The Toronto Raptors are one win away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry led the way in the latest balanced effort, continuing Toronto's dominance over its Atlantic Division rival and extending the series lead to 3-0.
As for the Nets, they will need to win four games in a row to preserve their season and continue their shorthanded efforts in the bubble after Tyler Johnson spearheaded the offense Friday.
Notable Player Stats
- Pascal Siakam, F, TOR: 26 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST
- Fred VanVleet, G, TOR: 22 PTS, 5 AST, 5 REB, 6/10 3PT
- Serge Ibaka, F, TOR: 20 PTS, 13 REB
- Kyle Lowry, G, TOR: 11 PTS, 10 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL
- Tyler Johnson, G, BKN: 23 PTS, 5/9 3PT
- Caris LeVert, G, BKN: 15 PTS, 6 AST, 2 STL
Fred VanVleet Continues Dominance of Nets
VanVleet may not be the first name that comes to mind for many fans when they think about the Raptors.
After all, Siakam was an All-Star this season and the team's leading scorer. Veteran leader Lowry is a six-time All-Star and the face of the franchise. Even Ibaka has been a consistent force in the league for years.
Yet, it is VanVleet who has been in full control of this series.
He dropped double-doubles in Games 1 and 2 with a combined 54 points and 21 assists and impressed again Friday by drilling a shot from behind half court to end the first half, diving for loose balls even with his team up double digits, reading the defense to create open looks for his teammates and connecting from deep whenever he had a sliver of space.
It was far from a solo effort, as Siakam stuffed the scoresheet and Ibaka notched a double-double while battling down low against Jarrett Allen and others.
Still, VanVleet has been the steadying force throughout the series. If the fourth-year guard continues to play at such a high level, the Raptors will remain a legitimate threat to reach another NBA Finals.
Nets Don't Have Personnel to Compete
The Nets were one of the best stories of the league's restart, going 5-3 in the bubble even though they were playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince.
The playoffs have been a different story, though, especially after they were dealt another blow when sharpshooter Joe Harris left the bubble for a non-medical personal matter.
That left Brooklyn with nowhere near enough firepower to compete against one of the best teams in the league that has a championship mindset and mettle, and it is no surprise the Raptors lead the series 3-0.
Even without having to face Kawhi Leonard, the Nets still have to deal with Siakam, Lowry and VanVleet, which would have been difficult even at full strength.
Johnson deserves plenty of credit for assuming the role of a go-to scorer for a playoff team under these circumstances, but he averaged just 7.0 points per game this season for the Nets and Phoenix Suns.
In fact, Caris LeVert, who has also done what he can for the Nets on the offensive side and looks like a valuable player for years to come, was the only Nets player on the floor to average more than 11.1 points per game this season with 18.7.
That's not enough to keep up with the defending champions.
Game 4 of the series is Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.