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)
The Toronto Raptors visited New Orleans for the only time this season to take on the fractured Pelicans. The Raptors were licking their chops once they realized that New Orleans would be without Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans only two real weapons. Toronto was looking to get back on track after two difficult losses, they started the game pressuring the inexperienced Pelicans to push the pace and open easy scoring opportunities with leak outs and pitch aheads. The Raptors showed pretty decent attention to defense with active hands and strong box outs. Toronto was looking to impede and clog up any passing lane knowing that New Orleans did not have a knock down shooter to make them pay. The Pelicans showed impressive resiliency to remain in the game despite being hilariously outmatched. The fact that New Orleans was able to stay in it for as long as they did is a testament to the great job done by one of the leagues most underrated coaches, Alvin Gentry. Toronto woke up in the third quarter, locked in on defense, hit their three pointers and proceeded to obliterate the Pelicans hopes and dreams. This game turned into a laugher as Toronto dominated New Orleans on their way to their 47th win of the season.
Toronto 127 New Orleans 104.
The Index (The Leader)
Kyle Lowry did his best Tom Brady impression by spraying the ball all over the floor to streaking and slashing players. He is probably one of the best in the league at getting the ball in play and down the other end of the court after a made basket. Most times, he doesn’t even wait to get to half before he is firing a bullet to a cutting wing or a spot up shooter. Lowry put on a passing clinic with a collection of outlets, leads, behind the backs and touch passes. Kyle is playing at an All-Star level and is starting to figure out how to maintain his role as a leader on a team of budding stars, grizzled vets and elite talent. Kyle earned a triple double by scoring 13 points to go with 11 rebounds, 12 assists and 2 steals.
The Middle (The Enemy)
In only 24 minutes of work, Cheick Diallo had a great game filling in for the injured Anthony Davis. He scored 16 points off the bench by shooting 8/15 from the floor to go with 12 rebounds for the double- double. He showed great instincts for the ball and looks to only be scratching the surface of his potential. This is a great opportunity for Cheick to make a name for himself as the Pelicans figure out their future. He will get plenty of opportunities to prove his worth over the remaining games of the season.
The Ring (The X Factor)
Without Davis patrolling the paint, this game was tailor made for Toronto’s second leading scorer, Pascal Siakam, to break out and run rough shot on New Orleans’s thin frontline. He was sprinting up and down the court as if he was at a track meet. With his length, endurance, soft hands and athleticism, Pascal must be a point guards dream. His influence on the offensive end is understated as he acts like a magnet in the way he pulls defenders. Siakam converted on 7 of his 15 shots for 19 points and added 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. His boisterous personality and constant energy is the perfect Yin to Kawhi Leonard’s Yang. Playing around such substantial talent has accelerated Siakam’s growth.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
Jeremy Lin earned the post game interview after putting in his strongest game as a Raptor. There were talks that Lin was working on his shot after practice and was the last man off the court yesterday. It paid off tonight as Lin brought the offense that he built his reputation on. He played well off Lowry and took advantage of some soft defense to weave his way to the basket for easy buckets and to open spaces for his jumper. Lin finally knocked down a few three’s which must have done wonders for his confidence. He finished scoring 14 points on 6/9 shooting to go with 1 rebound and 3 assists.
Player of the Game
The silent assassin, Kawhi Leonard, had a strong night to reclaim his place as the High 5’s resident player of the game. Tonight, Leonard was head and shoulders above his nearest competitor. Kawhi toyed with the Pelicans defense and showed everyone how easy it is for him to get high percentage shots. Leonard scored 31 points on 14/20 from the floor with 2 assists, 2 steals and a rebound. His touch is so soft that it looks like he is putting a baby to bed with each layup. What I liked most about his game tonight was how animated he appeared to be. He got into the officials faces after a missed call, he was smiling on the sidelines and even stood to congratulate the end of the bench players after a big play (See: Boucher block). Kawhi looked relaxed and like he was having a bit of fun tonight. A welcomed sign for Raptor fans. Expect to see more games like this from Leonard as he revs up for the playoffs.
- Busy floor– The giant Pelicans logo that occupies both sides of the court within the three-point line is terribly distracting. I wonder if it’s as annoying to the players as it is to watch from home.
- Tight D – Toronto held New Orleans to 40% shooting for the game.
- Travelling Fans – The Raptors have the best fans in the league. Towards the end of the game, “Let’s go Raptors” could be heard throughout the emptying Smoothie King Center.