1) Lowry’s Double Double
— NOW Hoops (@NOW_Hoops) April 20, 2019
Before the playoffs I wrote an article about my expectations for Kyle Lowry in the playoffs. This game was a perfect example of a “Lowry” game. Kyle Lowry put up a statline of 12/10/5, on 4/10 shooting and 2/6 from 3. This is exactly what the Raptors need from Lowry: a point guard who can set up others and dictate the tempo of the offense and also space the floor. It isn’t the All-NBA Lowry of old on the floor out there. Kyle Lowry isn’t putting up 20 every game. But he can use his elite playmaking and just play within the flow of the offense, setting up teammates for good looks and shooting open threes. While the stat-line isn’t something that necessarily pops out in today’s NBA, Lowry did his job. He knocked down some open threes and got his 10 assists. What cannot be understated either is his intangibles. On the play above, Kyle Lowry gets the cruicial rebound over the Orlando Magic to eliminate the possibility of them tying the game. Along with scoring points and counting numbers, those are the plays that matter and Lowry is at their heart.
2) Orlando’s Spirit
To be honest, Orlando was the worst 1st round match up we could have possibly faced. We’ve beaten the Nets. While we got swept by the Pistons in the regular season, I have no doubt that we would be able to sweep this playoff version of the Pistons. But the Magic, they’re more difficult. Their identity is rooted in their defense, and they have bought into Steve Clifford’s defensive schemes. Last night’s scoreline was 98-93. Nowadays with the spacing, the offense and the pace, that scoreline signifies two things. 1) There was some good defense played. 2) People just shot fairly poorly. Kawhi didn’t have the best of shooting nights in Orlando (5-19, 0-3 from 3). They dug in and brought it to within a possession. In the Magic’s case they make number 2 happen by doing number 1. They are long, they’re agile, and they can mostly switch very well. Jonathan Isaac hasn’t been stopping his matchup (Pascal Siakam), but he’s a good defender, and he makes the Raptors work for their buckets. The Orlando Magic are probably one of the best up and coming teams in the NBA. We should finish this in 5 though.
3) Marc’s Defense
In the first 2 games, Nikola Vucevic didn’t do as well as I’m sure he’d like to. 3-14 in Game 1 with 1-3 from 3, and 3-7 in Game 2 with 0-1 from 3. Marc Gasol was a huge part of that. Vucevic did bounce back in Game 3, going for 7-13, and looking like the all star he is. Gasol guards Vucevic so well because Vucevic’s game mirrors his own. Orlando’s offense runs through the hands of its all-star, and it’s no wonder that the big man is averaging career highs in almost every category. Marc can guard big men in the post because he knows the fundamentals of defense in the post, and has his hands moving at all times. His hands are better than the average big man’s. Marc Gasol is showing his experience and value in the post season, and we should look forward to him matching up with our likely opponent in Joel Embiid and his 76ers.
4) Norman Powell is…okay!
Norman Powell hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire since his series with the Bucks in 2017. However he has become a good rotation player, and he’s knocking down open shots and was the only member of the bench with a positive +/- with + 2 and a quiet 8 points. Norman Powell isn’t going to be that superstar wing, but he knocks down open threes fairly often (40.0% on the regular season). He makes less boneheaded mistakes than he did in the regular season. Norman Powell has bounced back well in Game 3 and I want to see him learn from these playoffs. Perhaps he needs to learn how to take the good shots. Norman Powell has great physical tools: he just needs the IQ to use it and become a great player for the Raptors bench.
5) Pascal’s the MIP
Pascal is the MIP hands down. Kawhi had an off night right? Raptors screwed right? Absolutely not. Spicy P has stepped up big. With his big night, 30-11-4 on 13-20 shooting, with 3-4 from 3, Pascal put the team’s scoring upon himself. The hallmark of championship caliber team, is to have a couple of guys who can go off on any given night. There are exceptions to that of course, but the idea still stands. Kobe and Shaq. Jordan and Pippen. Steph and Klay/Durant. The Raptors have a duo like this now. Pascal has been continuously improving and him being able to carry the team’s scoring on a given night is an invaluable asset. The sky is the limit: his half court finish from Lowry’s pass was sublime. If Pascal can just develop a better pull-up jumper he becomes hyper efficient since he’s already money with his drive. May our team go far into the post season, and may Pascal Siakam continue to improve. Amen.