The Raptors stumble in the Mile High city despite OG’s career night
The High 5 – Week in Review – Week 19
The High 5 is where I review the last week of Toronto Raptors basketball including how the team did, who were the impact players as well as some news and notes from around the league.
The Thumb – How was the week?
After weeks of solid basketball, the Toronto Raptors were starting to earn some positive buzz around the league. Their efforts firmly solidified their place in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference along with the Bucks and the surprising Celtics. Teams are finally starting to learn how dangerous the Raptors can be. This week, Toronto had a pair of home games before heading out for a difficult 5 game road trip. It’s gut check time, the competition only increases from here.
Week record (0 – 3) Overall Record (42 – 18)
Milwaukee Bucks v Toronto Raptors – L 108 – 97
The week started with a huge Tuesday night matchup between two conference heavyweights. Both teams said it was like any other game, but in the eyes of the NBA, this was one of the most anticipated games of the regular season. Milwaukee played exceptional defense, but they conceded shots from beyond the free throw line. That meant the Raptors had open looks from there any time they wanted. Giannis lived up to his reputation, Toronto was able to hold him in check, but he did serious work on the defensive glass. The Bucks got under Lowry’s skin and because he was off his game, Toronto lacked the creativity needed to outwit Milwaukee’s touted defense. With the paint clogged, the Raps were forced to the outside, but they could not hit at a high enough rate to match Milwaukee’s potent scoring. Games like this are where the Raptors really miss Gasol and Powell.
Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors – L 99 – 96
The Raptors and Hornets met for some chilly Friday night action in the 6. Toronto was looking for a quick bounce back after a sobering defeat at the hands of the Bucks and Charlotte provided the perfect fodder to get back on track. The Raps were without Ibaka and VanVleet, two key performers, but they somewhat offset that loss by reintegrating a returning Powell into the lineup. Charlotte took advantage of Toronto’s thin front court to dominate the glass and build a sizable lead. The Raps had to muck up the game with some gritty, at times sloppy play, to get back in it. Down the stretch, Lowry singlehandly closed the gap to tie the game with a flurry of baskets. The Scotiabank Arena was rocking, and the Raps had all the momentum. Unfortunately, the game was decided by the whistle when the Hornets took advantage of a cringe inducing call with only seconds on the clock. This was an ugly one.
Toronto Raptors v Denver Nuggets – L 133 – 118
Toronto was in it tough on Sunday evening when they visited Denver to face another high calibre opponent. The Raps were again without VanVleet and Ibaka, the latter could have certainly helped against Denver’s All-World center, Nikola Jokic. However, it was Denver’s shooters that did damage as they lit up Toronto like a Christmas tree from the outside. The Nuggets excelled at the drive and kick game while the Raptors could only answer with scrappy, scrambling chaos. OG had a breakout game with a new career high in points (32), but the rest of the Raptors seemed a step behind all night, especially Siakam. Both teams scored with proficiency, but the Raptors couldn’t do enough to stop Denver from creating havoc in the paint and from beyond the arc. Toronto drops another one to end a disappointing week.
The Index – The Leader – Player of the Week
With so many bigs out of the line up, OG faced added pressure to produce, especially on the defensive end. He responded with a pair of excellent two-way games on Friday and Sunday night. OG’s contributions may not always jump off the stat sheet but he is currently riding one of his strongest defensive stretches of his career. Not only has he produced as a supporting scorer, but he also anchored Toronto’s defense with a clinic of quick hands, educated footwork and natural instincts. Add in an improving 3-point shot and Coach Nurse has another versatile weapon to unleash.
Honourable Mention: Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry
The Middle – The Enemy – Best Opposing Player
Nikola Jokic – Denver Nuggets
When at his best, the Joker can rightfully command MVP consideration. He showed the Raptors exactly why with an outstanding game on Sunday night. Jokic adapted to all the extra attention, and like a magnet, he attracted defenders leaving his squad of sharpshooters free to fire at will. Nikola worked his way through different defensive schemes to lead his team in points, assists and especially boards. He feasted on rebounds. His efforts erased any Raptor hope of extra possessions or easy opportunities. Jokic earned an impressive triple double with the victory.
Honourable Mention: Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL), Jamal Murray (DEN)
The Ring – The X Factor – Standout Performance
Chris Boucher v Bucks
Boucher answered the bell on Tuesday night as the Raptors needed a big game out of the young Canadian. He nailed a handful of triples and held his own against the Lopez twins, with the occasional dose of Giannis, despite his wiry frame. Boucher had great explosion to the rim and showed no fear in the face of a superior opponent. He was an intangible that the Bucks were not prepared for. In just 19 minutes, the Block Quebecois made a significant impact.
Honourable Mention: Thomas v Bucks, Powell v Hornets, Anunoby v Nuggets
The Pinky – The Unsung Hero – Key Contributor
With Siakam struggling to find his offensive rhythm, and players dropping out of the lineup due to injury, Lowry took it upon himself to drag his undermanned squad through difficult competition. Kyle grifted his way through the week, using every trick in the book to gain any advantage. He was exceptionally clutch down the stretch against the Hornets and managed a decent game against the Nuggets on Sunday night. Kyle was excellent in the face of defeat.
Honourable Mention: Rondae Hollis- Jefferson, Terence Davis II
News and Notes
- Etched in History – As mentioned in last weeks High 5, Lowry’s number was retired in an emotional ceremony by his Alma Mater, Villanova. It was nice to see former Raptor DeMar DeRozan attend the ceremony in support.
- We love the number 6 – OG Anunoby is the first player in franchise history to have back to back games with at least 6 steals. He is going to get some all NBA Defensive team consideration.
Around the League
- No Joke – The NBA has announced that they are closely monitoring the Coronavirus with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Expect more announcements to be made on how the league responds to this global concern.
- New Direction – New Balance and the NBA have reached a multi-year agreement to be promotional and marketing partners for the league. Its incredible how quickly the brand has reinvented itself after adding Kawhi Leonard to their roster.
The road trip continues as Toronto heads into the desert to play the Suns on Tuesday night. Toronto served Phoenix a recent loss and the young Suns will be out for vengeance. The Raps were burned when they overlooked the Hornets so expect them to be cautious of any remaining trap games on their schedule. On Thursday, the Raptors will face the once mighty Warriors at the Chase Center. Finally, Toronto will end their week with a Sunday afternoon matchup against the rebuilding Kings in Sacramento.