Toronto Raptors (2) vs Brooklyn Nets (7)

The Toronto Raptors have surprised everyone but themselves this season. The general thought was that the Raptors would fall off given that Kawhi Leonard left them to join the Los Angeles Clippers. Boy were the critics wrong about the Raptors. The Raptors have the 2nd highest defensive efficiency and trail only the Milwaukee Bucks in that category. Additionally, The Raptors give up the fewest points per game at 106.7. They also are 2nd in holding opposing teams to shoot only 42.8% against them overall. They hold teams to a league best 33% from down town. The Raptors work hard as a team and play phenomenal team defense. In 4 games against the Brooklyn Nets the Raptors won the season series 3-1. They averaged 110 points per game against the Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets finished the season with a 35-37 record. They made the playoffs without injured point guard Kyrie Irving and without having star forward Kevin Durant for the year. The Nets have been led by the 3rd year man from Michigan Caris Lavert. Lavert is averaging 23.3 points vs the Raptors this year. The nets will have point guard Tyler Johnson play along side Lavert. Small forward Joe Harris averaged 15 points per game against the Raptors. The Nets are 2nd in rebounds per game big thanks to center Jarrett Allen and 16th in the league in scoring. The Nets shot just 37% against the aforementioned Toronto defense. They did however average a shade under 50 rebounds a game against the Raptors. The Raptors Kyle Lowry averaged 18 points, 7 assists, and shot 38 % from 3’s against the Nets. Lowry’s back court mate Fred Van Vleet averages almost 27 per game against Brooklyn this season.

If the Nets want to have a chance in this series they have to do their best to shutdown Toronto’s back court. On top of that Lance Thomas and Jarrett Allen are going to have to dig deep to outplay Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol. Siakam is averaging 22 points and 4 assists per game against the Nets. Lance Thomas must find a way to guard Siakam if Brooklyn is even going to stand a chance in this series. Furthermore, center Jarrett Allen is going to have to put a body on the newly molded Marc Gasol. Gasol, who came into the bubble in fantastic shape, averages 17 points a game against the Nets. Norman Powell has scored 25 against the Nets in the one game he played against them, but he should feel very comfortable with them as his opponent. The Raptors are also currently without Sergio Ibaka and Og Anunoby both of whom are injured without a specific timeline for their return.

Although the Raptors are heavy favorites to win this series, it doesn’t mean that they can’t lose. In order for the Raptors to beat the Nets, they will have to keep bodies on both Caris Lavert and Joe Harris. Both of these players can get hot from the outside and can shoot opponents out of the game. Marc Gasol is going to have to box out Jarrett Allen on rebound opportunities. Pascal Siakam is going to have to clearly win the match up against Lance Thomas and the Nets’ other forwards. Kyle Lowry and Fred Van Vleet have to out duel Caris Lavert and Tyler Johnson. Lastly, the Raptors should continue to play their dominant team defense. As the old adage goes “Defense wins Championships.” While the Raptors may not have a super star, they have a stellar defense that could win another championship.

Let’s see what the Brooklyn Nets can do against the dominant Raptor defense and whether they get help from some unexpected sources on their roster. Remember, even though the Raptors are favored it doesn’t mean a guaranteed win. Playing the games is the only guarantee.

Enjoy the Games!