Recap in 5 is going to be a simple column. I will just state 5 talking points from Raptors games, and go in depth with each one.
Let’s dive in to the jungle.
1. Better Defense.
The Raptors held the Magic to 37% from the field. The Magic’s 3 point % was 26.5. Orlando had 17 turnovers to the Raptors 7. No matter what way you define defense, we can all agree that this was the defensive performance we were looking for. After a tepid Game 1 performance defensively, the Raptors rose to the challenge and imposed their will on their opponents. Most importantly, the Raptors continued to shut down Nikola Vucevic, keeping him to 3-7 shooting and 0-1 from 3 point range. This defensive effort all started with one man: Kyle Lowry. He took charges, he got steals, he even got a block, which for him is quite a feat. Kyle Lowry did absolutely everything. It was an incredible bounce-back from his performance in Game 1 where he looked lackadaisical on both ends of the floor. The Raptors scored 26 points off of turnovers, so they let their defense create their offense, and it resulted in a blow out.
2. Spicy Double Double
Game 2: Done
On to game 3.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 17, 2019
Did anyone order a double double with an extra serving of Spicy P? Pascal Siakam recorded his 1st double double in the NBA Playoffs, putting up 19 points and 10 rebounds. It’s been two games, so any reaction must be tempered. But even without going into depth about the numbers, its safe to say that Spicy P is on his way to finishing the playoffs test with a solid B+. While his three shot isn’t falling, he is defending and driving to the basket at an elite level. Once his outside shot starts falling in the playoffs, the Raptors are going to be even smoother. As a Raptors fan, I’ve learned not to complete my judgment of stars until the playoffs. Spicy P has impressed me with the way that he will drive on anyone and everyone, but still play ball the right way. We’re gonna need him as the #2 (Once Kawhi stays, on Dio).
3. A Kyle Lowry Special
Kyle Lowry laid a fat egg his 1st game of the 2019 playoffs. Scored 0 points. As a result, reactionary comments like “He’s overpaid” and “He’s a regular season player” graced the internet fairly quickly. However in Game 2 he went back to looking like Vintage Kyle Lowry. Drives to the rim, threes, all with the bonus of great playmaking. In one of my other articles, I mentioned that Kyle Lowry won’t really need to score beyond a basic level, which I still stand by. But if he can score 20 points on top of running our entire team then that’s just an extra perk that will lead to more blowouts. This team lives and dies with Kyle Lowry and his playmaking, and more of performances like this one is what we want.
4. Raptors Role Players
Raptors Role Players and laying bricks in the playoffs. Name a more iconic duo. Norman Powell: 2-10, with 1-6 from 3. Fred VanVleet: 1-5, 0-2 from 3. Jodie Meeks: 0-3, 0-3 from 3. History has given it precedent: Patrick Patterson and Demarre Carroll come to mind. Most of the bench bar Serge Ibaka shot pretty badly. The most important role player on the Raptors, Danny Green shot 0-4, 0-3 from 3. I am surprised they shot this poorly in our home arena, where the atmosphere is friendly and conducive to making shots. Hopefully next game they bounce back with a performance away at the Orlando Magic. Despite the bench performing horribly, in the end it didn’t matter.
5. Playoffs Kawhi has arrived.
What is there to say. Kawhi Leonard put his mark on the Orlando Magic. I am sure that after a Game 1 Loss at Home, Kawhi was determined to make sure that didn’t happen again. If this is what load management gets us then sign me up. Kawhi exploded for 37 points on 15-22 shooting, 4-8 from 3, and finished with a team high of +37. Simply put, Kawhi delivered a superstar performance on both ends of the floor. Kawhi drove to the basket and dunked. He swished some good threes. Besides that, the Mammoth brought back the art of the midrange to deliver this performance. Perhaps this is what having a superstar feels like. Having the ability to score from anywhere on the floor. Defend at a high level. Become a playmaker if needed (4 assists on the night). Kawhi Leonard has shown up to play ladies and gentlemen. He’s gunning for that best in the world title. This game is just the beginning.