The Raptors are now 12-2.
*the world’s smallest violin plays*
In the notes I took while watching this game, I wrote the word “floater” 26 times. I never expected something like that to happen, and I don’t anticipate it happening again. A mix of some terrific shot-making and gob-smacking defense made Danny Green and Kyle Lowry look the part of Damian Lillard and CJ Mccollum in the 2018 playoffs. The Pelicans back court combined for 59 points and 17 assists on 25-37 shooting. Adversely, the Raptors back court put up 7 points and 11 assists on 2-13.
Let’s talk about the game, I’ll crack some jokes and maybe we’ll all feel better.
Anthony Davis spins off of Pascal Siakam’s shoulder and comes open for an oop. Siakam was a bit eager to push Davis out, and got beat. Serge Ibaka bumps Davis off and finishes with a nice baby hook. Lowry gets a slight step on Holiday and charges into the paint, but Holiday cuts off the pocket pass and Davis blankets Lowry at the rim. It’s 4-2 Pelicans and the play we just saw could be a lot of trouble moving forward.
Newly minted player of the week, Siakam grabs a board and makes it the length of the court before goading Julius Randle into a reaching foul, and-1. Moore loses Green off a pin-down and hits a tidy floater. After the ball gets bobbled by a couple Raptors, it meets the sure hands of Kawhi Leonard and he hits a turnaround. 8-7 for the Pelicans.
A hectic back and forth that features a Holiday airball and a Lowry turnover, ends with a Moore triple. Leonard attempts to match Moore and comes up empty. Holiday knifes around Lowry for a jumper, he’s been able to stick Lowry to his hip so far. Lowry on the other hand can’t get past Holiday’s hips. Holiday gets Green on the next possession and walks him into the lane for an and-1. Holiday is really strong and the Raptors guards are having fits trying to contend with him on drives. Leonard and Lowry play a bit of give and go near the basket, and Leonard converts, it’s 15-11, Pelicans.
Leonard gets a post-up on the left-wing and every Pelican keys in. This looks like a night where Leonard might have to force his offense, but if the Raptors can hit from outside things will open up considerably. Siakam forces a Davis miss, then takes it up the floor and hits a floater from the free throw line. I thought that Siakam would draw Randle in this matchup, but so far it’s been Siakam-Davis and Ibaka-Randle. Looks like Nurse wanted a switch option to deal with the Holiday-Davis pick n’ roll, but there’s a mismatch regardless.
With Ibaka drawing Randle he’s been really active on the glass so far, on both sides of the floor. All the attention that Leonard is demanding pays off, as a result of the attention, Siakam gets a wide-open look from the right corner which he hits. Siakam is still in shockingly sharp form, certainly not troubled by the expectations of his player of the week award. It’s 20-19 for the team we like – so sorry if a pelicans fan is reading this, don’t fight me, I’m not strong.
A Holiday triple, and another floater from Moore take us to a score of 25-22 for the Pelicans. Ibaka checks out with 6-points and 6 boards, with Siakam checking Davis he was free to go after boards. Jonas Valanciunas checks in, this particular writer isn’t particularly hopeful about this with how sharp the Pelicans guard-play has been. Forcing a lot of defensive decision-making from the Raptors bigs right now.
In what is definitely a main-stay in OG Anunoby’s game, he picks off a point-to-wing pass and glides in for a throwdown. The Pelicans run straight to the rim, after the Raptors display some horrific transition defense. Davis gets a put-back the next time down and it’s 29-26 for Davis & co.
A CJ Miles triple and Cheick Diallo tap-in take this quarter to it’s end. It’s 31-29 for the Pelicans, and the most interesting matchup so far is Holiday-Lowry. Holiday’s strength is evident, and he’s not afraid to bully the ‘bull-dog from bay street’.
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Valanciunas grinds his way to the line, hitting both. Never short on finesse, VanVleet ‘Nashes’ the pick n’ roll and finds Anunoby for a corner triple. Great start to the game for Anunoby, as he’s showed off his burly defense, above the rim game, and now a triple. Valanciunas gets the ball above-the-break and promptly smashes into Davis for an offensive foul. Randle, now guarded by Anunoby, gets some downhill momentum and gets a layup. Darius Miller comes open above-the-break and hits from beyond-the-arc.
