The Toronto Raptors took a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets after cruising to a 117-92 win in Game 3. The Raptors never trailed over the course of the game and used its smothering defense to make like difficult for the Nets. Unlike Game 2, where the Nets got off to a hot start and maintained a small lead through three quarters, Toronto never let Brooklyn get close enough to challenge the lead. It was the first game of this series where Toronto really looked like the significantly better team for all four quarters, and didn't let careless mistakes and poor shot selections allow the Nets to stick around.
Led by Pascal Siakam's 26-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance, the Raptors shot the ball significantly better in this game, connecting on 50.5 percent of their shots from the field and 47.8 percent from 3-point range. Kyle Lowry was just shy of a triple-double, posting 11 points, 10 rebound and seven assists, and finished with a team-high plus-27.
For Brooklyn, a poor shooting performance never allowed this team to get back in this game. Tyler Johnson was the only one who found the bottom of the net at a high clip, finishing the game with a playoff career-high 23 points, while shooting above 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc. It was always going to be a tall task for Brooklyn in this series against the defending champions, and while they've hung tough throughout this series, this game showed just how far apart in talent these two teams are. The Raptors now have a chance to close out the series on Sunday, which Game 4 taking place at 5:30 p.m. ET. Here are three takeaways from Toronto's win.
- Toronto has a 3-0 series lead for the first time in franchise history
The Raptors proved everyone wrong a season ago by winning an NBA championship, and have continued to do so throughout this season. After Kawhi Leonard left in free agency, not many expected the Raptors to be as dominant as they were last season, but they've continued to show that they should be mentioned among the names of the Lakers, Clippers and Bucks when it comes to championship contending teams this season. With a commanding win over the Nets today, the Raptors have secured their first-ever 3-0 series lead, further cementing that they should not be considered an afterthought amongst the contenders.
Sure, it's against the incredibly thin Brooklyn Nets without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, but Toronto's dominance in this series just shows that this isn't the Raptors teams from a few years ago. Those teams often squandered leads, would lose playoff opening games at home and fall to LeBron James over and over again. Now, though, behind the brilliance of Masai Ujiri and Nick Nurse, to go along with the talent of players like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, these Raptors have shaken off those demons from 2018 and earlier, and are playing an incredibly unselfish, balanced brand of basketball. Not to look too far ahead of the Nets, because they have scrapped throughout this series, but the Raptors should feel incredibly confident in the way they're playing to start out the postseason. Although a 3-0 series lead in the first round may not mean much, it's a testament to what's been built in Toronto over the past couple seasons.
2. Marc Gasol finding other ways to contribute
After putting up 13 points in the opening game of this series, Gasol has scored three points in the last two games, and gone a combined 1 of 9 from the field. While Toronto's offense doesn't begin and end with Gasol's production on offense, he is a vital piece to this team, and when his shot is falling it opens things up more for guys on the wings. The bright side, however, is that Gasol is one of the league's best passing bigs, and while his shots weren't falling again in Game 3, he did rack up six assists. He was finding his teammates in the right spots, including an inbound pass to Fred VanVleet to sink a 3/4 court heave at the buzzer going into halftime to increase the Raptors lead even further and spoil the Nets' run at the end of the second quarter. He also helped on the defensive side of the ball, finishing the game with two blocks and five rebounds. The passing, rebounding and occasional blocks that Gasol comes up with are the reasons he starts for the Raptors, and even though his scoring has been M.I.A. in the last two games, he found other ways to be a positive on the court today.
3. The Nets are putting up a fight, and that's a win for this team
No one expected Brooklyn to beat the Raptors, or even win a single game in this series, and while the Nets are staring at a sweep on Sunday, at least it can take solace in knowing that they didn't go down easily. I know that there are no good losses in sports, but for a team that is missing two NBA champions and several other role players, Brooklyn has not made things easy for Toronto. Aside from Game 3, the Nets have played Toronto as best it could, and interim coach Jacque Vaughn has done a great job of making in-game adjustments to counter what Nick Nurse is doing throughout the game. Many of these guys likely won't be on the roster when Brooklyn starts the 2020-21 season, and Vaughn may not even be the coach next year, but they've certainly pushed the Raptors to play their very best in order to pull out wins.