Wow, could you imagine a better game to take us into All-Star break? While there’s been tons of players to love on the Raptors, Pascal Siakam remains one of the easiest to spend the emotional labour on, and to see him bust out for 44-points was wunderbar. Even though this was Jeremy Lin’s debut with the Raptors, and Marc Gasol raises plenty of interest, Siakam ripped the viewers attention away from other storylines and put himself on display, for the 30th time this year.
Lin was adamant to get in on last night’s game, and thank goodness he did. With Fred VanVleet’s surgery on the horizon and Kawhi Leonard and Patrick McCaw out as well, the bench was short. The short bench necessitated a different look than Nick Nurse is used to throwing out there, and we got some terrific, wonky results. For one, OG Anunoby led the team in minutes played, coming in just shy of 36. Anunoby was a verified (not twitter) beast in this one.
Anunoby has had an up and down year, and last night’s game felt like a breakthrough. He was a major deterrent on the defensive end, fighting through screens better than we’ve seen from him in some time, and upholding his reputation as sterling one-on-one defender. His monstrous plus-minus of +18 last night was second only to Siakam. A large piece of that yummy +18 came during the 15-0 run during the third quarter that was spurred on by the insertion of Anunoby and Lin into the game. ‘OG’ was a nightmare on defense for the Wizards as he led the Raptors in deflections (4) and he was second in shots contested (12). A wing defender who can come in and squeeze the opposing offense like that will always be valuable. Anunoby finished with a career-high 22 points on 9-14 from the field and a very encouraging 4-8 from downtown. He also snatched a couple point-to-wing passes like he snatches girlfriends.
If your girlfriend says hey to me that’s our girlfriend now idc
— O.G. Anunoby (@OAnunoby) February 23, 2014
(If you want to read something about Anunoby’s developing jump-shot, that would be here.)
Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka maintained both of their elongated stretches of great play. Lowry, for his part, cashed in 4 triples on the night – showing us that he might be ready to take big shots again. He was also, of course, very annoying on the defensive end, getting his hand in the cookie jar before layups, affecting shots and taking charges. The Wizards were limited to 4 offensive rebounds on the night and that was in large part because of Ibaka’s work patrolling the paint. He was hyper-active on the glass (even stealing rebounds from teammates at times) and only allowed one offensive rebound in his 30 minutes. Not to mention he hit double-digits for the 49th time this year – only 7 games short of last year’s output for the whole season.
Lin, like I mentioned, was a big part of the Raptors 3rd-quarter run. Grabbing a bucket, an assist, and a block (!) in his third quarter minutes. With VanVleet out, Lin’s main job is to help service whatever big man is on the bench with him, and cut and fill when his minutes overlap with Lowry. He did a great job tonight (despite missing all his 3-point attempts) of absorbing some gravity, and finding his teammates in advantageous positions. He’s a really smart player, and with a bevy of options to get the ball to, expect him to make the right decision a high percentage of the time. Love this pickup for the Raptors, and he’s going to be really fun for the city to cheer for.
“Heck of an addition for the Raptors with Fred being out for a bit. What I always said about Jeremy is he’s a heck of a competitor, a much better defender than people think.
Everyone competes in this league but there’s a pocket of guys who go above and beyond that. You know he’s going to be prepared. He’s meticulous in his preparation and obviously very smart and versatile.” – Kenny Atkinson
The third quarter run doesn’t happen without a stingy defensive performance. The Raptors leaned heavily on fluent communication between Lowry/Lin and Siakam/Anunoby as they walled off pick n’ roll after pick n’ roll. Doing a terrific job of freezing Bradley Beal out of the game and forcing him into an 0-5 quarter. The Raptors played particularly good defense on Beal for the majority of the game, forcing him to create over 80-percent of his baskets unassisted. Tiring stuff that may have prevented a fourth quarter explosion.
The man of the hour is Siakam, though. He was transcendent last night, pouring in 44 points, playing All-NBA defense and pumping the Scotiabank Arena full of energy every time he touched the ball. The story of this game (and this recap) exist largely in the second half, and so too, does Siakam’s incredible scoring display. He damn near set his career-high in points in one half (33 and 30) tallying 19 in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth. He relentlessly attacked the Wizards, finding a mismatch in anyone who stood across from him. Beal? Too small. Jeff Green? Too slow. Jabari Parker? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahah.
Not only was Siakam eating every Wizard for breakfast off the dribble, he was also making it rain from downtown. I mean, he finished 4-5 from beyond-the-arc in this one, that’s unbelievable production and efficiency. Watching the plays he’s making above, and imagining that the same guy is hitting 80-percent of his triples, it breaks your brain. That’s exactly what happened to the Wizards in this one, they couldn’t think of a way to stop Siakam, provided that there even is one.
Not only did the Wizards have to worry about Siakam on defense, but he hounded them all night on the offensive end. I noted that Anunoby was second on the team in shots contested, Siakam was first. He managed to run out on 6 3-point attempts, even blocking one on the right baseline, looking every part of a ‘skinny Zion Williamson’. He drew six fouls on the night, he rebounded (10) and he punched in his best performance as a pro. He’s wrapped up the MIP (Most Improved Player) award at this point, and I’m excited to see what he’ll do in the playoffs.
The Raptors closed this one out 129-120 and stretched their 5-game winning streak into 6. All in time to enjoy the All-Star break. Can’t imagine things closing out any smoother for the Raptors in this one. This one was lots of fun. If you like to listen to the breakdowns rather than read, I should’ve put this link at the front, but, I’ll put it here now: The Quick Reaction podcast from last night with Zarar and myself.
If you have missed the Mailbag since Blake’s exit, I will be picking up the mantle. I’ll be putting out the tweet in which the questions will be gathered under on the Monday after the All-Star game. Hopefully the Mailbag will go up Tuesday/Wednesday, because #content. You can find my twitter here, if you have any burning questions you want answered.
Have a blessed day.