The Brooklyn Nets had a couple of bright spots through the first two games of their first round series with the Toronto Raptors, with the brightest clearly the play of Jarrett Allen, who has blossomed into more than just a lob finisher and rim protector.
But, not satisfied with a 2-0 series lead, the Raptors ruined the fun of watching Allen make plays, erasing the 22-year-old center from the Brooklyn offense in Game 3 on Friday. After a scare in Game 2, the champs were back to taking care of business. And they put themselves on the brink of their first ever series sweep with an easy 117-92 victory.
Offensively, the Raptors got Pascal Siakam going offensively on Friday. After totaling 37 points and four assists through the first two games, the All-Star had 26 and five on Friday. Fred VanVleet remained aflame, scoring 22 points and draining 6 of his 10 3-point attempts.
But the Raps are a defensive team first and foremost. Game 3 was another example of how they can turn the screws on that end of the floor, and on this afternoon in Orlando, Allen was the focus of that screw-turning.
12 — Restricted-area attempts for the Nets in Game 3.
The Nets’ 16 restricted-area attempts in Game 2 were a season low. And then they got four fewer in Game 3, with only seven restricted-area attempts through the first three quarters.
Brooklyn was a bottom-10 shooting team from every area (restricted area, other paint shots, mid-range and 3-point range) this season. But they were, at least, good at getting to the most important of those areas. The Nets ranked third in the percentage of their shots that came in the restricted area (36%).
They haven’t been so good at getting to the basket in this series. (Spencer Dinwiddie’s absence hurts in this regard.) And those layups and dunks have become more scarce with every game.
Some of the Game 3 shot distribution was by the Nets’ own design. Playing without seven guys who didn’t even make the trip to Orlando and Joe Harris (who left for personal reasons after Game 2), Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn knew his team was outmatched against the defending champs. So he went for a win by variance.
“It was part of our game plan to shoot 50 3s,” Vaughn said. “We were thinking that would give us a chance to be in the game, if we made a good percentage.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse was on the same page.
“We had talked about them shooting 50-55 3s today,” he said. “I think it is pretty smart by them to kind of go in there and do that. They have got some smaller lineups and some guys that can shoot it and let it fly.”
And the Raptors employ a defense that will allow you to do so: In the regular season, 44% of their opponents’ shots, the league’s highest rate, came from beyond the arc.
Alas, the Nets ranked 26th in 3-point percentage (34.3%) in the regular season and were missing their best shooter. They did reach their goal, attempting 51 3s (their third-highest total of the season) on Friday. But they made just 16 (31%) of the 51.
And surely, the Nets would have liked a few more layups or dunks, especially from Allen, who shot 72% in the restricted area in the regular season. Allen got fouled twice in the paint, but didn’t have a single field goal attempt in the box score.
The Nets’ 6-foot-11 center set more than 30 ball screens in Game 3. But not once did he get a clean roll to the rim. Those two trips to the line came off an isolation drive by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and an after-timeout play for him to catch the ball in the paint after getting a pin-down screen.
In Game 2 on Wednesday, the Raptors focused their pick-and-roll defense on LeVert, with their bigs up at the level of the screen to corral the Nets’ primary ball-handler and plenty of space for Allen to roll into and receive a pass:
If none of the other three defenders met Allen in the paint, he got all the way to the rim. And if the Raptors rotated to the roll, he kicked the ball out to the open shooter, picking up five assists (all on 3s).
With the Nets’ young center having proven himself a pretty adept playmaker and with LeVert having shot 0-for-6 from 3-point range through the first two games, the Raptors switched things up for Game 3. They gave LeVert more space and Allen less.
On the Nets’ second possession on Friday, Marc Gasol was out near the 3-point line, but retreating to not allow Allen to get behind him.
Not having Harris’ floor spacing and offensive production certainly hurt Brooklyn. And the Nets’ weak-side defenders did do their part in keeping Allen from getting to the rim. But even if Harris was there, the Raptors’ Game 3 scheme required less help off the ball and enabled the other three defenders to stay closer to home on the Nets’ shooters.
If Brooklyn was going to take 50 3s, they were going to come from LeVert off the dribble or from more tightly-guarded shooters off the ball. Not only did Allen not get any shots off of rolls to the rim, none of his three assists were from pick-and-roll actions.
“We adjusted some coverages there,” Nurse said. “We kind of changed a lot to not let him get the ball.”
