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 (The Story of the Game)
The Raptors faced off against their potential playoff rival, the Boston Celtics, in another highly anticipated game. This one had all the buzz and attention of the national media and the NBA world. The pundits were out to critique, the analysts were fervently taking notes and every play was scrutinized under the microscope of advanced analytics. Most importantly, the crowd was teeming with excitement and the stars were ready to put on a show. There are rumblings that the Celtics are not on the same page with each other, and it showed tonight, as they did not play with the same cohesiveness as Toronto. While Boston struggled, Toronto was sharing the ball, finding the open man and playing unselfishly. The Raptors put on an elite performance that may have been a preview of what a championship team should look like. Boston was no match against Toronto’s defense and intensity. They were outworked, outhustled and outclassed. This was a ‘show me’ game for the Raptors. They stepped up for one of their most impressive and dominating wins of the season.
Toronto 118 Boston 95.
The Index (The Leader)
Kyle Lowry’s improved passing has not received as much attention as it deserves this season. He is still among the league leaders in that department, but I feel that he is underrated as a playmaker when people talk about the NBA’s best. He has such deft understanding of his roster that he knows exactly where and when his teammates need the ball. Whether it’s a Siakam leak out, a bounce pass to Serge, a quick hit to the corner or a simple lob over the top, Kyle has been surgical all year. Lowry scored 7 points to go with 6 rebounds and a game high 11 assists. KLOE also brought it on the defensive end as he stepped in for charges, forced turnovers and earned a steal. Lowry had one of his better games under the bright lights.
The Middle (The Enemy)
I struggled to find a player worthy of this nod as none of the Celtics really showed up for tonight’s game. I expected Kyrie Irving to lead Boston, but Toronto did a magnificent job keeping him to only 7 points. Instead, I will give this credit to Marcus Morris who had a strong night in the middle for the Celtics. He laid his body on the line on more then one occasion and brought the physicality against a formidable Raptors frontcourt. Morris had to work hard for each of his 17 points. He also pulled down 6 rebounds and added an assist. Morris was let down by his team as it looked like he was the only one willing to put up a fight.
The Ring (The X Factor)
Kawhi Leonard plays the game in his own world. He isn’t always on the same page as his teammates and he often misses the open man, but he is a generational talent that, when motivated, simply cannot be stopped. He can make something out of nothing while never having it feel like he is forcing the action. Tonight, Leonard was strong and patient in the paint and took advantage of what the defense gave him. If no double team came, he was working his way straight to the rim. If a second defender loomed, he would stretch the defense to get to his hot spots where he could unleash his deadly midrange assault. This was as a pedestrian game from Leonard as you are going to see and he still scored 21 points, to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal. It’s Kawhi’s world, we are just living in it.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Marc Gasol played the role of point centre tonight as he showed off his excellent vision, passing and playmaking. He feasted against Boston’s second unit and continued to develop impressive chemistry with different partners. Throughout his time here I have seen him work especially well with Powell, Lin and Lowry. The Raptors featured Gasol in the high post where he attracted multiple defenders and caught his teammates on nice cuts. He only scored 5 points but dished out 8 assists to go with 5 rebounds and a block. This is the most comfortable I have seen him yet, which is great news for the Raptors and bad news for the rest of the league.
Player of the Game
When Pascal Siakam heats up, he becomes one of the hardest players to cool down. He constantly has defenders on their heels or turning their hips as they struggle to keep up with his explosive first step. Pascal can hurt teams in different ways, his improving jumpers means his shot must be respected, his post game has taken significant strides and in transition, there may be no one better in the open floor. One of the most underappreciated aspects of his game is his ability to recognize a mismatch and how to exploit it. He must disrupt so many defensive playbooks and make the Raptors impossible to prepare for. Spicy P finished with a game high 25 points on 10/16 shooting (4/5 from three-point range) to go with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. Siakam had an exceptional game highlighted by an exciting defense to offense coast to coast dunk.
- Nice Kicks – I love when Spicy P wears his teal Nike KD 10’s. Danny Green’s Puma Uproar’s are absolutely beautiful.
- Deadly Depth – Every Raptor on the roster played and scored tonight.
- By the numbers – Two stats the jumped out to me were the assist and turnover totals. Toronto won the assist battle 33-24 while Boston turned over the ball 14 times compared to 8 for Toronto.
- Drip God – Let’s give it up to Coach Nurse for wearing yet another gorgeous suit. This time is was a wine/burgundy number that was Luthor Vandross smooth.
The Raptors will now face the exciting Portland Trailblazers in their only visit to Toronto on Friday night. I will be at this game so my recap will be delayed, but hopefully being in the arena for the night will give me a richer perspective.