NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs Round 1
Game 3: Toronto Raptors versus Brooklyn Nets
The Nets went 35-37 during the regular season and enter the game in an 0-2 hole against the Raptors, who are the 2nd seed at 53-19. The Raptors won the first game by 24 and held off the Nets by five in game two. Toronto is a 9 ½ point favorite with an over/under of 223.
Brooklyn has been led by an unlikely source in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who is averaging 21.5 points per game, hitting 47.4 percent from beyond the arc. Joe Harris dropped an average of 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in the first two games but will miss at least two games after leaving the team for personal reasons. Garret Temple has chipped in 16.5 per game, while Caris LeVert (15.5 points, 13 assists), and Jarrett Allen (14.5 points, 13.5 rebounds) have also been key contributors.
The Raptors are getting stellar play from sharpshooter Fred VanVleet, hitting 52 percent from beyond the arc, dropping 27 points and 10.5 assists per game. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam have each added 18.5 per game, while Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and Terrence Davis complete a very deep Toronto unit.
During the regular season the teams were nearly identical offensively, separated by an average of only a point per game. The biggest difference between the teams is three-point shooting and defense, where the Raptors have a clear advantage. Toronto is 1st in fewest points allowed at 106.5 per game, while the Nets are 19th at 112.3. Toronto hits from low range at 37.4 percent and Brooklyn is below average at 34.3 percent. The Nets have an edge in rebounding at 47.9 to 45.4 per game.
This is a must-win for the Nets, but without Joe Harris, it seems to be a very tall order. The hope is to slow down the tempo, minimize turnovers, get quality shots each opportunity and tighten up the defense. The Nets can stay with the Raptors for a while, but depth will take over. I think the game will go under because of the Raptors defense and the absence of Harris with the Raptors winning and covering.