If you've been following the coverage on this site, other sites, or even if you have eyes that receive information and send it to your brain via medieval sorcery (that's how it works, right?), I'm pretty sure you'll have heard the litany of critical adjectives used to describe this Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. Ugly. Sloppy. Disappointing. Well, I'm not here to argue any of that. I'm not the synonym police. But I will say that it seems a tad lazy, so I busted out the old thesaurus, just so we can get
fresher ultramodern with things. See? It's working already!
The style of play has been
slow plodding, the ball movement has been terrible repugnant and the series in general, I'm sure, has been difficult taxing to watch. Unless you're a fan of one of these two teams. In that case, the plodding repugnance has taxed you, but you've found solace in the appalling tenseness purported by this pair of irksome combatants.
Still with me? OK great. I'm honestly sorry you had to experience that but this entire thing has been vexing and I felt like I had no other recourse.
Here are your keys to the game. Don't worry, Reynolds took my thesaurus.
1. His Name is Jonas
I found this video of the Raptors being asked to pass JV Nasty the ball in the post. Paul Rudd plays the part of the rest of the team, while Janeane Garofalo represents the fans and maybe the coaching staff (unclear).
But seriously. The Raptors won the Indiana series largely because of Jonas Valanciunas. They won Game 2 because of Jonas Valanciunas, full stop. I could give you a buttload of stats to back that up, but lets stick to the basics: in the 2 games so far this series, Jonas is averaging 19.5 points and 13 boards, while shooting 68% from the floor. After going 10 of 16 from the floor in Game 1, he somehow got only 9 shots in Game 2, even though he scooped 6 offensive rebounds.
Here is Jonas, after everyone else has left the locker room.
Give the man the ball and let JV Nasty work.
2. Two Pats? I'd settle for one!
Overshadowed by the struggles of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan has been the complete ineffectiveness of stalwart backups Bismack Biyombo and Patrick Patterson. Both players were essential to the Raptors success this season, as part of the bench mob + Lowry group that was one of the most effective five man units in the NBA.
Through the first two games of the series, Biyombo has averaged a -9, while playing just 12.8 minutes per game. He hasn't scored a point in the series and has just 6 total rebounds, after averaging nearly 10 boards per game versus Indiana. This is certainly at least partially the product of Jonas playing almost 35+ minutes per game, and of the massive size difference between Biyombo and Hassan Whiteside. Patterson hasn't been any better. He's averaging a -8.5 through the first two games in the series, in just 17.8 minutes on the floor. He hasn't made a three and is shooting just 28.6% from the floor.
Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph have been good for the second unit so far and maybe it's Lowry's struggles trickling down to the group -- that five man unit was bound to lose some of its shine. Or maybe Miami is just a bad match-up for the two Toronto bigs, with the towering Whiteside and their group of mobile forwards, but these two need to be more engaged if the Raptors are going to have a chance to win the series.
3. The Kyle Lowry Rennaissance Project
Kyle Lowry was better in Game 2. It was a low bar, but he did some Kyle Lowry things that made me feel better about where things were going. He made a jumper while moving to his left. He made that big foul line bucket down the stretch. He looked (slightly) more decisive and as his 22 shot attempts will tell you, he certainly wasn't afraid to shoot the ball. There was clearly an element of 'too much, too soon', with the Lou Williams-esque, hero-balled brick of a three point attempt at the end of the regulation and some other forced shots, but I'll take that over passiveness any day of the week. I still want to see him turn the corner with the aggressiveness that we're used to, and for him to create shots in the paint for others, but baby steps. We're headed in the right direction.
On the Game 1 podcast with John Gaudes, I predicted that we'd see incremental improvement from Lowry -- a slightly better Game 2, followed by a standout Game 3. Here's hoping that I'll have cause to post this following the game:
Where to Watch: ESPN and Sportsnet, 5:00pm