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 Toronto Raptors rolled into the Wells Fargo Center to face the hungry Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night. Despite their winning percentage, Toronto has been struggling to play consistent basketball while the 76ers have slowly climbed the standings to get within striking distance of the Raptors. Coach Nurse must have been pleased to announce that Kyle Lowry would suit up (despite back pain) and that Jonas will be making his long-awaited return sometime on this road trip. The 76ers came out energized but it was the Raptors that maintained a comfortable lead throughout the game. It was a chippy affair, riddled with fouls and questionable calls but after 48 minutes, Toronto came away with a quality road win against a formidable opponent. The Philly faithful were boisterous in the loss and they let the refs know about their displeasure all game long.
Toronto 119 Philadelphia 107.
The Index (The Leader)
Kawhi Leonard had a rare poor shooting night from the field, only hitting 3 of his 11 shots. However, he was relentless with his attack and was rewarded with multiple trips to the stripe where he converted on 16 of his 17 foul shots. His tenacity for the ball resulted in angry rebounds and second chance opportunities that stalled the 76ers comeback and frustrated Coach Brown. It’s good to see Kawhi get more reps with Kyle as their relationship will be key for a deep playoff run. Leonard put up another All-Star line scoring 24 points with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.
The Middle (The Enemy)
This was a game where the Raptors needed a player like Jonas to matchup against All-Star Centre Joel Embiid. Embiid is a monster on the glass with a wide body and impeccable defensive instincts. On offense, he has a soft touch and the best footwork for a big man in the conference. The Raptors did their best to hold Embiid down, but he still exploded for 37 points on 10/20 shooting with 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks. Joel is an absolute beast and should be the present and future of the 76ers. Expect Embiid’s name to be in MVP conversations for the next 3-5 years.
The Ring (The X-Factor)
Serge Ibaka had another impressive game for Toronto. In one of his most difficult matchups of the season, Ibaka was fantastic, scoring 20 points on 10/15 from the field. He also managed to pull down 10 rebounds and dish out 3 assist in limited minutes. Serge was well on his way to a career game before fouls cut his night short. Despite that, he was incredibly effective in his time and took advantage of Philadelphia as their focus was centered on Kawhi and Toronto’s guards.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Norm Powell has played tremendous basketball for Toronto as of late and he gave the Raptors a huge boost off the bench tonight. Norm has settled into a nice groove with the second unit and looks to be doing everything that Coach Nurse has asked. Tonight, it was to score and defend. He answered the challenge by playing solid defense on Jimmy Butler while scoring 14 points on an efficient 5/6 from the floor. Powell’s strong play was rewarded with some key minutes down the stretch.
Player of the Game
Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry was not going to let his lingering back pain keep him out of this game. Lowry is always motivated to play the 76ers. These games bring out the tough attitude and gritty play that has made Kyle a legend in North Philly. Tonight, Lowry showed hustle not seen since the first few weeks of the season. He was finishing layups while still being the first one back on defense. His three-pointer started to fall which opened slashing lanes and added another wrinkle to Toronto’s already potent offense. Lowry had a great night scoring 20 points on 7/16 shooting (5/9 from deep) to go with 6 assists, 1 rebound, and 3 steals. Kyle was fully engaged and reminded everyone why he is such an important piece of the Raptors puzzle.
- The Answer – Allen Iverson rang the Liberty bell to start the game. This man did everything for Philly except bring home a championship.
- Year of the Pig – The NBA showed respect to the Chinese New Year with Chinese lettering on the court and the along the side of the back board. Kung Hei Fat Choi!
- Nice threads – The biggest improvement that Jonas has made since his injury is to his wardrobe.
- Green Money – Danny Green has been invited to represent the Toronto Raptors at this year’s 3-point competition. Considering how well he has been shooting this year, Danny has as good a chance as anyone.
The Raptors will play the Atlanta Hawks at the State Farm Arena this Thursday. Thursday also marks the NBA trade deadline. The trade winds have been blowing and there is a good chance that he league may look very different by the end of the week.