The Toronto Raptors survived an impressive performance from the Brooklyn Nets to escape with a 104-99 win in Game 2 and take a 2-0 series lead. After shooting 50 percent from 3-point range in Game 1, the Raptors struggled mightily from beyond the arc, connecting on just 25.7 percent of their 3-point attempts. Give credit to Brooklyn, though, as right out of the gates it swarmed Toronto out on the wings, and went over screens to put more pressure on the defending champions to put points on the floor. Although the Nets lost, Brooklyn's play throughout the game sent a message that this series won't be a walk in the park for Toronto.
Toronto leaned heavily on Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell offensively, as the two guards put up 24 points apiece, and All-Star guard Kyle Lowry tacked on another 21 points to secure the win. For Brooklyn, a 21-point performance from Garrett Temple led the way, as Caris LeVert couldn't replicate his standout performance from Game 1. Brooklyn had a chance to send it into overtime, when it was down three points with 15 seconds left. However, sloppy Nets passing on their final possession led to a back-breaking turnover that sealed the win for Toronto. When it was all said and done, the Raptors' playoff experience ruled the day.
Here are three takeaways from Toronto's win.
1. Powell bounced back from poor Game 1 showing
In Game 1 of this series, Powell played just 16 minutes and finished with six points after early foul trouble kept him out for most of the first half. Then, excellent play from rookie Terence Davis -- who finished the contest with 11 points and four rebounds -- in the second half of that game forced Nick Nurse to keep the first-year player in over Powell. The Raptors ultimately won the game, but it was without Powell's typical 16 points a game he's averaging this season.
This time around, though, Powell ensured he wouldn't be forced to the end of the bench, and was a huge reason why the Raptors ultimately won this game. In the first half, Powell carried the second unit to ensure that Brooklyn's lead didn't grow any larger heading into halftime, scoring 11 of his 24 points in the first two quarters of action. A huge dunk on Rodions Kurucs at the start of the second quarter ignited Toronto to play with more fire offensively, and his run in the fourth quarter, where he put up 12 points, helped pull Toronto even with Brooklyn and ultimately win the game.
What's most impressive about Powell's performance is how he was able to get it done in other ways than just shooting 3s. Despite being a 40 percent 3-point shooter this season, Powell went 1 of 6 from deep on Wednesday, and instead of it completely taking him out of the game mentally, he started driving to the rim and finishing strong. The Raptors had a poor shooting performance from beyond the arc overall, but Powell's ability to show that he can create in ways other than just knocking down 3s was a difference-maker in this win for Toronto.
2. Toronto goes to small ball in the closing minutes
Today was not a good showing for Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, who were both outmatched athletically against Brooklyn every time Jarrett Allen was rolling to the rim. With both of his big men being taken out of the game on both ends of the floor, Nick Nurse opted to go with a smaller, more athletic lineup to close out the game. At the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter, Toronto rolled out a lineup of Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam at the center spot. It gave Toronto five guys on the floor who all shoot over 35 percent from 3-point range, spreading the floor to an absurd level that allows for Lowry to drive and get fouls at the rim. On defense, it gave them five defensively stout players who could all switch and handle any look that Brooklyn was giving them.
The numbers weren't eye-popping, as that lineup broke even in terms of plus-minus, per NBA Advanced Stats, however, it's an intriguing lineup that Nurse can go to down the line in the postseason, for instance if they end up playing the Celtics in the second round. Boston doesn't have a ton of size, but it does have what feels like an endless amount of guys who can shoot from anywhere on the floor. Ibaka and Gasol may get the same treatment they did in this game against Brooklyn, forcing Nurse to go for a lineup that can get out and defend players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but also put points on the board on the other end. It's an interesting tidbit from this game that we could see again later on in the playoffs if the Raptors win this series.
3. The Nets were completely gassed in the fourth quarter
Brooklyn came out and punched Toronto in the mouth to start this game, jumping out to a 12-5 lead, and even at one point increasing its lead to 14. However, the Nets were never able to hold onto that lead, and couldn't take advantage of Toronto's poor shooting performance down the stretch. Some of that is likely due to this shorthanded team being exhausted by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, where they held a six-point lead. Brooklyn's roster changes leading into the bubble have been well documented, as many of these guys haven't spent a ton of time playing together this season.
Not to mention, a couple players that the Nets did sign for the NBA restart ended up getting injured. It's resulted in an incredibly thin roster and short rotation for Jacque Vaughn and the Nets, which played out in crunch time of this game. Brooklyn exerted so much energy maintaining its lead through the first three quarters, and didn't have enough left in the tank to pull out a win in crunch time. Vaughn may have to dig deeper in his bench in order to get guys like Jarrett Allen and Joe Harris -- both of whom played 40 minutes -- some rest so they're not completely exhausted when he needs them most.