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 NFL may have the attention of the sports world today in Atlanta, but the Raptors were much more concerned with what happened at the Scotiabank Centre. The LA Clippers have one of the best coaches in the league and, even though they do not boast many familiar names on their roster, Coach Rivers always has his team focused and ready to execute. Coming off an emotional comeback win last night, the Clippers relied on their defensive schemes to keep today’s game close. However, Toronto was hungry for a dominant win and would not accept anything less. Even without Lowry, Toronto had their offense humming led by quality minutes from the bench. LA played hard but were out matched and overwhelmed by Toronto’s deep roster. The Raptors pick up a much-needed confidence building win.
Toronto 121 LA Clippers 103.
The Index (The Leader)
Serge Ibaka is doing his best to supplant Kyle Lowry as the second-best player on the team. Lowry is more important and, when healthy, more talented, but where would the Raptors be without Serge? He has been an anchor on defense and continues to show impressive patience and shot selection when given the ball. His rebounding has improved as well resulting in another double-double today. Ibaka shot 6/9 from the floor for 16 points to go with 12 rebounds. Serge had a tremendous game. He was hungry for a win.
The Middle (The Enemy)
On a team lacking superstars, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has done enough to earn significant minutes and a starting position. This was the young Canadian’s first game north of the border since his high school days and he was ready to put on a show. Shai has a little bit of an unconscious attitude when it comes to his offense; something he has no doubt learned from Lou Williams. He attacks with crafty speed and quickness, indifferent to who stands between him and the rim. Gilgeous-Alexander was fantastic for the Clippers scoring 19 points on 9/15 shooting to go with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Shai is hoping that the Clippers include him with their core as they look to make big changes in the off season; if he keeps playing like this, he won’t give them a choice.
The Ring (The X-Factor)
Clipper’s commentators Ralph Lawler and Corey Maggette spent a big chunk of the game debating who has been the NBA’s most improved player; Pascal Siakam or Montrezl Harrell. Both players have been playing great for their respective teams, but Pascal has been on a steady increase all year and has elevated his game to another level since the All-Star reserves were announced. Pascal Siakam only needed a few of his 22 minutes to make an impact. His line may not have been that impressive, 15 points, 4 rebounds and a block but it was his energy made the difference in the game. His explosiveness swung the momentum in Toronto’s favour in the second quarter and the Raptors never looked back.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Delon Wright is named the unsung hero for contributing in meaningful minutes while igniting the second unit to an impressive game. Delon is rarely featured in the Raptor’s offense and he often has to find other ways to get his game going. Today, he took advantage of the tired Clippers to poke away loose balls, blow past defenders, cut through the lane and crash the glass. He scored 14 points with 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while playing with excellent poise and control.
Honourable mentions go to CJ Miles. He was hot from the floor scoring 15 points on 4/6 shooting (3/5 from deep).
Player of the Game
After a quiet first quarter, Kawhi Leonard went to work in the second with a barrage of three pointers and post moves. The Clippers played with a small lineup for most of the game and as a result, they had no answer for Leonard. He used his strength to bully smaller defenders in the paint and when they gave him some space, he shot the three with confidence. Leonard was all business today with surgical offense. He scored 18 points on 6/12 shooting to lead the Raptors along with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and a block. Toronto was lifted by the bench mob and, to their relief, did not have to play their star big minutes.
- Sweet Lou – Shout out to one of the best pure scorers in the game. Lou Williams had one fantastic season in Toronto which earned him a 6th man of the year award and a club banger from Drake (6 man).
- Dueling Healthcare – Coach Nurse overcame Coach Doc for the second time taking this year’s medical match-up.
- Glass work – The Raptors took advantage of their size to win the rebounding battle 56-36. More rebounds mean more opportunities to score.
- Old school– In today’s NBA, every shot is either at the rim or from three. The mid-range game is a dying art form. Seeing players turn down wide open shots really makes me appreciate what Demar was doing here for all these years.
Toronto will now travel to Philadelphia for another big Eastern conference battle against the 76ers on Tuesday.