to seal the deal. 

While Toronto thrived from three-point range, Brooklyn struggled, making 13-of-42 from distance. Garrett Temple was a large part of that, as he shot just 1-of-10 on three-point attempts. Meanwhile, Rodions Kurucs struggled against Kyle Lowry and racked up six fouls in a flash, leading him to an early exit. 

Though the Nets dropped Game 1, they showed promise in their ball-sharing, recording 33 assists on 43 field goals. Brooklyn cleaned up their passing in the second half, recording just four turnovers after committing 10 in the first half.

LeVert will need help in the future, as he looked tired down the stretch and his exit from the game saw Brooklyn’s deficit again grow. The Nets are better with LeVert on the floor, but the bench needs to buy him more time to rest, as Tyler Johnson’s performance–and shooting–left much to be desired. 

Brooklyn has shown it can make the deep ball in the bubble, and it will need to bring the hot hand from distance to counter the Raptors. Toronto likely will not shoot 50% from three-point range throughout the series, but the Nets will need to capitalize as they did in the third quarter as the Raptors’ offense slowed. Toronto scored just 28 points in the paint compared to Brooklyn’s 48, but the Nets cannot let them thrive elsewhere. 

If Brooklyn can harness the energy brought by LeVert, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Allen–and improve its defense throughout a full-game effort–the Nets have a chance to steal a game from Toronto. Game 1 leaves much to be desired, but also a foundation to build on. 

Wednesday will be another opportunity. 

Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot

A

The stats: 26 PTS, 9-13 FG, 6-9 3FG, 2-3 FT, 7 REB, 2 AST, 1 TO, 33 MIN

TLC has been hot from three in the bubble, but he was not expected to be “Brooklyn’s Game 1 leading-scorer” hot. 

Luwawu-Cabarrot scored a quick 15 points in 13 first-half minutes and did not look back. He remained ready from distance throughout the game, finishing with efficiency and grabbing seven rebounds to go along with it. In addition, he tied the Nets’ record for most threes off the bench in a playoff game with six. 

The Nets will need more players to join TLC’s offensive effort, but he continues to have bigger performances with each game. Making up over half of Brooklyn’s 43 bench points, TLC is proving himself to be one of the Nets’ most valuable assets. 

Joe Harris

B+

The stats: 19 PTS, 8-14 FG, 3-5 3FG, 6 REB, 2 AST, 33 MIN

Joe Harris has a tendency to rack up points in a very silent manner. 

Joe was not afraid to drive to the bucket against Toronto’s interior defense, playing a large role in Brooklyn’s third-quarter run. He also got some good looks from outside, which were much-needed for Brooklyn.

It was an overall solid game for Joe. He did not have any large highlights, but it was a performance the Nets hope Joe can build on in Game 2. 

Jarrett Allen

B+

The stats: 15 PTS, 6-10 FG, 3-4 FT, 12 REB, 1 AST, 4 TO, 1 STL, 1 BLK, 34 MIN

Mid-range Fro made multiple (!) appearances in Game 1. 

Oh, and did we mention his throwdown?

Allen had his share of highlights on Monday and played up to his double-double expectations. He can improve on handling the ball, registering four turnovers, but he is bound to struggle against Toronto inside. 

Beyond his scoring, Allen had some sharp passes to the perimeter that led to three-point opportunities. Allen’s growth is being showcased in each game, and it is fun to watch. 

Caris LeVert

B+

The stats: 15 PTS, 5-14 FG, 0-2 3FG, 5-6 FT, 7 REB, 15 AST, 5 TO, 1 STL, 35 MIN

Caris LeVert’s career-high for assists in a game continues to grow. 

LeVert was thriving off the defensive attention he was receiving, finding his teammates and dishing often. LeVert’s push was a large part of Brooklyn’s 48 points in the paint, compared to Toronto’s 28. 

Still, it seemed as LeVert tired quickly. Beyond his low 15-point total, he did not register a field goal in the fourth quarter as the Raptors easily closed things out. LeVert nearly had a triple-double, which is great, but the Nets are reliant on offensive contributions from their biggest weapon in the bubble. It would not be surprising to see LeVert go off in Game 2. 

Garrett Temple

D+

The stats: 12 PTS, 5-15 FG, 1-10 3FG, 1-1 FT, 4 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 35 MIN

1-of-10 shooting from three ain’t it, Garrett. 

He was able to contribute in other facets, but missed threes put the Nets in a hole they could not fully overcome. When VanVleet goes 8-of-10 from three, Temple going 1-of-10 is not what you want. 

After a few strong bubble performances, Temple will have the opportunity to redeem himself in Game 2. 

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