Amongst the Brooklyn Nets’ sizable checklist for Game 2 of their playoff series against the Toronto Raptors was putting together a complete 48-minute effort against the defending champions.
They got about 75% of that as the Raptors used a 19-5 run over the first 5:39 of the fourth quarter to take a 2-0 series lead over the Nets on Wednesday afternoon in a 104-99 victory.
Brooklyn had the ball with a chance to tie it in the final seconds. Just moments after a Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot three-pointer cut the Nets’ deficit to three, a shot-clock violation gave the Nets the ball back with 15 seconds left and a chance to tie.
Out of the timeout, though, a sloppy inbound play saw Joe Harris’ hand-off to Garrett Temple muddled as it went off his shoe and toward center court. The diving Net could not keep possession, allowing Norman Powell to put the icing on the Raptors’ victory with an emphatic dunk.
Fred VanVleet overcame a slow start to equal the 24 points poured in by Powell in the Raptors’ victory while they were supported by an additional 21 from Kyle Lowry.
It was just enough to overcome the valiant Nets’ effort, which got 21 from Garrett Temple and 17 from Luwawu-Cabarrot.
At the end of the day, though, it’s an opportunity squandered despite their status as underdogs or their mix-and-match roster that’s been decimated by injuries and COVID-19.
The Nets initially checked all the boxes off that they wanted to at the start of Game 2.
They played with more physicality, their offense was moving the ball better and taking advantage of its opportunities, and their defense was patrolling the perimeter, eliminating the Raptors’ transition game, and limiting VanVleet.
Shooting over 60% from the field to start, the Nets shot out to a 14-point lead at 26-12 with just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter.
But the Raptors behind Pascal Siakam — who dropped 16 in the first half — responded, reeling off a 13-0 run near the end of the quarter to get right back into things.
Sticking to the game plan, the Nets continued clinging to a slim margin, especially when it came to VanVleet. The star guard who dropped 30 in Game 1 didn’t get his first points of the afternoon until the 11:22 mark in the second quarter.
The Raptors didn’t nab their first lead of the game until there was 3:13 remaining in the first half after Rodions Kurucs was whistled for a technical foul, but it was quickly canceled out by a resilient Nets, who carried a three-point lead into halftime.
Another strong start to the half resulted in a 10-0 run, which was accentuated by a Luwawu-Cabarrot driving layup over Marc Gasol with just under three minutes gone in the third to make it 63-53.
Following a Raptors time out, VanVleet began to take over, scoring seven-straight points to facilitate a Toronto 8-0 replying run. Yet the Nets continued to keep them at an arm’s length for most of the day, mostly thanks to Temple.
The Nets’ shooting guard outscored VanVleet 15-14 in the third quarter, including a pair of vital three-pointers within 30 seconds of each other to keep Brooklyn’s advantage at six heading into the fourth quarter.
As champions do, Toronto found another gear in the fourth, using its well-timed final run to outscore the Nets 30-19 and keep the Nets at bay, barely.