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 Toronto Raptors, accompanied by bus loads of Raptors fans, invaded the Little Caesars arena to take on the Detroit Pistons. The last time these two teams met, the Pistons stole a victory at the Scotiabank Centre to the delight of a fist pumping Dwane Casey who was last seen skipping off the floor. Tonight, the Raptors were out for revenge and to send a message against their potential first round opponents. With Kawhi sitting, Coach Nurse played roster roulette and ended up giving Jeremy Lin the start, pushing Danny Green to the wing, to match Detroit’s 3 guard starting lineup. This game turned ugly quick as Toronto followed one of their most exciting, well rounded games of the season against Portland on Friday night, with one of their sloppiest performances of the year. Credit to Dwane Casey who surely pulled out his old Raptors playbook to snuff out Toronto’s attack. There were also a lot of whistles that made the game choppy and lacking rhythm. Detroit worked hard to muck up the action while Toronto relied on their talent to fight through and force overtime. Kyle Lowry shouldered the load for Toronto with a herculean effort but couldn’t carry the Raptors to a victory. This was a frustrating defeat that will sting Toronto in the coming days.
Detroit 112 Toronto 107.
The Index (The Leader)
The Raptors have been upgraded since inserting Marc Gasol into the starting lineup. His skill and intelligence has lifted the play of those around him as he is constantly looking to facilitate opportunities. This is no more evident than in the rejuvenated play of Kyle Lowry. Marc was talking to players in an instructional and encouraging way from the bench and on the court, which will help foster chemistry and internal communication. Gasol scored 13 points to go with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. He may not have put up the most impressive line but his value to this team is much more than what shows up on the scoreboard. The only downside is that, without an attentive point guard, Serge’s production has dropped since coming off the bench. Hopefully, the return of Fred VanVleet will address that.
The Middle (The Enemy)
Blake Griffin is working hard to get his Pistons into the playoffs. It’s amazing to see how much his star as dimmed since moving to the Motor City even though he is having the best season of his career. He put up good numbers tonight but had to take a lot of shots to get there. Blake scored 27 points off 9/21 shooting from the field (9/10 from the line) to go with 7 rebounds, an assist and a block in 42 arduous minutes. Blake is still a big name in this league. It will be interesting to see what happens to Detroit over these next few weeks, they will go as far as Griffin can take them.
The Ring (The X Factor)
Pascal Siakam rode his emotions throughout this game to varying results. On the one hand his boisterous actions earned him an untimely technical but on the other, his energy and enthusiasm served as a rallying cry for the Raptors. His growth as a player has been compelling to watch. Not long ago Siakam was a quiet spot up corner shooter, now he is a primary focus on offense. I even saw him signaling OG to clear out on his way to a tough post up basket. Pascal went 10/20 from the floor for 21 points while grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists in a game high 44 minutes. His relentless energetic play will be leaned on heavily as Toronto heads towards the post season.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Luke Kennard stepped up for a great game off the bench for Detroit. He knocked down 5 of his 9 shots from deep (6/10 overall) for 19 points. Luke was excellent at stretching the offense to open the paint for Detroit’s big men to go to work. He made the Raptors pay every time they sagged off him.
OG would have earned this credit had the Raptors won as he brought a much-needed spark off the bench. However, some costly late game decisions will overshadow what would have otherwise been a great performance.
Player of the Game
Tonight, we saw the return of Business Lowry. Kyle took control of the game in the second half to show everyone that he was the best player on the floor. I knew it was going to be a good game from Kyle after I noticed him demonstratively talking to himself and then later turning his ire to the crowd. These are the types of games that bring out the best in Lowry. He was cold blooded, scoring a season high 35 points (including 6 three pointers), to go with 7 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal. Kyle was a beast for Toronto and came up big, especially in the clutch on his way to a monster night. He did everything but take home the victory. Another great game, in a string of many, for Lowry.
- Lin to Start – I think starting Jeremey Lin was done in part to help get his offense going. It didn’t work. Lin scored 1 point in his worst game as a Raptor.
- McCaw rising – The Raptors will have to tighten their rotation going into the playoffs which means someone’s minutes will be cut. Norman Powell was penciled in for that final spot, but Patrick McCaw is nipping at his heels and is looking to force a tough decision from Coach Nurse.
- Forgotten Bigs – Shout out to Serge Ibaka and Andre Drummond who pulled down 11 and 17 rebounds respectively.
- Chippy game – It felt like the refs had a raw whistle for both teams.
- Mo Happy – It was nice seeing Raptors legend and Detroit native Morris Peterson at the game showing his support.
- Beard 2.0 – Blake Griffin looks like he is going full Lumberjack-Dexter-Morgan mode with that heavy beard.
The Raptors won’t have a lot of time to dwell on this loss as they welcome MVP candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets to town on Tuesday night. This will be another marquee game that will have the attention of the league and should make for some exciting basketball.