For most of this game, it was men up against boys. The Raptors went up by as much as 33 points with 4 minutes still remaining in the second quarter. Nets pushed back in the third but Toronto steadied the ship in the final quarter to pull away with a decisive 134-110 victory in Game 1 of this first-round matchup.
This was Toronto’s first Game 1 victory since 2001 which is a strange achievement considering the level of success the Raptors have had over the last few seasons.
VanVleet Rises To The Occasion
Fred VanVleet popped off in the Raptors first game of the playoffs, carrying on his form from last year’s NBA Finals. He finished with 30 points and 11 assists while making an absurd 8 three-pointers!
It has been an ongoing trend this season for Toronto where a different player every night steps up and makes their presence felt, being the catalyst for the team win. This game it was Fred and maybe next game OG Anunoby will have a terrific game, or maybe Norman Powell. Kyle Lowry also took 3 charges in the game after leading the league in charges taken during the regular season.
Fred’s 30 points, 11 assist, and 8-point showing puts him in some elite category, joining only Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, and Chris Paul as the only players in NBA history with 30+ points, 10+ assists, and 8+ threes in a single playoff game.
This just goes to show the extreme depth of this year’s Raptors allowing them to compete against any team, let alone the depleted 7th seed Brooklyn Nets.
Caris LeVert Showing He Is A Star
While Anunoby locked him up for most of the night as he only scored 15 points, but LeVert found other meaningful ways to contribute to his team’s play and give the team a chance to win the game.
He distribution skills were in the spotlight as he dropped 15 dimes. The team used LeVert’s presence to make a push-back in the 3rd quarter where they outscored the Raptors 33-22. Ball-movement was a key component in this attempted comeback as the 33 of the 43 field goals made were off of assists.
The Raptors tried to avoid giving Caris isolation plays which is his strong suit. But a star does not focus on just one aspect of his game. He becomes a versatile player and contributes in one way or another.
If there’s any hope of stealing a game from Toronto in this series, it lies in LeVert who has made most of his time leading the charge without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant and many others who were not able to participate.
The Raptors made an astonishing 50% of their three-point attempts, draining 22. VanVleet made a big contribution in upping this number by making 8 on his own.
The Raptors used transition offense and quick ball-movement to their advantage, creating open looks beyond the arc to reach such a total. Anunoby also made three 3’s in the game as well, including a tough, contested corner three after taking a pass from Steady Freddy.
If the Nets want to have any chance in this series, they must be able to spread out their defense and have the ability to make quick switches to guard Toronto’s lethal attack. They were able to execute their defensive game-plan in the 3rd quarter (the only quarter where they were able to outplay the Raps) and were able to hold them to only 22 points.
Based on the first game alone, it does not seem as though this will be a long series. The young Nets gain some valuable playoff experience while the Raptors warm up for their undoubtedly bigger and increasingly difficult opponents in the coming rounds.
Let’s just sit back and enjoy the rest of the series.