The quality of the Raptors’ defense — which ranked second during the regular season and now ranks second in the playoffs — goes well beyond their initial execution of the pick-and-roll game plan. Vaughn said that his team’s lack of layups in this series has been “byproduct of their ability to have multiple efforts.”
And maybe the adjustment wasn’t necessary. The Raptors could have won Game 3 by simply improving their execution of the Game 2 game plan. Heck, they won Game 2 despite all of Allen’s damage in the paint. But this team has dreams of another long run in these playoffs, you have to be able to win in different ways, and even against an outmatched opponent, every game is an opportunity to expand and fine-tune your skill set.
The “drop” coverage might not work well against the league’s best pull-up jump-shooting team in the next round (aka the Atlantic Division Finals), but that’s a conversation for another day. And even if the Celtics generally call for the Game 2 game plan, you can’t give a good team just one look.
“We tweaked some things,” VanVleet said, in regard to keeping Allen from getting his catches on Friday. “I think Caris got a little more loose than he did previously due to the scheme change that we did. [We] keep trying to give them different looks and not give them the same look every game.
“We gave Caris a little more. We gave Allen a little less. Obviously we know they missed Joe tonight. We were able to stay home on some of the other guys. It’s a chess match. You’ve got to keep continuing to make adjustments throughout the series.”
The Nets might as well try for variance again in Game 4 on Sunday (6:30 ET, TNT), so expect another 50 3-point attempts. They might see more opportunities for LeVert against the drop scheme when they watch the Game 3 film, but they can’t be sure that the Raptors won’t change the scheme again. Maybe the champs will switch everything just for the heck of it.
The Raptors will be going for the first playoff series sweep in franchise history. And more important than making history is getting done with the first round so that they can get some rest and start game planning for a likely series against the Celtics, a much tougher opponent than the scrappy Nets.
Nurse admitted on Friday that, from night to night, he’s not sure who the eighth man in his rotation will be. (It was Terence Davis on Friday.) No matter what, he’s going to lean heavily on his top seven, a group with championship experience that’s finally healthy.
“They are going to play a lot of minutes for us,” he said. “I think taking care of business will help us.”
* * *
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3 Keys: Lightning vs. Stars, Game 3 of Stanley Cup Final – NHL.com
Lightning vs. Stars
8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
Best-of-7 series tied, 1-1
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars each will try to take a step toward winning the Stanley Cup when they play Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday.
The Lightning evened the best-of-7 series with a 3-2 win in Game 2 on Monday after the Stars’ 4-1 victory in Game 1.
The winner of Game 3 when a best-of-7 Final is tied is 22-7 (75.9 percent) in the series.
“We now are in a best three-out-of-five to win the Stanley Cup,” Dallas coach Rick Bowness said.
The Stars are 6-2-0 following a loss this postseason, including 5-1 when goalie Anton Khudobin starts. Khudobin is expected to make his 10th straight start.
The Lightning have not won back-to-back games since Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Islanders, going 3-3 in their past six postseason games.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos could make his postseason debut. The forward, who hasn’t played since Feb. 25, sustained a lower-body injury before the Lightning returned in July for training camp in advance of the postseason.
“There’s a lot of things that are going to have to go into this beforehand, but he’s getting closer,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
Here are 3 keys to Game 3:
1. Hit and be hit
There have been 207 hits in Games 1 and 2, with the Lightning holding a 107-100 advantage.
The series figures to remain physical, so the first team to give an inch in this area could find itself getting knocked off the puck enough to lead to chances the other way.
“It’s been physical and guys are doing everything they can to win,” Tampa Bay forward Tyler Johnson said Wednesday. “Dallas is a bigger team, strong, and they play good defensively, structured. We do too. When you get two teams like that, it’s going to be a hard-fought battle. Both teams, going this far, you’re so close yet you’re still far away and you’re literally doing everything right now. We’ve had some good games so far and we’re just trying to keep that compete up.”
2. Stars maintaining discipline
Each team has been on the penalty kill seven times, but it’s Dallas that needs to be more wary about the penalties it takes and when it takes them because the Tampa Bay power play clicked in Game 2, going 2-for-4 after it was 0-for-14 in its previous four games.
The Stars were shorthanded three times in the first period of Game 2, including two penalties in a span of 2:13. The Lightning scored on each power play.
Dallas was shorthanded three times in the third period of Game 1 protecting a two-goal lead. The Stars killed all three penalties.
