Raptors

Great Guard Play Guides Raptors to 104-99 Game 2 Win Over Nets

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Come playoff time, the Raptors’ guards show up big. Wednesday’s game proved to be no exception. 

Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry all poured in at least 20 points as the Toronto Raptors overcame a shaky start to beat the Brooklyn Nets 104-99. 

The Nets dominated from the get-go, jumping out to a quick 26-12 lead about six-and-a-half minutes into the game. But Pascal Siakam, quieting his doubters, scored 14 in the first quarter to bring the Raptors’ deficit within four.

Toronto kept it close, but overall sloppy play saw them on the losing end until the fourth quarter, taking their first lead with nine minutes to go. 

“We had to switch a lot of things on the fly—a lot of coverages and a lot of matchups … because it was just funky,” Head Coach Nick Nurse said postgame of the Raptors adjustments. “That’s what you do, you keep searching and searching and searching… for a spark, but we finally found it.” 

That spark came in two ways. First: phenomenal play from Toronto’s top three guards

Norman Powell, in true playoff form already, scored 24 points with six rebounds and two assists. That includes this dunk to open the second half. 

“When [Norm] plays with confidence and just goes out there and plays his game, not overthinking anything and just taking whatever the defense gives him, he’s always special,” Siakam said of his teammate postgame. “That’s what he did tonight and he played a great game on both sides of the floor.”  

Fred VanVleet matched Powell’s scoring output while adding 10 assists and five rebounds for his second straight double-double, while Kyle Lowry scored 21 and narrowly missed out on a double-double himself. 

Second: an aggressive (but non-flagrant) foul from Brooklyn’s Rodions Kurucs.

Until that foul, the Nets still held control of the game. But Kurucs made OG Anunoby angry—and Anunoby doesn’t get angry often. That was Brooklyn’s downfall. 

From that moment on, the Raptors were a team reborn. Anunoby slammed down a vicious dunk, Kyle Lowry put Joe Harris into a spin cycle and Toronto took a 90-85 lead that they would not relinquish. 

Still, Brooklyn had a chance to tie the game at 102 with 8.5 seconds remaining, but it ended as anticlimactically as possible. 

Nets Interim Head Coach Jacque Vaughn chalked the failed play up to “good defense” by the Raptors. 

“We had the ball in the hands of our shooter,” Vaughn said. “The ball was intended for Joe and we got it to Joe.” 

Harris received the inbound but Lowry instantly met him with tight pressure. Garrett Temple bobbled the pass from Harris, which was picked up by Powell and emphatically put away at the other end. 

Postgame, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Harris will leave the NBA’s bubble for a “non-medical personal matter.” 

The Nets, who are already without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince, among others, now lose one of the league’s best three-point shooters for the remainder of the Nets-Raptors series. 

Against the Raptors’ defense, this could pose a nightmarish turn for the worst. Toronto already held Brooklyn’s best scorer, Caris LeVert, to 16 points off 5-22 shooting in Game 2. With no Harris on the floor, they will be able to divert more attention to the Nets’ secondary threatsTemple and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. 

For Game 3, Coach Nurse needs to figure out how to energize his team early. But if the guard play is as dominant next game as it was on Wednesday, the Raptors are due for another dominant performance.

Follow us on Twitter @RaptorsLead for the latest Raptors news and insight.

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About Sasha Podzorov

Sasha Podzorov is a journalism student at Stony Brook University where he broadcasts volleyball, soccer and lacrosse games. He is a huge basketball and soccer fan, and a Top Gear and Jeopardy enthusiast. Connect with him on Twitter @sasha_podzorov

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