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)
After an exhausting game against the Sacramento Kings, the Raptors had to fly to Indiana to face the dangerous Pacers less than 24 hours later. Toronto played with heavy legs and looked like they were slogging through mud for most of the night. Indiana still remembered how Toronto handed them a loss in controversial fashion a few weeks ago and they were licking their chops at this chance for revenge. However, the complexion of the game changed due to the sudden and unfortunate injury to Victor Oladipo. It felt like the air was sucked out of Bankers Life fieldhouse when Victor went down. This is a terrible injury that will derail the Pacers season and severely impact their chances in the playoffs. Toronto used the break in the action to regroup and slowly claw their way back into the game. But instead of rolling over, Indiana used Oladipo’s injury to galvanize their play which earned them a hard fought victory.
Indiana 110 Toronto 106.
The Index (The Leader)
Kyle Lowry has found his inner bulldog and looks to be rounding into form. He played with the same relentless tenacity that helped him become a 4 time All Star. With so many players low on energy, Kyle seemed to keep his team in the game through sheer will and determination. He is starting to get buckets and his shot seemed to have more lift. Lowry will always do the intangible plays that don’t show up on the score sheet but tonight, it wasn’t enough. He finished with 20 points on 6/13 shooting with 4 rebounds, 7 assists and a block.
The Middle (The Enemy)
Myles Turner is a player bubbling with potential for the Indiana Pacers. Some people think he took a step back after such an impressive season a year ago but, he has heard the naysayers, and has found the perfect time to pick up his game. Turner’s defensive prowess was on full display tonight. He finished with 4 blocks to go with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal. If he puts in the work and stays disciplined, he may grow to become an elite rim protector. Tonight, he showed why he is one of the cornerstones of the young Pacer core.
The Ring (The X Factor)
Serge Ibaka was terrible last year on back-to-backs but, this year, his conditioning has improved to the point that he has become one of Toronto’s most reliable options game in and game out. I can’t remember too many nights this year where Serge was not a positive contributor. Ibaka has polished the parts of his game that he excels at most: defense and mid-range shooting. Tonight, Serge put on his hard hat and went to work in the paint. He played well scoring 23 points to lead the Raptors on 11/19 from the field with 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Norm Powell gave a boost off the bench in the second half to help ignite the Raptors comeback. What I like the most about Norm’s recent play is his ability to stay within himself. He isn’t trying to do to much, he isn’t forcing the action. Norm is letting the game come to him and is taking advantage whenever opportunities arise. It’s nice to see Powell hit the open three; too bad that it was on a night that the rest of Toronto’s shooters went cold. Norm led the bench with 12 points on 4/9 shooting with 1 rebound, 2 assists and a block.
Player of the Game
Thaddeus Young has played well for the Pacers all year and is making his name known for defensive player of the year consideration. He has really found a home in Indiana and always plays Toronto strong. Thaddeus is the type of player that uses his strength and athleticism to bully his way to the rim and punish opponents while still being a threat on the defensive end. Young was already having a good night but stepped up his game even more after Victor went down. Thad was tremendous for Indiana and filled the stat sheet with 23 points on 10/19 from the field, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. The highlight of his night was when he scored a beautiful gliding one-handed layup in the second quarter which reminded me of a young Clyde Drexler.
- Devastating Injury – It looks like Oladipo will be out for the rest of the year after blowing out his right knee. This one hurts. It was a classy touch by the Indiana faithful to chant his name as he sat in tears while being loaded on a stretcher. NBA social media exploded with support for Victor. Get well soon!
- Back to Back Bogdanovic’s – Last night was Bogdan, tonight it was Bojan. I never realized it was such a popular name.
- Sssssmokin’! – Indiana had a little fun with Pacer centre Myles Turner and his recent facial injury. They played a hilarious video where they superimposed Turner’s face onto Jim Carrey’s body and recreated a scene from the Mask.
The Raptors will have Kawhi back in the lineup to try and stop Super Saiyan James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Friday. It will be a game that the NBA world will be watching.