“I didn’t like the [undisciplined] penalties we took (in Game 2),” Bowness said. “Maybe you take one of those per period. What we’ve done the last two games is taken three in a period, one after another after another, and that just kills our team. And clearly that power play is going to score if you keep giving them undisciplined opportunities.”
3. Start on time
The team that has scored first has won each game, partly because the goal was part of a strong first period.
The Lightning were up 3-0 and outshot the Stars 14-6 in the first period of Game 2. Game 1 was tied 1-1 after the first period, but Dallas was controlling the game defensively and led to a game-changing second period on the way to taking a 3-1 lead.
Lightning projected lineup
Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Tyler Johnson
Barclay Goodrow — Yanni Gourde — Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon — Cedric Paquette — Carter Verhaeghe
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Kevin Shattenkirk
Mikhail Sergachev — Erik Cernak
Scratched: Mathieu Joseph, Mitchell Stephens, Alexander Volkov, Braydon Coburn, Scott Wedgewood, Luke Schenn, Zach Bogosian
Unfit to play: Steven Stamkos
Stars projected lineup
Jamie Benn — Tyler Seguin — Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark — Joe Pavelski — Denis Gurianov
Joel Kiviranta — Roope Hintz — Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano — Jason Dickinson — Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak — Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera — Joel Hanley
Unfit to play: Stephen Johns, Ben Bishop, Radek Faksa
Comeau, who did not participate in the morning skate Wednesday, will be a game-time decision. He left Game 2 in the second period after an open-ice hit by by McDonagh and did not return for the third period. Caamano, a forward, could replace Comeau if he does not play. It would be his NHL postseason debut.
Senators part ways with cherished veterans Anderson, Borowiecki – Sportsnet.ca
As the Ottawa Senators prepare to welcome young additions from the 2020 NHL Draft, they say goodbye to two cherished veterans.
In a Zoom call with reporters, general manager Pierre Dorion confirmed what has long been suspected: the Senators are moving on from venerable goaltender Craig Anderson and the team’s hard-nosed defenceman, Mark Borowiecki. Both are expected to pursue free agency on Oct. 9.
Anderson, 39, was not offered a contract. Borowiecki, 31, a player Dorion once said he wanted to make a “Senator for life,” is leaving on his own terms. Dorion saluted them both on the way out the door.
“Craig should be given so much credit — it was one of the best trades (the late GM) Bryan Murray made,” Dorion said. “He’s the winningest goalie in this organization’s history, and I will go on the record as saying he’s the best performing goalie in this organization. The best goalie we’ve ever had.
“But it’s time for us to take another direction. And we thank him for everything he did.”
Anderson, who came to Ottawa in 2011 in a trade with Colorado for Brian Elliott, quite likely saved Murray from getting fired — so well did he play down the stretch that year, for a team headed to a rebuild. His Senators record: 202-168-46 with a .914 save percentage and 2.84 goals-against. Anderson is the franchise leader in games played by a goaltender (435), starts (422), wins (202) and save percentage. He’s second all-time in shutouts with 28, two behind Patrick Lalime.
Dorion called Anderson the “MVP” of the 2017 run to the Eastern Conference Final.
“It’s unfortunate we were unable to win a Cup with Craig but he did many wonderful things for this organization,” Dorion said.
Look for Anderson to be honoured in some way by the Senators next season. He’s a good fit for the Ring of Honour.
Borowiecki was that rarest of 30-year-olds in Ottawa, a Senators player who was drafted and stayed here for more than a decade. The Kanata native has been Boro-Cop on the ice and on the streets — breaking up a robbery in Vancouver this season — and a community role model off it, with deep ties to several charitable organizations.
Along with Anderson, Borowiecki has been a veteran leader for the Senators as the team got younger in recent years and the likes of Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Erik Karlsson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Matt Duchene left via trade.
“Mark has been a great member of this team for many years,” Dorion said. “If he’s going to go to the free agent market, we thank him for everything he has done. I don’t think you will ever meet a better person… someone who has great values. He’s a great human being.
“But at the same time we have to respect a player’s wishes.”
They leave a big void. Bobby Ryan, 33, is the only long-standing veteran remaining. He joined the Senators in 2013 via trade from Anaheim.
Look to Dorion to shore up his veteran depth either through trades at the draft or free agency.
“We are not going with a team of all young players,” Dorion assured fans. “We will add key veterans to solidify the progress of our young players.”
Draft: Best player or match needs?
