The High 5 is where I give my reaction to the night’s games. This includes a look at the players who made a difference in the outcome, some additional notes and unique details that caught my attention.
The Thumb (Feel of the Game)
A few years ago, Washington and Toronto were thought to be two evenly matched teams. There were legitimate questions asking which side had the higher ceiling. John Wall and Bradley Beal carried the Wizards with all their swagger and bravado, but it was the Raptors that were making strides to become a true force in the East.
Now, Toronto is considered among the leagues best, while Washington is marred with injuries, roster questions and bad contracts. Despite that, the Wizards showed great resilience today and rekindled some of the old rivalry that once existed. It was expected to be an easy win for Toronto but instead it was an ugly, gritty game. Toronto 140 Washington 138 in double overtime.
The Index (The Leader)
Kyle Lowry was looking for his offense after a few games of quiet scoring. He earned a double-double but missed some big shots that could have ended Washington when the game was on the line in regulation. He finished with 12 points on 4/15 and added 5 rebounds, 11 assists and 2 steals. Kyle is struggling with his shooting but to his credit he has not let it take away from contributing in other ways. Tonight, it was just enough for the win.
The Middle (The Enemy)
The Wizards looked out of it early but, noted Raptor killer, Bradley Beal would not let his team go down without a fight. Beal was an assassin for Washington and played like a true All Star. He led his team with an incredible 43 points on 17/36 shooting while adding 10 rebounds and 15 assists. It was impressive to see his fight and never-say-die attitude, too bad that his efforts in this game came with a loss. His name has been mentioned a lot in trade rumours and, if moved, he would fetch Washington a huge return. Bradley is an impact player that can easily win a team a playoff series.
The Ring (The X Factor)
Pascal Siakam had great bounce to his step throughout the game. He played with seemingly endless energy and his athleticism was on full display as he grabbed steals, earned second chance opportunities and came up with scramble plays. Spicy P finished the game strong going 9/16 from the field for 24 points with 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Improved passing will take him to the next level, but no one could have expected that Pascal would have such an impressive break out season.
Shout outs to Danny Green for almost stealing this credit after getting hot in the 3rd and to Serge Ibaka for hitting the game winning 3.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
One under appreciated benefit from the return of Norman Powell is how much it has helped Delon Wright find his game. Norm helps with spacing and his attacks have taken a lot of the pressure to create off Delon’s shoulders. Wright was asked to carry more of the point guard duties today as Fred VanVleet was out of the lineup and he responded with excellent contributions. He looked aggressive on the attack, had some crafty drives (nice hesi) and put in great effort to keep plays alive on rebounds, tips, and loose balls. Delon shined tonight with 17 off the bench on 7/11 shooting to go with 6 rebounds and 2 assists.
Player of the game
Kawhi Leonard shook off a bump to his leg in the second half to come up with clutch plays for Toronto to close out the win. He looks smooth, comfortable and spry in the half court and more engaged with each game. Kawhi paced the Raptors offense and filled the stat sheet with an impressive 41 points on 15/29 shooting while adding 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Heavy minutes wore him down a bit late, but he played immaculate defense for the win and is forcing his name back into MVP conversations.
Honourable mention goes to Bradley Beal who was magnificent for Washington.
- Trying New Things – Coach Nurse was using this game to try out new lineups. Today, we saw Serge, Siakam, OG, Leonard and Lowry on the floor together.
- A Quiet Place – Maybe it was the game time, maybe it was where the announcers were positioned at Capital One Arena, but until the Wizards made their run in the third, it sounded very quiet.
- Battling Injuries – The Raptors looked to be getting healthier, but the injury bug is trying to bite them again. Kawhi had to sit for a bit with a leg issue, Norm Powell took a hard shoulder and Kyle hit the deck several times (not to mention his black eye).
- A man of particular skills – Coach Scott Brook looks like Liam Neeson.
Toronto has played character building basketball as of late but will be tested when they go into Boston to visit the always dangerous Celtics on Wednesday.