The Toronto Raptors have a 3-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time in their 25-year history and appear ready to complete a four-game sweep of the undermanned Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night.
The Raptors dominated the Nets 117-92 Friday afternoon in Game 3 of the best-of-seven first-round playoff series being played near Orlando.
“The purpose of going 3-0 is so you can go 4-0,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who scored 22 points in Game 3.
The Nets, who were stubborn opponents in Game 2, offered little resistance Friday without sharpshooter Joe Harris, who left the bubble for a family emergency. Harris will not be available in Game 4.
“When you don’t have all the components of your card it puts stress on different parts, and that was the result,” Nets interim coach Jacque Vaughn said. “It just puts extra stress on different individuals to make plays they might not have had to if Joe was here.”
The Nets have been playing without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and DeAndre Jordan.
The Raptors fell behind by 14 points in Game 2 before winning 104-99 but led Game 3 all the way.
“I think we made a lot of mistakes in Game 2 from coaching, to matchups, to executing in the game,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who was named NBA Coach of the Year on Saturday. “We blew a few coverages really bad, as you guys saw, that were lob dunks with guys all alone. We missed some things. (Friday), I don’t think we did that nearly as much.”
In Game 3, the Raptors were without Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who had been filling the eighth-man role. He had swelling of the left knee after an awkward landing in Game 2. Terence Davis filled that spot Friday and his play satisfied Nurse, but the coach has not settled on anyone in particular for the role.
“I really don’t know what I’m doing with that eighth spot right now,” Nurse said. “I’m thinking I’m kind of doing it by committee. I was this close to using Chris Boucher as the eighth guy (Friday) just because. I think they all deserve a chance and maybe I can kind of find a wild card or an X-factor each night by having it be somebody different. We used Matt (Thomas) the other night, he provided some energy, made his shots, (Davis on Friday) made a couple of shots, played well.”
The Nets’ problems are more severe. Tyler Johnson replaced Harris on Friday and had a career playoff-high 23 points. The presence of Harris on the offense, however, was missed.
“Joe is obviously one of the best 3-point shooters in the world,” said Nets center Jarrett Allen, who did not get a shot attempt from the field Friday and was heldto four points (on free throws) while grabbing 17 rebounds. “But still confident in our guys to make the 3s. It’s just one of those nights that we didn’t.”
The Nets were outscored 46-22 in the paint and shot 33.3 percent from the field, including 16 of 51 (31.4 percent) in 3-point attempts.
“For us it’s can we have one of those games on Sunday, limit as many mistakes as possible and make shots with guys who’ve proven they can make shots,” Johnson said. “Obviously, we know how shorthanded we are, but at the end of the day if you go into games with that excuse then you might as well not show up to play.”
–Field Level Media