What ultimately matters is the defending champion Toronto Raptors have a 2-0 series lead over the Brooklyn Nets. A win is a win. They don’t all have to look pretty.
Unlike the first game of the series, this one was no work of art for the defending champs. The Raptors fell 14 in the first quarter but fought back, played strong defense down the stretch, and got a big game from Norman Powell off the bench — 24 points on 11-of-17 shooting — to hold on and beat Brooklyn 104-99.
For the Nets, this feels like a blown opportunity.
Caris LeVert was forced to be more playmaker than a pure scorer, he dished out 11 assists and could have had more. Toronto often blitzed LeVert and it impacted his shot (5-of-22) but he found cutters and the open man and kept the Nets offense moving. Garrett Temple had 21 points for the game, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (who started in place of Rodions Kurucs) added 17.
Toronto has had the best defense in the restart and it won them this game, right down to the final meaningful Brooklyn possession. The Nets were down three, 102-99, with 15 seconds left and the ball out of bounds. They were intent on getting the ball to Joe Harris coming off a dribble handoff for three, but Kyle Lowry blew the play up, forced a turnover that ended in a Powell dunk, and that was the game. All fourth quarter long the Raptors defense made plays, with Pascal Siakam blowing up the Nets pick-and-roll and making their life tough. For the game the Nets shot 38.8%.
Toronto also had 24 points from Fred VanVleet (on 22 shots), 21 from Kyle Lowry, and 19 from Siakam.
This was the scrappy Nets we have seen all restart long, a team that would not stop, kept fighting, and gave the defending champs — and the best team in the bubble so far — all they can handle. Next season the Brooklyn Nets are going to be a much better, much more dangerous team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but will they keep this grittiness and edge? This is a fun team to watch because of it, and if the Nets are going to threaten for a title they will need that toughness, but we’ll see what the new roster and coach look like next season.
Toronto has plenty of grit. That’s why they have a ring and are up 2-0 in this series.