The Toronto Raptors completed their first series sweep in franchise playoff history, with a 150-122 rout of the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
They accomplished the feat despite losing Kyle Lowry to an ankle injury in the first quarter.
The defending NBA champions will face the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Norman Powell had 29 points to lead a sensational 100-point performance by Toronto’s bench — an NBA record.
Serge Ibaka had 27 points and 15 rebounds, Pascal Siakam had 20 points, Terence Davis finished with 14, while Matt Thomas chipped in with 12. OG Anunoby had 10 as the Raptors beat Brooklyn 4-0 in their opening-round series in the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World.
Caris LeVert had 35 points to top the Nets.
Lowry rolled his left ankle when he stepped on Chris Chiozza’s foot. The six-time all-star guard attempted to keep playing, but hobbled to the locker room seconds later, with 2:48 left in the first quarter, and then departed the arena for diagnostic imaging elsewhere on the NBA campus. He had two points and three assists in nine minutes.
Lowry’s departure could have spelled trouble for Toronto — Fred VanVleet had three fouls at the time, then Powell picked up his third foul with 7:31 to play in the first half.
But the Raptors know how to play shorthanded, having been battered by injuries all season. They went 12-2 without Lowry in the lineup in the regular season, and their resilience showed in their No. 2 finish in the East despite being fifth in the league in games lost to injuries.
The Raptors rallied in Lowry’s absence. They led by 17 points in the second quarter, had stretched the difference to 27 points by midway through the third and, when Davis banked in a 30-footer at the buzzer to end the quarter, the Raptors took an insurmountable 116-87 lead into the fourth.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who a day earlier was presented with the Red Auerbach Trophy as the NBA’s coach of the year, was able to go deep into his bench for all of the fourth quarter.
Nurse said winning Game 4 was key. He didn’t want to give Brooklyn any hope.
“All these games have significance to them for a number of things and tonight’s another one that has significance,” he said before tipoff. “We don’t want to let them back in the series or get any confidence and we also want to continue to worry about what we’re doing, as far as playing well.”
Turning the tables
The Raptors had been swept four times in their 19 previous playoff series, by New York (3-0) in 2000, Washington in 2015, and Cleveland twice in 2017 and ’18.
The Raptors now face Boston for the first time in post-season history after the Celtics beat Philadelphia 110-106 earlier Sunday for a four-game series sweep. While the league hasn’t announced the schedule, the conference semifinals could tip off as early as Thursday.
Boston won three of the four regular-season meetings with Toronto, including a 22-point victory over the Raptors on Aug. 7 inside the NBA bubble.
On Sunday, the lead changed hands 11 times in the see-saw first quarter, and the Raptors led 39-32 to start the second.
Ibaka had a big second quarter, shooting 7 for 8 for 15 points. Thomas’s long jump shot capped a 17-8 Raptors run that had Toronto up by 17 points midway through the frame, and the Raptors headed into the halftime break with a 77-68 lead.
This was the third time the Raptors had faced the Nets in the post-season. Their seven-game series against Brooklyn in 2014 was a turning point for the franchise, which has made the playoffs every season since. That season saw the birth of Jurassic Park and “We the North.”