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 (Story of the Game)
After beating up on the New Orleans Pelicans, the Toronto Raptors visited South Beach to take on the scrappy Miami Heat for an early Sunday afternoon game. With Charlotte’s most recent loss, Toronto is the second Eastern Conference team to clinch a playoff spot. This could have easily been a trap game for the Raptors as Miami has plenty of distractions. It was the second of three “scheduled wins” that the Raps have on this road trip, with Cleveland waiting tomorrow. Kawhi Leonard sat again for this game so Coach Nurse threw a dart at his roster sheet and ended up giving Patrick McCaw his first career start. Despite Nurse’s mad-tinkering, the Raptors are playing with confidence and starting to come together as a well-rounded cohesive unit that can hurt you with any combination. Toronto has increased their overall intensity, which has resulted in an uptick in transition offense and fast break opportunities. Miami gave a good effort today, but these Raptors are just too talented. The Heat had no answers to quell Toronto’s shooting onslaught and were simply overwhelmed and embarrassed on their home floor. Despite the sunny weather in Florida, the Raptors made it rain from deep with a flurry of three’s leading to another team building win.
Toronto 125 Miami 104.
The Index (The Leader)
Pascal Siakam looks more and more comfortable with each passing game. He has grown into a legitimate third star behind Lowry and Leonard and continues to ascend as the regular season heads into the final stretch. Today, along with his improving jumper, his crafty post game and trademark leak outs, he introduced the soft midrange one handed floater. It still needs work, but Siakam is an unpredictable intangible that must be a headache to prepare for. Siakam went 8/12 from the floor for 20 points, to go with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and a block. He has earned the right to call his own number for one on one clear outs and he rarely falters when given that opportunity.
The Middle (The Enemy)
With Dwayne Wade fading off into the sunset, the Heat do not have any real stars on the floor so their attack must come by committee. However, Bam Adebayo did impress as the best Heat today. He has quietly found a nice niche on Miami and should be a big part of their future. He isn’t flashy or charismatic, he just puts in the work and gets the job done. Bam scored a team high 19 points on an efficient 8/11 shooting to go with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and two steals.
The Ring (The X Factor)
With all the attention put on Toronto’s dynamic offense, not enough is being said about the defense that Serge Ibaka has been bringing as of late. He swatted 10 shots in the last two games and today he added 3 more blocks while deterring many other attempts. He had an overall quiet game, but his defensive prowess was enough to set the tone for the night. Serge played the lowest number of minutes (22) among the starters but still contributed 10 points to go with an assist and a game high 8 rebounds. He won’t get the credit for this win, but make no mistake, he was an integral part of tonight’s performance.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Danny Green was lethal from behind the arc with another game of precision shooting from deep. Danny is obviously Toronto’s best shooter but what makes his shots more impactful is how they come at the most opportune times. Whether it’s a transition pull up, an end of the shot clock corner, or a quick release off a skip pass, Green’s threes are always backbreakers. Today, he played solid defence to go with his hot shooting and even did some work on the glass. Green scored 15 points on 5/8 shooting from distance to go with 6 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
Player of the Game
Kyle Lowry is carrying himself with All Star swagger as he continues to play the best basketball of the season. The addition of Lin and Gasol has taken off so much pressure from Kyle, even if its just mentally, and it has allowed his game to flourish. Those back concerns which plagued him earlier in the season seem like a distant memory. He shows incredible trust in his teammates, knowing they will come down with his cross court passes or that they will hit a shot even after missing a few. This was a classic KLOE game, a mix of jumpers, solid D, efficient passing and trash talking. Lowry scored a game high 24 points with 6 threes to go with 7 rebounds and 10 assists. This is not only the most talented, it’s also the smartest team that he has played on and he seems to be enjoying every minute.
- Move the Rock – Led by the addition of Gasol, Toronto has fast become one of the most unselfish teams in the league. Tonight, they handed out an impressive 32 assists.
- Live by the 3 – The Raptors were deadly from beyond the arc hitting a season high 21 of their 40 attempts.
- Where are all the people? – The Miami Heat have the worst fans in the league. This is a team that is fighting for playoff positioning in the final year of one of the greatest players in NBA history and yet, the seats were empty.
- Nice Hair – Even though James Johnson may have fallen out of the rotation in Miami, he made up for it with his spectacular afro.
- Dunk of the year? – Late in the fourth quarter, Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. took off for an unbelievable alley-oop finish. This man went through the roof.
- Winning Culture – Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors who have now made the playoffs for the 6th consecutive year.
It will be quick turn around for Toronto as they head to Cleveland to face the bottom dwelling Cavilers on Monday night.