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)
The Raptors were due for a win after suffering back to back losses last week. They have been starting games out slowly, but Coach Nurse was not going to let that happen tonight. He had the Raptors focused and locked in with a tighter rotation and good command of his play book. Toronto had their offense going and played with good pace, but the Mavericks were ready and matched the Raptors shot for shot. Coach Rick Carlisle does not get enough credit for the incredible work he is doing in Dallas. The Raptors picked up the win, but the Mavericks fought all game long and put up a valiant effort in defeat.
Toronto 123 Dallas 120.
The Index (The Leader)
Is it out of the question to give Serge Ibaka some All-Star consideration? Aside from Horford in Boston, and Embiid in Philly, what other eastern conference centre has been more consistent than Serge this year? Ibaka had already elevated his game with Jonas out of the line up, but now, he has been asked to do even more as Coach Nurse tightens his bench. Serge had his hands full with Jordan but, he was still able to earn a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards to go with 2 assist, 1 steal and 2 blocks. Not his best offensive game but, he was big in the middle for Toronto and a key reason why the Raptors won the battle of the glass tonight.
The Middle (The Enemy)
Luka Doncic is the consensus rookie of the year, but he played like an All-Star tonight. Luka is seasoned well beyond his age and showed the type of poise and craftiness that takes years to develop. Doncic is strong and nimble for his size and has extremely high basketball IQ. He filled the stat sheet tonight and earned a triple-double by scoring 35 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists. He impressed me with his ability to bait fouls, exploit angles and open driving lanes. Luka has immediately changed the future of the franchise and in a few years, he will have the Mavericks back on top of the Western Conference standings.
The Ring (The X Factor)
The Raptors are a different team when Kyle Lowry is hitting his shots. His offense has been up and down this year, but Kyle seems to be finding his scoring touch again. Lowry had a great line tonight scoring 19 points (5/10 from deep) with 5 rebounds and 9 assists while only turning the ball over once. On the defensive end, he did a good job keeping Dennis Smith Jr. in check and added 2 blocks and a steal. This is exactly the type of production the Raptors want from Kyle as they head into the second half of the season.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Delon Wright sat for unknown reasons when the Raptors faced the Rockets. I am not sure if Coach Nurse was trying to send a message but, tonight Delon was sure to make the most of his minutes. Wright showed excellent energy and was bouncing all over the court. He was using his length and athleticism to disrupt plays, clog passing lanes and help other defenders. He looked good scoring 9 points on 3/4 shooting in 13 minutes. A consistent shot and his ability to keep plays alive will earn him more time on the floor.
Player of the Game
I have praised his game all season but tonight was the first time I realized how physical Kawhi Leonard can be. He is a tough cover for anyone; he used every inch of his frame to carve out space in the paint. Kawhi is slowly shedding his quiet persona as it seemed that every drive to the basket was accompanied by a visceral roar. Leonard picked up a rare technical foul after he thought the refs missed a call but, other than that, he was composed and led the Raptors again with 33 points on 10/23 shooting with 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
- Auf Wiedersehen – This was the last time Toronto will play Dirk Nowitzki as he winds down his hall of fame career. Dirk revolutionized his position and will be remembered as one of the greatest power forwards and international players in NBA history.
- Live by the 3 – The Raptors were hot from beyond the arc. They hit 17 of 34 shots from deep.
- Turn my microphone up – The rims at the American Airlines center are way too loud. Sure, swishes sound great but a missed shot sounds like driving over a pothole.
- Canadian Content – It seemed as if Dwight Powell was finishing alley oops and dunking all night. Nice to see the young Canadian contribute for the Mavericks.
The Raptors now have a few days to prepare for huge game on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.