Serge Ibaka Helps Raptors Complete Sweep of Nets as Kyle Lowry Exits with InjuryAugust 24, 2020
The defending champions have this whole playoff thing down.
The Toronto Raptors finished their sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in their first-round playoff series with a 150-122 victory in Sunday's Game 4 at Walt Disney World Resort. Toronto is heading to the second round for the fifth straight season after Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell and Pascal Siakam spearheaded the latest balanced effort.
As for the short-handed Nets, they were unable to overcome the attrition on their roster against a deeper opponent even though Caris LeVert led the way in the final defeat.
Notable Player Stats
- Serge Ibaka, F, TOR: 27 PTS, 15 REB, 2 BLK, 12-of-14 FG, 3-of-3 3PT
- Norman Powell, G, TOR: 29 PTS, 5 REB, 2 STL, 5-of-9 3PT
- Pascal Siakam, F, TOR: 20 PTS, 10 AST, 6 REB, 2 STL
- Caris LeVert, G, BKN: 35 PTS, 6 AST, 6 REB, 2 STL, 6-of-9 3PT
- Jarrett Allen, C, BKN: 8 PTS, 15 REB, 2 BLK
Raptors Show Off Their Depth in Win
Casual NBA fans could have been forgiven if they wrote off the Raptors heading into the 2019-20 campaign.
After all, they lost Kawhi Leonard to free agency after he drilled a Game 7 buzzer-beater to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers, outdueled MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference Finals and dispatched of the powerhouse Golden State Warriors as the NBA Finals MVP.
Kawhi or no Kawhi, the Raptors continue to prove they have the depth to compete for an NBA Finals berth out of the East.
That depth was immediately put to the test when Kyle Lowry limped to the locker room in the first quarter with an ankle injury and was ruled out for the game. He is the veteran leader of the team, the face of the franchise and a primary reason the Raptors clinched the No. 2 seed in the East even without Leonard.
Siakam made up for some of the facilitating with Lowry sidelined even while looking for his own shot, Powell provided a scoring spark off the bench and Ibaka dominated the Nets on the inside.
Toronto dropped 77 points in the first half alone all while Fred VanVleet, who has been the team's best overall player in this series, made just one field goal. It was another testament to the roster's versatility, and six players scored in double figures by the final buzzer.
The Raptors will likely need a healthy Lowry to compete for a championship, but their depth was too much for the Nets in the first round.
Better Days Ahead for the Nets
Even though they were swept in the first round, the Nets already surpassed expectations in the bubble by going 5-3 in the seeding games without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince.
They lost Joe Harris for Games 3 and 4 of this series and simply didn't have the firepower to compete with the talented Raptors.
If there is a silver lining for the Nets, it is the realization that LeVert looks ready to be a key piece for a playoff contender for years to come. They signed the 25-year-old to a three-year extension in August 2019, and he played the role of go-to scorer in the bubble with so many key pieces out.
He scored 34 points in a win over the Washington Wizards and 37 points in a close loss to the Portland Trail Blazers during the seeding games and torched Toronto's defense for stretches in Sunday's game from behind the arc. He also dished out assists when the Raptors focused too much attention on him and appeared ready to play with more talented teammates in the future.
That future will include the return of Durant, Irving and Dinwiddie, which should put Brooklyn in the middle of the NBA Finals picture in the East as soon as next season.
LeVert was a bright spot once again in defeat, and he will likely have much more talent around him the next time he takes the floor.
The Raptors turn their attention to a second-round matchup against the Boston Celtics, while the Nets can focus on the 2020-21 campaign and the return of a healthy Durant and Irving.