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 and some unique details that caught my attention.
The Thumb (The Story of the Game)
The Toronto Raptors welcomed the New York Knicks to the Scotiabank Arena on Monday for the second night of a back to back. They got a lift from the returning Kyle Lowry signaling the first time in months that Coach Nurse had pretty much his entire roster at full health (Kawhi Leonard resting notwithstanding). The Raptors played like predators, circling the Knicks like wounded prey. Toronto needed a game like this to get back on track and to re-establish their confidence. Toronto was all over the floor, beating the Knicks to the ball at every opportunity. They were shooting at a high percentage and executing their game plan with proficiency. This game was a laugher until Kyle Lowry took a worrisome injury late in the third quarter. From their the Raptors played cautiously but still maintained a more than comfortable lead on their way to their 50th win of the season. It was a dominating performance that showed how good this Toronto team can be.
Toronto 128 New York 92.
The Index (The Leader)
Pascal Siakam continued his maturation into superstar with a Leonard-esque shooting night to lead the Raptors. He scored 19 points on an efficient 9/14 shooting to go with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and a block in a business-like approach. Siakam may be the most entertaining Raptor to watch. He can shift the momentum with a quick layup, a thunderous dunk or an unexpected corner three. Pascal only needed a few of his 30 minutes to impact the game. He came in, did his damage, and then sat for most of the fourth as his Raptors coasted to victory. The intangibles that Siakam brings will be Toronto’s wild card going into the final weeks of the season and the playoffs.
The Middle (The Enemy)
The Knicks have mailed it in and are just going through the motions as this season winds down. Their focus is on losing as many games as possible to increase their draft position, but don’t tell that to Allonzo Trier. He had an excellent performance off the bench to lead the Knicks in minutes (31), and points (22). He also pulled down 4 rebounds and handed out 3 assists. Trier wants to be a part of New York’s future and playing hard when no one else cares is one way to get noticed.
The Ring (The X-Factor)
A few games ago, I mentioned how the latest additions to the Raptors took so much pressure off Lowry. This effect has been heightened now that he has a healthy VanVleet to share the ball handling duties. Without the added responsibility, Kyle was free to cut and slash through the paint like a surgeon. He was hunting his shot from deep (5/9) and using his quick reflexes to confuse defenders and create easy opportunities. Lowry scored 15 points to go with 6 rebounds and 8 assists. Kyle twisted his ankle late in the third that ended his night early, but he did enough in his time on the floor to push his team to the convincing victory.
The Pinky (The Unsung Hero)
New York native Danny Green showed up for a nice shooting night against the Knicks. When he is on, Green’s threes are absolutely disheartening to the opposition. He is among the leagues best at dribbling into the transition pull up. Green added his trademark defense to help blanket New York’s guard heavy attack. Danny scored 14 points including 3 three pointers, 4 rebounds and an assist. Green was due for a good night after a couple of quiet appearances. The Raptors will be looking to his championship experience to lead them in the playoffs.
Shout out to OG Anunoby for contributing 14 points to go with great defense off the bench. Keep and eye on him, he is starting to heat up.
Player of the Game
Fred VanVleet has been hot since coming off the DL as he had another strong game. He is playing at a starter level and looks to fit in seamlessly with the higher IQ players on the team. Freddy is another calming ball handler that you know will make the right decision. His shot making must be respected and his quick bursts can get him a half-step on pretty much any defender in the league. He scored a mind bending, double crossover one-handed scoop layup over the shot blocking Mitchell Robinson. Fred had 13 points on 5/9 shooting from the floor to go with 2 rebounds, a steal, a block and a game high 12 assists. When VanVleet sets his feet, he is pretty much automatic. Fred’s return came at the perfect time for Toronto.
- Injury Bug – Kyle Lowry got tangled up with New York centre Mitchell Robinson and took an ankle-risking fall. If it was bad enough to take him out of the game, then I expect him to miss at least a few more as Toronto will take their time ensuring he is at full health for the post season.
- Live by the 3 – The Raptors nailed 17 three pointers to help gain separation compared to New York’s 8.
- Balanced attack – The Raptors shared the wealth tonight as 8 players ended up with double digit scoring.
- “Take that for Data!” – I will always remember Coach Fizdale for his fantastic post game rant after his Memphis Grizzlies were decimated by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2016 playoffs. He stormed out of the conference room, dropped one of the all-time greatest quotes and became and instant meme.
The Raptors will be tested on Wednesday night as they travel to Oklahoma to face Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Thunder.