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)
The rotating door that is the Raptors’ roster continues to spin as Coach Nurse finds himself navigating injured waters once again. However, as Kawhi Leonard and Patrick McCaw sat alongside Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin made his anticipated debut for Toronto. Both Lin and Gasol are high basketball IQ players who play unselfishly and are always looking for the open man. They are savvy playmakers that can only complement the likes of Kyle, Pascal and Kawhi. Despite all the excitement, I was concerned that this would be a trap game as most players are checked out by the time the All-Star game rolls around. No matter the state of their roster, the Wizards always seem to step up and play tough against Toronto. They took the Raptors out of their rhythm early and it wasn’t until after halftime that Toronto got into the game. Midway through the third quarter, Pascal Siakam exploded to carry Toronto’s scoring with OG Anunoby excelling in a supporting role. The Raptors fought for a thrilling comeback win led by their two most exciting prospects. This was an important character-building win for Toronto. One that will send them into the All-Star break with momentum and loaded with confidence.
Toronto 129 Washington 120.
The Index (The Leader)
Kyle Lowry was steady throughout the game and managed his team with good energy and pace. Lowry was showing genuine excitement to be playing with his new teammates. Their presence makes the game so much easier and mitigates the need for Kyle to provide scoring. With so much talent, Kyle’s passing looks much sharper and more precise. He was finding players in their shooting motions for easy baskets in the half court and in transition. Kyle continued his perpetual rise, scoring 14 points (including 4 threes), 4 rebounds, 3 steals, and a game high 13 assists.
The Middle (The Enemy)
Notable Raptor killer and lone Wizard All-Star Bradley Beal had another good game against Toronto. He led Washington with 28 points on 6/15 from the field (14/15 from the FT line), 3 rebounds, 11 assists, a steal and a block. I am impressed by his ability to play at a high level through, what is turning out to be, another difficult season for the Wizards. Coach Brooks played Beal as much as he could, throwing him out there for 44 of a possible 48 minutes but Beal needs much more help if he wants to compete with the likes of this Raptors team. It’s a shame to see his talents wasted in Washington, I hope the franchise turns around or he gets moved to a city that will appreciate his skill and to a team that will help him find success.
The Ring (The X Factor)
The Raptors looked like they were trying to get OG Anunoby going as they were finding him for open shots throughout the game. OG stepped up to hit an array of three pointers and impressive drives that have not been featured too often. OG also played pestering defense, forced a few turnovers and looked more engaged tonight than he has all season. Coach Nurse recognized OG’s efforts and rewarded him with extended minutes down the stretch. He finished with a career high 22 points on 9/14 from the field (4/8 from deep), 5 rebounds and a steal. This was the first time that OG and Siakam both went off for good games. It was and exciting preview of the potentially scary future that lies ahead for Toronto.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Jeremy Lin joined the team at the perfect time as Toronto just received news that Fred VanVleet would be out of the lineup for over a month due to his hand injury. Lin was quiet in the first half but started to heat up as a result of some instant chemistry playing alongside Kyle Lowry in the third quarter. Together, they filled the gaps between baskets from Siakam and OG. Lin contributed all over the floor and played a solid game. He scored 8 points along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal and a block. Great debut for Lin.
Shout out to Serge Ibaka who finished the game with yet another double-double (10 points, 13 rebounds).
Player of the Game
Pascal Siakam is settling in as one of Toronto’s primary scorers especially when Kawhi sits. He had a number of plays that will appear in the opening highlight package on every morning sports show. Siakam filled the basket with rim rocking dunks, shifty layups, deep three pointers and his usual leak outs. For a while he was a one-man wrecking crew, determined to propel Toronto’s comeback. The Wizards had no answer for Spicy P. It didn’t matter who Washington threw at him, Siakam made defenders look silly on more than one occasion. Pascal had 19 points in the third quarter alone. Siakam easily had his best game as a pro which made Raptors TV commentators Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong giddy with excitement. Siakam was excellent for Toronto scoring a career high 44 points (4/5 from deep) to go with 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks. Somewhere Masai Ujiri is laughing maniacally.
- Sharing the Wealth – Both teams had 6 players score in double figures.
- Glasswork – Led by Ibaka’s 13 rebounds, the Raptors won the battle of the boards 52-43.
- Failing Potential – I had a lot of hope for Jabari Parker. I thought he was a future star but after seeing him bounce around the league, I am no longer sure. Perhaps Washington will give him a good opportunity to find a place to play quality basketball. On the other hand, he did throw a behind the back pass into the first row during an important stretch of the game.
What an exciting time to be a Raptors fan and to be a fan of the NBA in general. The league has never been more entertaining and the prospect of a championship coming to the 6 has never felt more real. The Raptors head into the All-Star break riding high and playing some excellent basketball. OG, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard will have responsibilities in Charlotte this weekend while the rest of the team gets some well-deserved time off. Best of luck to the Raptors as they represent the Northside in the Queen City.