A win is a win.
Game 2 was more of a struggle for the Toronto Raptors, but they managed to defeat the Brooklyn Nets behind another big performance from Fred VanVleet. While he shot only 8-for-22 from the field, VanVleet posted team-highs of 24 points and 10 assists and led the Raptors in their second half comeback along with Norman Powell, who also finished with 24 points.
For more on the game, here are some quick reactions...
1. Pascal Siakam comes out strong
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was asked before Game 2 if Siakam could attack the rim more against smaller units.
"I know it seems to be since we got here a lot of talk about Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal, Pascal," Nurse said. "He's playing really well and fine and I'm not sure what everybody's issue is with continuing to question his play and all this kinda stuff. He's a really good player and he's gonna do his thing, but we like to take what comes to us and not get too bonkers here about that."
(Well, that was part of his response. You can read Nurse's entire answer here if you want).
Have Siakam's struggles in the season restart been overblown? Maybe a little. Is it still fair to wonder what's been going on with him seeing as he hasn't been the same player in Orlando as he was prior to the season being suspended? I think so.
Either way, Siakam looked more like his normal self to start Game 2.
The Nets jumped out to a quick start in the first quarter, and it was Siakam who got Toronto back in the game. He was responsible for 14 of the team's 29 points in the opening quarter, doing so on an efficient 5-for-7 shooting from the field and 2-for-3 from the free throw line.
Siakam knocked down a couple of 3s and was aggressive attacking the basket, especially when Jarrett Allen - Brooklyn's only rim protector - wasn't on the court.
🗣️ AND 1 pic.twitter.com/PVICB4ptN8- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
Even though Siakam cooled off after the first, it was encouraging to see him come out firing.
2. We need to talk about Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
The Nets are Luwawu-Cabarrot's fourth team in four years. Entering this season, he wasn't known as much of a 3-point shooter. (He made 32.0 percent of his 3-point attempts as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls). This season, he canned 38.8 percent of his shot attempts from the great beyond.
The difference: Luwawu-Cabarrot has gone from someone teams will happily leave open to being one of Brooklyn's more dependable shooters.
It's not just the accuracy either. Luwawu-Cabarrot averaged only 2.8 3-point attempts per game prior to the season being suspended, but that number more than doubled (6.4) in Brooklyn's eight seeding games. His hot shooting carried over into Game 1, with him leading the Nets in scoring with 26 points on 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range.
Luwawu-Cabarrot only scored 17 points in Game 2, but he was Brooklyn's second-leading scorer and was able to knock down a trio of 3s, one of which was clutch.
The Nets are right in this one, they come up with a big stop and LeVert delivers a transitional diagonal pass right to TLC hitting him right in stride for the three. pic.twitter.com/PbzWeBGCZZ- Mo Dakhil (@MoDakhil_NBA) August 19, 2020
According to Basketball Reference, Luwawu-Cabarrot is on the books for $1.8 million for next season (on a partial guarantee, no less). If the way he's been shooting lately is somewhat sustainable, he'll be an absolute steal.
3. Norman Powell can touch the sky
Siakam wasn't the only one who was in attack mode when Allen wasn't lurking in the paint.
Check out this dunk from Powell to open the second quarter:
NASTY NORM IN YOUR AREA pic.twitter.com/HLz6yCRVAO- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
Want another angle?
ON HIS HEADTOP pic.twitter.com/GFXKqKVWEc- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
What about a photo?
Art pic.twitter.com/4KGrznFgL0- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
It was a solid first half overall for Powell. He couldn't get his jump shot to fall - he was 1-for-5 from the perimeter - but he was relentless attacking the basket, leading to 11 points. He gave the Raptors a much-needed scoring punch with VanVleet coming back down to earth following a scorching Game 1.
Speaking of VanVleet...
4. Fred VanVleet comes alive ... but so does Garrett Temple
VanVleet in the first half: 8 points on 2-for-8 shooting from the field and 1-for-3 from 3-point range.
VanVleet in the third quarter: 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting from the field and 2-for-6 from 3-point range.
The Raptors needed every single one of those points as well. The Nets started the third quarter on a 10-2 run and jumped out to a double digit lead, looking like they were going to start to run away with it. VanVleet then scored 10 straight points for the Raptors to cut the deficit to two.
Fred gets BUCKETS pic.twitter.com/cBMs6rm34t- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
The problem for the Raptors? Garrett found the touch in the third quarter as well.
He went toe-to-toe with VanVleet, coming up with 15 points himself on 3-for-5 shooting from 3-point range. Temple helped the Nets weather the VanVleet storm and give them a six point advantage going into the fourth.
5. Don't make OG Anunoby mad
Anunoby took a shoulder to the face from Rodions Kurucs at the start of the fourth quarter that he wasn't very happy about.
You know how I know he wasn't very happy? This is was he did on the ensuing possession:
ANGRY OG > EVERYTHING pic.twitter.com/gBlHonO3GS- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
Anunoby then took it hard to the basket a minute later to earn two free throws that he knocked down.
Those were four of the six points Anunoby scored in the game.
6. The Raptors need better play from their centres
Neither Marc Gasol nor Serge Ibaka were able to make much of an impact in Game 2.
Whereas Gasol failed to score and had more turnovers and fouls (three) than assists (two) in his 17 minutes on the court, Ibaka scored eight points on 3-for-9 shooting from the field and committed five fouls in his 25 minutes.
It got so bad that Nurse decided to close the game with Siakam at centre alongside VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, Powell and Anunoby. It's a lineup I was hoping to see more of in the playoffs, but again, it feels like Nurse went to it because Gasol and Ibaka weren't giving the Raptors anything, not because he necessarily wanted to.
Fortunately for the Raptors, they were able to hold on.
7. Defence saves the day
The Nets had an opportunity to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors had other plans. Lowry forced a turnover on Joe Harris and Powell provided the exclamation point with a dunk on the other end.
EXCLAMATION POINT pic.twitter.com/7rP9V6pSQ0- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 19, 2020
8. Caris LeVert can really pass
You know, if it wasn't clear in Game 1.
LeVert wasn't quite as prolific in this one, but he still handed out a game-high 11 assists. According to Basketball-Reference, it's the first time in his career that he's recorded a double-double in back-to-back games.
LeVert came into the league with the reputation of being a bucket getter, and he's proven in the years since that he has the ability to get hot like few others. I'm not sure anyone saw him becoming this level of passer:
The TLC cut 💨- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) August 19, 2020
The Caris dart 🎯
It all works. pic.twitter.com/MAlFMX7ExE
I have no idea what it means for next season when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are expected to return for the Nets, but LeVert is proving to be a special player. He didn't even shoot well in Game 2, but he seemed to have a hand in everything positive the Nets had going on offence.
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