The next time we see the Nets, their lineup presumably will include Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. But none of those players were available for Game 4 of their first-round playoff series against defending NBA champion Toronto, and the lack of manpower showed as the Raptors completed a 4-0 sweep with a 150-122 rout Sunday night at Disney World in Orlando.
It marked the third of four games in which the Raptors led by at least 30 points, and it was the most points the Nets have allowed in a playoff game.
In the third quarter, the Raptors simply ran away from the Nets and hid by outscoring them 39-19. It was an utterly demoralizing end to an otherwise solid season in which the Nets fought through adversity.
Asked how he will remember this team, interim coach Jacque Vaughn said, “Really it’s the resilience of our team. We had an extreme resilience as a group, a competitive nature about us . . . and a sacrifice as a group for the men who came.
“I’m extremely grateful for this group and the time we spent together. We’re forever linked and appreciate everyone who stepped on that floor and everyone who helped the men who stepped on that floor.”
Caris LeVert tried his best to lead the Nets with 35 points, six rebounds and six assists in the three quarters he played, but he didn’t get a lot of help. Tyler Johnson added 13 points and Jarrett Allen totaled eight points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.
“These past 12 games or so, I think I was the lead dog, and I gained a lot of experience from that,” LeVert said. “I felt more comfortable in that role as the games went on, and I think in the playoffs, it was another step. Next year with more people out there on the court, it will be a lot easier for all of us.”
LeVert noted that he faced every imaginable defensive scheme, including triple-teaming and box-and-one zone. Looking ahead to the return of Durant, Irving, Jordan, Dinwiddie and Harris, he said, “Next year, no one will be able to do that with the talent we have on the court. I think that just playing in this environment definitely gave everyone who played a step up going into next year for sure.”
The Raptors’ championship pedigree and depth were too much for the Nets to handle, especially on a cold-shooting night. Norman Powell came off the bench to lead the Raptors to the first playoff sweep in franchise history with 29 points. Serge Ibaka added 27 points and 15 rebounds off the bench, and Pascal Siakam had 20 points and 11 assists. The Raptors shot 55.4% from the field and 46.8% from three-point range.
No doubt, the Nets were hoping to show their resiliency in Game 4, and they traded the first-quarter lead 11 times with the Raptors. It seemed they had an opportunity to capitalize when the Raptors lost their starting backcourt early on. Fred VanVleet went to the bench with three fouls in the first seven minutes of the game and Kyle Lowry was lost for the game after suffering a left ankle injury.
But even without those two on the floor, the Raptors built a 94-70 third-quarter lead.
The Nets can’t wait to get Durant and Irving on the court. “I think the guys we have here complement their style,” Garrett Temple said. “If you have guys like a Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris — guys that can play off the ball and on the ball — those are guys that really let them be the best players they can be.”
So the Nets’ season ended with a familiar Brooklyn refrain: “Wait ’til next year.”