Randle hits an effortless 13-footer off an OBO play, but Delon Wright gets into the paint on the other end for some free throws. Valanciunas gets on the offensive glass and finds Wright for a triple, who looks a fair bit better than VanVleet early on as it’s 40-39 for the Pelicans. Randle mows through the lane for a layup, and Anunoby looks a bit perplexed by the way Randle is throwing his weight around. Miles leaves the game, looks like he may have jammed his knee (ended up being a strained adductor).
Ibaka and Siakam check back in, and both grab a couple points for posterity. Siakam got to the line after spinning through the lane, in contrast to Siakam’s paint wizardry, Ibaka hit from downtown. A DHO between Davis-Moore leads to a Davis oop. Moore has been clinical setting up the defender for the screen, he’s coming off of these really tight. When he gets to play as a tertiary option he’s terrific, it’s no wonder the Pelicans are enamoured with him.
Leonard hits a tough and-1 from mid-range and Holiday walks Lowry to the bucket the next time down. This matchup is tough right now. Davis swats away a Leonard layup, but runs through Green for a charge on the other end. Leonard hits a triple, one would hope this is a building block for the offense. Davis and Ibaka trade put-backs, but Moore loses VanVleet on the backside of the defence – another damn pin-down – and hits a triple. Lowry, who at this point has had his whole game suppressed, forces the issue and earns some free throws.
Wesley Johnson and Ibaka both hit from downtown and the score is sitting at 60-57 for the Pelicans. Randle bullies his way to the rim once again, he has to love being able to attack a preoccupied defense. Holiday shakes loose of Lowry and slices into the lane for an incredible (jelly) finish at the rim. A frustrating half for the Raptors ends down 66-61, but hope springs eternal and it’s only 5-points.
Lowry is visited by the ‘Ghost of All-Star Guard’s Past’ at half-time. A hand reaches out to touch his shoulder “It’s not always like this, you know…” a voice says quietly. Lowry turns around and sees the pride of Oakland, Damian Lillard.
“He’s too strong, I feel like I’m getting locked between his knees. There’s never any progress to be made.” says Lowry.
“It’s only one game Kyle, you have children to go back too after this.” Lillard said. His sure hands gripped Lowry’s as they trembled.
Lowry started: “But… I feel like a kid right now. Every time I turn around he’s there, there’s no room to breath. Even if I get a step, he’s just leading me to the baseline. I’m scared, Dame.” A cold bead of sweat drops off his brow onto the stat-sheet from the first half. Lowry sees the “0” beside his points column, and is reminded of a simpler time. When Rudy Gay did away with stat-sheets in the locker room.
“Kyle, you’re the ‘Bulldog from Bay Street’. You’re the league’s assist leader, and no one will take that away. In these times, I try to picture a happy place.” said Lillard, as he showed a newspaper cutout that read ‘Damian Lillard, left off All-Star team’.
“That makes you happy?” said Lowry. His brow furrowed, wondering what Lillard meant.
Lillard shrugged and said: “I’ve always been happiest when I’m complaining.” as he drifted away.
“I liked the Ben Simmons joke a lot better.” thought Lowry. “This one is a bit contrived, if we’re being honest.”
Leonard misses a dunk that looks eerily similar to Dwyane Wade’s infamous dunk over Anderson Varejao. That sneaky walk to run explosion, but in this case Leonard missed. Davis hits a rainbow mid-range jumper over Siakam, and Leonard heads straight back to the paint for an and-1. Green hits his first shot of the game after Leonard collapses the defense, but Davis hits a triple of his own to match. The Pelicans have been able to answer everything tonight. Davis makes a clever pass to his front-court mate, and Randle gets a dunk and the foul.
Siakam swats a Davis push shot. Davis used his knee to create space, but Siakam’s slender frame got him right next to the ball for the block. Randle and Holiday both get into the lane for buckets and it’s 79-70. Green is now bringing the ball up the floor, due to the fact that Holiday is in Lowry’s jersey and he wants a break. Holiday is relentless, he’s grabbed the proverbial remote, and pressed ‘mute’ on Lowry.
