The Raptors are climbing the ranks but slip up against the woeful Wolves
The High 5 – Week In Review – Week 8
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?
Toronto is back to playing good basketball again. There are still glaring holes in their game but, for the most part, the Raptors are competing night in and night out. In retrospect, the Raptors were spoiled with their championship team, this new wave of players still needs grooming before they can consider themselves contenders.
Toronto picked up a pair of wins but disappointingly, failed to put away a terrible Minnesota team. That loss stings especially heading into a difficult week.
Week Record (2 – 2) Season Record (12 -15)
Toronto Raptors v Memphis Grizzlies – W 128 – 113
Toronto and Memphis wrote another chapter in their Naismith rivalry on Monday. Toronto’s defence is building a reputation with the way they pack the paint and force turnovers. Memphis is no pushover; they took command when Lowry left due to back spasms. The Raps also lost Coach Nurse after he picked up a pair of techs, but they were galvanized and rallied to snatch control away from Memphis. They rode a wave of momentum and picked up a character-building win.
Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards – W 137 – 115
Washington boasts a talented backcourt in Beal and Westbrook but, so far, their union has not equated to success. The Raps were wary of Beal, he has mounted his share of Raptor hides in the past. The Wizards picked up Alex Len off the waiver wire to boast their frontcourt, but it made no difference, their defense was atrocious. The Raptors did what they wanted whenever they wanted. Toronto shot nearly 60% from deep, that’s a tough mountain for any team to overcome. Siakam, Lowry and Powell had a field day picking Washington apart.
Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics – L 120 – 106
Toronto’s game plan was simple; stop Tatum and Brown. To their credit, Toronto kept both players well below their scoring averages, but unfortunately, they adjusted and moved the ball with ease to find unlikely shooters who did considerable damage. Toronto was playing on back-to-back nights, their legs were heavy and it showed. They got good production out of Siakam and Lowry but ran out of gas.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Toronto Raptors – L 116 – 112
It was a low energy affair when the Raptors and Timberwolves met on Sunday night. There wasn’t many highlights, just players going through the motions. It seemed that the game was there for the taking, all it needed was someone to step up. The Wolves slightly raised their effort to build a double digit lead in the second half. The Raptors showed a bit of heart in, literally, the final minute. Somehow, they even had a chance to push it to overtime, but Siakam’s attempt was left on the rim. Toronto loses in an embarrassing effort.
The Index – The Leader – Player of the Week
Powell is in the midst of the best stretch of basketball of his career. Although he has flirted with excellence before, this is the longest that he’s been able to sustain it. Powell is a serviceable defender and will provide a handful of intangibles but now he has evolved into a professional scorer. He knows his hot spots and has learned how to maximize his impact while on the floor.
Honourable Mention: P. Siakam, K. Lowry
The Middle – The Enemy – Best Opposing Player
Jonas Valanciunas – Memphis Grizzlies
JV will always have a place in the hearts of the Raptors faithful for his 7 years in the 6. He spent the entire game reminding Toronto what it was like to have a reliable center when he went full Kaiju mode on Toronto’s mediocre front court. Jonas was big beef on the backboard, 10 of his 20 rebounds were on the offensive end. Baynes will see JV in his nightmares.
Honourable Mention: S. Ojeleye (BOS), P. Pritchard (BOS), Towns (MIN)
The Ring – The X Factor – Standout Performance
Pascal Siakam v Memphis Grizzlies
Siakam went off on the Grizzlies hitting 5 triples on his way to one of his better games of the year. Points came easy for Siakam, he scored efficiently, threw in a bunch of stats and played with a smile all game long. Pascal entered Monday’s action only shooting 23% from deep, he had been struggling to find his shot, turns out it was in Memphis this whole time.
Honourable Mention: Powell v WASH, Lowry v BOS
The Pinky – The Unsung Hero – Key Contributor
While the Raptors shuffled their line ups due to injury, Bembry was out sniffing for opportunities. He had spurts of dynamic offense, but he earned his minutes off his D. There was no better example of this than in the Memphis game when he ripped the ball out of Valanciunas’ hands as he held it meters above his head and took it back for an easy bucket. Bembry gets it, he is carving his way into Nick Nurse’s rotation.
Honourable Mention: F. VanVleet, K.Lowry
News and Notes
- Dropped, obviously – Raptors president Masai Ujiri has been tied to a lawsuit stemming back to an incident that happened at the 2019 NBA finals at Oracle arena. Masai had overwhelming video evidence to support his innocence so the outcome was never in doubt. On Wednesday it was announced that the law enforcement officer in question dropped his lawsuit against Ujiri. Vindication for Masai, but there is a lot to this story.
- Home? – The Raptors announced that they will finish off the season in Tampa. This will put to rest any thought of coming back to Toronto and allow the players to finally get fully settled. Players can have up to 25 family and friends attend the games provided they pass the necessary screening protocols.
Around the League
- Let’s Talk – Indiana assistant coach Bill Bayno resigned his position with the team to instead focus on strengthening his mental health. It takes a lot of courage to take that step, I hope he finds the support he needs and that we see him on the sidelines again soon.
- Delayed Justice – Minnesota guard Malik Beasley pled guilty to felony charges relating to threats of violence. This will result in a 120-day stint at the Kennepin Country Workhouse adult correction facility (with options including home confinement) to be served at the end of the season. Malik is fortunate to receive such a lenient verdict. His guilty plea negated additional felony charges of possession of controlled substances as well as stolen property.
- Necessary Anthem – The NBA released a statement that said the national anthem will continue to be played at all games. This was announced because the Dallas Mavericks had stopped playing the anthem before their home games. Many wonder why the anthem is necessary at games but for now, we will continue to hear it.
Toronto heads into a tough week with 3 of their next 4 games coming against elite competition. They face Giannis and the Bucks in back-to-back games (both in Milwaukee) on Tuesday and Thursday. Toronto will then immediately travel to Minnesota for a rematch against the Timberwolves on Friday before finally finishing their week by hosting the East leading 76ers on Sunday.