Highlights courtesy of MLG Highlights
1. Streak? What streak? Fueled by Serge Ibaka’s 23 points the Toronto Raptors snapped a 10 match losing streaking of opening games in playoff series. Ibaka was the spark needed in a game that was back and forth up until the final minutes as there were 15 lead changes and 7 ties throughout the action. His 23 points came by way of a blazing hot 8 of 11 from the field along with 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. His trademark tenacious D was on full display as well nabbing 12 rebounds and swatting a pair of shots.
After a rather uneventful first half DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry finally got it going in the second. DeRozan’s 12 third quarter points in particular provided the set up for the Raps to wrest control of this one in the fourth. Lowry didn’t light the scoreboard up per se but he made gritty play after gritty play as the game wore on in particular drawing a flagrant foul on Mike Scott that started a 6-0 run in the fourth that helped them put this one away. They finished with 17 and 11 points respectively with Lowry dishing 9 dimes.
2. There’s a very distinct difference between this Toronto team in comparison to those of years past. Yes, head coach Dwayne Cassey installed a brand new system but a system is only as good and the parts that run it. In addition to having good years from vets like the trio I mentioned above along with Jonas Valancunas (9 points and boards) and CJ Miles (12 points on some sweet shooting) this team has been fueled by their youth movement. The production that they have gotten from their first and second year guys have plenty to do with the juggernaut they have become.
While a few of their youngsters really stood out today (don’t worry we’ll get to them all) Delon Wright was great this afternoon. The third year guard out of Utah poured in 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting and defended the HELL out of the Wizards’ backcourt (which is no easy task) grabbing three steals and a block. With Fred VanVleet out Wright handled the role of second unit facilitator as he tossed four dimes. Rookie OG Anunoby was another two way star for the Drakes with 12 points on 5 of 9 from the floor and some crack defense. Back up bigs Jacob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam were solid as well. Poeltl continues to gain a reputation as a reliable roll big Siakam’s shooting is getting better by the day which is dangerous af.
Toronto showed us today that they are up for the grind ahead of them. And while the past still haunts them to a certain degree they have no problem letting us know that this isn’t the same ol’ postseason bunch.
3. This was a tough one to swallow. But this game is a great example of how momentum can switch literally in one play. As I mentioned above this game was tit for tat up until the flagrant but after that they unraveled. Don’t get me wrong their were some good performances here. John Wall dropped 23 and dished 15 while getting busy on the defensive end to the tune of four steals and two blocks. Sure the 6 of 20 shooting wasn’t pretty but him getting to the line 10 times makes up for it. Markieff Moris had a monster game going for 22 and 11 while tying a career high 6 assists. Bradley Beal had a decent outing with 19 points on almost 50% shooting and four steals.
And that’s what makes this one so hard to take. There’s no one place you can point to explain this one. Sure you can argue that Otto Porter, Jr. (9 points) and Kelly Oubre (3 points) should have been more involved since those two represent the biggest potential matchup problem for the Raps but in all this was just an instance of losing control of the game almost instantly and not having enough gas in the tank to get it back. Hell, the dude that committed the foul that started the descent Mike Scott was having a fine game with 14 points before it happened.
There were already questions about how prepared this team was for the post season with folks citing their season ending loss to a clearly tanking Orlando while they were jockeying for seeding as well as them losing 7 of their last 10. Sadly, they did nothing today to dissuade those criticisms.