Siakam moonwalks around Randle for and and-1. Full disclosure, it was another spin move. I feel like an assembly line worker talking about Siakam’s spin-move. I might as well create a hot-key for it, I mean we can expect 5 or 6 a game. Another literary device? Well I suppose I’ll oblige you.
Siakam catches the ball, and surveys the court. He notices that Randle’s feet are allowing for a spin to his right hand. Siakam’s web shooters activate, and the web slings over and sticks to the legs of Jamaal Magloire. Finally we know why he’s employed by the Raptors. Siakam pulls on the web and creates a great deal of momentum, Randle has never seen someone spin with this speed. Somewhere in the distance, J. Jonah Jameson yells: “He’s a thief! A criminal!” in the background. Before he knows it, Siakam is at the rim for a finish.
The next time down the court Siakam beats everyone to the rim for a baby hook, it’s 81-75. Holiday gets to the bucket for another and-1. He’s so good at bursting to the rim, he’ll go from 0-60 in an instant and he’s so strong in the air. As a result, Anunoby gets a couple possessions guarding Holiday. Lorenzo Brown checks in as a consequence of Miles’ injury. Normally I would condemn this, but Brown is a stout defender and the Raptors need that bad.
Anunoby gets called for an offensive foul while screening for Brown, and it’s 90-77. Wright and VanVleet both hit from downtown. Their compatibility seems to be getting back to normal levels, but on a night like tonight, bench guards don’t win you the game. Moore hits a sweeping floater to close out the third quarter at 94-83.
To start the fourth quarter, Holiday and Wright both get to the bucket. VanVleet picks Holiday’s pocket and leads Anunoby to the rim, he gets free throws. Wright snatches the inbound pass and it leads to a VanVleet triple, the lead is nearly cut in half, 96-90. Out of the time-out Alvin Gentry runs a pin-down for Moore, and he hits another floater. That gets followed up with a Miller triple, 101-90. In addition to that, Holiday now has 11 assists, as he’s been masterful all game long.
Siakam and Leonard check back in, if a run is coming it’s gotta be now. Moore sneaks back door for a finger roll, and Nurse calls a time-out. Really tough game trying to hold down the Pelicans guards.
Siakam gets Davis in the air with a slick up-n-under, dropping his right shoulder under him for a nice finish. Following that, Siakam walks the baseline before slinging a pass to Anunoby for a triple. The super switchable duo of Siakam and Anunoby forces a turnover. Anunoby grabs the loose ball and steps over Moore on the way to the rim for a finish. The dynamic wing-play has brought the Raptors back within 10, at 106-97.
Davis gets to the rim on back-to-back possessions with transparent plans of putting this game away. Leonard takes up the assignment on Holiday to help deter the Pelicans offense. Siakam cuts through the lane for a layup, he’s got 20+ points for the third game in a row. Holiday gets a switch onto Green and promptly splashes a triple in his face. It’s 116-101 with 5 minutes to go.
Moore hits his 8th floater of the game (which is absurd, actually) and Nurse calls a timeout. Lowry puts his head down and gets to the rim for his first basket of the game. Anunoby steals away yet another wing-to-point and takes it all the way for a slam. A phantom foul is called on his behalf and his free throw brings it back to 119-108. Holiday pulls up from 3 in Ibaka’s face as a response. Moore hits a stupendous floater, and this thing looks like it’s over at 124-108.
The game wraps up at 126-110 for the Pelicans. I liked Ibaka/Siakam/Anunoby a lot tonight, they were all quite good. Well done by the Pelicans for their defensive game-plan, and a tip of the hat to the shot-making of Moore and Holiday.
The Raptors are 12-2 and are still on pace for 70 wins. We might have expected this from Lowry tonight with Holiday looming large, but Leonard’s performance is tough. The Raptors remain one of the league’s very best, and we got to watch another night of progression from our large, loveable sons: Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
Have a blessed day.