The Brooklyn Nets are likely headed for a sweep against the Raptors, but there are specific scenarios where they can pull off the upset.
There is a healthy amount of optimism surrounding the Brooklyn Nets right now and why not? The “Bubble Nets” are exceeding everyone’s expectations after pulling off upset wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Clippers.
For the second consecutive season, the Nets are playoff-bound. After so many lean years in Brooklyn, fans should be excited about this team, even if this is a rag-tag group that won’t be together for very long. This current squad has earned the adulation of fans and media alike.
Unfortunately, this feel-good story has a definite expiration date. The Toronto Raptors may have lost Kawhi Leonard in the offseason, but they are still a juggernaut in the Eastern Conference. After some pundits predicted a huge drop-off for the defending champs this season, they actually improved on their winning percentage in 2019-20.
Pascal Siakam made the leap from a solid complementary piece to a bonafide All-Star. Fred VanVleet, who came into the league as an undrafted free agent, is poised to sign a huge contract after his breakout 2019 NBA Finals and subsequent 2019-20 season. Not to mention, we all know Kyle Lowry is still one of the toughest SOBs on the planet.
The mix of solid veterans like Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol with exciting young role players like OG Anunoby and Terence Davis adds plenty of depth to complement Toronto’s big three.
In short, the Nets have their work cut out for them. Here’s how the Nets can avoid a four-game sweep—the most likely outcome of this series according to sportsbooks.
Winning one game is an attainable goal for almost any team in any series. The “gentleman’s sweep” is quite common in the NBA, but without the typical home-court advantage that comes in Games 3 and 4 of a normal playoff series, this year may be a bit more difficult to steal that game.
With that said, it’s still a realistic possibility if Caris LeVert continues to play the best basketball of his career. LeVert was named to the second team All-Bubble after posting 25.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.5 steals in six games. More than ever before, LeVert looks like a bonafide star. He went toe-to-toe with Bubble MVP Damian Lillard in Brooklyn’s final seeding game.
One monster game from LeVert could be enough for the Nets to steal a win and we know the shifty guard is capable of that kind of outburst. After all, he exploded for 51 points in a comeback victory over the Boston Celtics earlier this season.
Win 2 or 3
The same logic as above would apply here as well. If LeVert goes off for 40-plus points in two or three games, the Nets will have a great chance at winning all of those games. However, with Toronto bringing the NBA’s second-ranked defense to the party, it’s hard to see them allowing LeVert to win two or three games singlehandedly. One is a distinct possibility, but two or three is a stretch.
The Nets will need others to step up if they want to push this series to six or seven games. Is Joe Harris capable of dropping 30 points in a playoff game? Can Jarrett Allen dominate a game with 20 points, 20 rebounds, and five blocks? Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on either scenario playing out.
Win The Series
This would be one of the bigger playoff upsets in recent memory and the Nets would need everything to fall into place in order for this to happen. LeVert would have to be the best player on the floor throughout the series, Harris would need to be a legitimate second option, and Allen would need to dominate the paint while staying out of foul trouble.
But most of all, Jacque Vaughn would need to outcoach Nick Nurse. Granted, Vaughn has been spectacular since taking over for ousted head coach Kenny Atkinson, but the playoffs are a different animal entirely. Nurse has yet to lose a playoff series as an NBA head coach and it’s unlikely that the Nets are going to change that.
Anything is possible, especially in this crazy coronavirus-jilted season, but in order for the Nets to pull off the upset, they’ll have to be perfect.
Official Prediction: Raptors in four.