With picks at Nos. 3, 5 and 28 plus four more in the second round and 13 selections overall, Dorion and chief amateur scout Trent Mann will be overlooking one of the Senators’ most important drafts in just two weeks time.
While it’s expected Ottawa will take either Quinton Byfield or Tim Stutzle with their first pick, Dorion wasn’t going to tip his hand on the pick at five. There is a group of excellent forwards available, but also defenceman Jake Sanderson, who could be playing alongside Senators prospect Jacob Bernard-Docker at the University of North Dakota this season.
“We are going to draft the best player who is going to help us win as we move forward with this plan,” Dorion said, quite generically, although his eyes twinkled a little when he considered the question about Senators prospects playing together in college.
“We have a lot of needs, we’ve finished in 30th, 31st and 30th place over the last three years… we have a lot of prospects coming at multiple positions but we are going to draft who we feel are going to help us win in the near future and in the long term.”
Dorion said that general managers are doing a lot of talking before the draft, and admits he is open to swapping some of his picks to move up or acquire a player, but won’t “jump the steps required to make us a better team in the long term.”
From the Stanley Cup Qualifiers to the Stanley Cup Final, livestream every game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, blackout-free, on Sportsnet NOW.
Canadian scouts only
Just another 2020 oddity: the Senators won’t have their full complement of scouts together for the draft as COVID-19 travel restrictions make it too difficult for European and U.S. scouts to be in Ottawa. They will follow and contribute online.
Tkachuk deal has to wait: red flag or TBA?
In response to a question in French, Dorion said that it will take some time to sort out a long term deal with young forward star Brady Tkachuk because “the landscape of the NHL has changed and is going to be changing,” due to the pandemic and its impact on the NHL.
The Senators were able to sign Thomas Chabot last fall before the last year of his entry-level deal. Tkachuk’s ELC ends in 2021 when he becomes a restricted free agent. Ottawa’s rebuild will lose credibility if the club can’t extend Tkachuk long term.
Nilsson ‘should’ be ready
Dorion tried to sound optimistic about the health of goaltender Anders Nilsson, who suffered a concussion in mid-December, but admitted he won’t really know until teams are able to report to training camp.
“We think Anders will be ready when the season starts,” Dorion said. “He’s not been on the ice but he feels better. When he gets to Ottawa we should get a better indication of his recovery, his path.”
Pierre Groulx, the Senators’ goalie coach, has been in touch with Nilsson weekly.
The club’s level of confidence concerning Nilsson, pencilled in as the team’s starter, might dictate whether they seek help through trade or free agency to secure a veteran for the upcoming season, whenever it might begin. Marcus Hogberg is the other returning veteran, and he doesn’t have a lot of NHL experience.
In the pipeline, Dorion likes the “depth and quality at the goaltending position.”
In particular, Dorion said he was pleased with the progress of Joey Daccord in the ECHL and AHL last season, as well as Filip Gustavsson in Belleville, who has had “ups and downs” but whom Dorion sees as having a lot of upside.
Kevin Mandolese of the Cape Breton Eagles, signed to an entry-level deal in April, was the QMJHL goalie of the year.
“I would say there wasn’t a better goalie in junior in the second half of the season,” Dorion said.
At the last draft, Ottawa selected goalie Mads Sogaard in the second round and while he experienced some growing pains last season, Dorion and Groulx like his size (six-foot-seven) and lateral ability.
Sogaard will likely remain in Medicine Hat (WHL) this season, according to Dorion.
“We feel we have four quality prospects,” Dorion said.
Three of them will be at the pro level this season.
Senators part ways with longtime goalie Craig Anderson – CBC.ca
Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion says longtime Senators goaltender Craig Anderson will not be offered a new contract by the NHL club.
In an availability with reporters Wednesday, Dorion thanked Anderson for his contributions to the Senators over the years but said the club would be moving in a different direction.
Anderson is an unrestricted free agent after completing a two-year, $9.5-million US contract this season.
The 39-year-old Anderson joined the Senators in a goaltender swap with Colorado on Feb. 18, 2011, that sent Brian Elliott to the Avalanche.
WATCH | Anderson makes crazy, no-look save against Sabres
Anderson has a 202-168-46 record over 435 appearances (422 starts) with a 2.84 goals-against average and ,914 save percentage over nine-plus seasons with the Senators. He helped the Senators reach the Eastern Conference final in 2016-17, though the team has struggled the last free seasons.
Dorion also said he expects defenceman Mark Borowiecki to test the free-agent market.
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