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Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry Power Raptors to Blowout Win over Nets in Game 1

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2020

Toronto Raptors' Marc Gasol, right, celebrates a basket against the Brooklyn Nets with Fred VanVleet, left, and Kyle Lowry during Game 1 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors cruised past the Brooklyn Nets, 134-110, in Game 1 of their first-round series in the 2020 NBA playoffs.

Toronto put its foot on the gas as soon as the game got underway. The Raptors led 37-20 after the first quarter and didn't look back. They shot 47.1 percent from the floor and 22-of-44 from beyond the arc as a team, setting a franchise record in the process.

The Nets outscored Toronto 35-22 in the third quarter to build some drama early in the second half. After getting to within eight points, Brooklyn ran out of steam, as evidenced by the lopsided final score.

             

Notable Stats

Kyle Lowry, PG, Raptors: 3-14 FG, 16 points, seven rounds, six assists, one block

Pascal Siakam, PF, Raptors: 4-13 FG, 18 points, 11 rebounds, one assist

Serge Ibaka, C, Raptors: 8-14 FG, 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one block

Fred VanVleet, SG, Raptors: 11-15 FG, 8-10 3P, 30 points, two rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, one block

Caris LeVert, SG, Nets: 5-14 FG, 15 points, seven rebounds, 15 assists, one steal

           

Collective Strength on Display for Raptors

The Raptors aren't as good as they were last season because no team can lose a player as talented as Kawhi Leonard and not take a step backward. Danny Green's departure can't be overlooked, either.

However, Monday's win illustrated how Toronto remains a cohesive squad even without Leonard and Green in the rotation. Seven players scored in double figures.

Based on his Game 1 output, Fred VanVleet might be on his way toward another memorable postseason.

Toronto Raptors @Raptors

*@FredVanVleet has entered the convo* https://t.co/bkwZBwqM5s https://t.co/LyEWzSxsiB

Toronto Raptors @Raptors

Have you #BetOnYourself today? @FredVanVleet: 16 Pts / 8 Ast / 100 FG% https://t.co/ljNGPuQhAH

Toronto Raptors @Raptors

Freddy's just cold, man https://t.co/hL1Jq2rWzZ

Serge Ibaka also feasted on a Nets frontcourt that sorely needed DeAndre Jordan to spell Jarrett Allen.

Josh Eberley🇨🇦 @JoshEberley

Serge Ibaka’s career arc has been interesting, seemed like he was near done and he’s morphed into such a geat complementary player.

Blake Murphy @BlakeMurphyODC

Can get behind a big Ibaka series where Gasol only has to play like 22 MPG

Ryan Wolstat @WolstatSun

Serge Ibaka having another big playoff game for the Raptors .Had a lot of them last year. Nets don't have many bigs who can handle him.

It remains to be seen how the Raptors will fare in a seven-game series against an opponent that boasts an elite superstar, with the Milwaukee Bucks the most obvious Eastern Conference foe to meet that criterion.

Fans probably grew slightly uneasy as the third quarter unfolded. That feeling then subsided as the Raptors reasserted control. 

Strength in depth is enough to put the Nets away, and Toronto might have seen the best shot Brooklyn could deliver this round. In the same vein, Pascal Siakam is bound to improve after a performance that isn't necessarily reflected in his impressive scoring and rebounding numbers.

            

Luwawu-Cabarrot, LeVert Not Enough for Brooklyn

At one point in the second quarter, 33 points separated the Raptors and Nets, and Brooklyn headed into the locker room staring at a 22-point halftime deficit.

The Nets could've packed it in in the second half and turned their focus toward Game 2. Instead, they slowly chipped away at Toronto's lead and made it a nine-point game, 88-79, with a little over three minutes left in the third quarter.

Through his scoring and playmaking, Caris LeVert played a big role in Brooklyn's comeback.

NBA @NBA

Caris LeVert (15 PTS, 13 AST) takes the bump and finishes inside! #NBAPlayoffs The @BrooklynNets have come back from 33 down and are within 9 on ESPN. https://t.co/8UCiOiEh6L

Mike Prada. I have spoken @MikePradaNBA

Notice how LeVert paused a second so the rotating perimeter player went away. That’s how teams can use Toronto’s pressure against them.

Kazeem Famuyide 🍎 @Kazeem

Who does Caris Levert game remind me of? I can’t put my finger on it? Like a poor man’s Penny Hardaway? Maybe?

Justin Tinsley @JustinTinsley

I know it's only one ball to go around, but LeVert alongside Kyrie and KD next year in Brooklyn is gonna be scary.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had the hot hand off the bench, too, leading the Nets in scoring with 26 points.

Kristian Winfield @Krisplashed

Reminder: Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is under contract next season for a whopping $1.8 million. #Nets

NetsDaily @NetsDaily

From @BKN_NETSPR Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has matched a Nets playoff record for 3-pointers made off the bench (6-of-9). Mirza Teletovic previously made six 3-pointers off the bench in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on 5/8/14 at Miami.

Brooklyn is set to undergo two big changes ahead of the 2020-21 season. The team needs to remove the interim tag from head coach Jacque Vaughn or hire a permanent replacement, while a healthy Kevin Durant will join the rotation. The Nets will presumably have the services of Kyrie Irving for more than 20 games, as well.

It's not as simple as plugging in Durant and a new coach and expecting the pieces to fit together seamlessly. But the Nets' effort in the second half shows how strong their foundation is going forward.

            

What's Next?

The Raptors and Nets will return to the court Wednesday for Game 2. The tip is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET

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