This has been a week of dumb games. Going into double-OT against the Wizards was dumb. Running out the bench without Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry or Pascal Siakam against the Celtics was dumb (let alone the collapse down the stretch). And letting the Suns hang around and needing a buzzer-beater to put them away? Dumbest of all.
But, at least we got one of the season’s best individual moments out of it. Let’s start there:
Pascal Siakam Waited SOOOOOOO Long...!
When Kyle Lowry handed the ball off to Pascal Siakam near midcourt and Siakam slowly dribbled it, I thought, oh cool, they’re letting Pascal create. Then my eyes grew wide as I internally screamed “go! go! go!”; I thought Siakam waited way too long to make his move, and that he wouldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer sounded.
Somehow I forgot just how freakin’ quick this dude is.
The slightest hesitation move and he had the inside step on Mikal Bridges, and he was the rim in a blink. Glass, buzzer, ballgame.
It was a gutsy play call from Nick Nurse, who noted after the game that Siakam’s been practicing the timing on those late-clock moments. The practice clearly paid off!
Dear Fred and Delon, We Missed you on Wednesday
It was great to see Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright have bounceback games against Phoenix, VanVleet with some deadly shooting and Wright with his patented array of drives; they combined for 25 points on 16 shots with nine assists. But it made it all the more jarring that they were so invisible against the Celtics on Wednesday night (0 points on six shots and two assists combined).
That sort of inconsistency should be in the past for guys in their third and fourth years in the NBA, respectively. It’s really starting to make me think that we may have overestimated their talent level a bit. We all know that the Raptors played extremely well against poor competition last season, and were only so-so against the league’s top teams. This year the numbers are better but still not great. It’s possible that VanVleet and especially Wright are only effective against weaker competition.
That’s speculation based on a two-game sample, and obviously requires a much deeper dive into the numbers to determine its validity as a theory. But it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
Delon Wright v. Kelly Oubre Jr.: A Three Act Play
As I age, I like to think that I’m starting to appreciate the finer things in life, as the expression goes.
Is there anything finer than Delon Wright owning Kelly Oubre Jr.?
Delon also stole a pass intended for Oubre that he turned into an around-the-back dime on a Lowry layup, and he forced Oubre into a travel in the fourth.
If Delon Wright could play against Kelly Oubre like 30 times per season he’d be an All-Star.
The (Extremely) Rare 7-point Play
So it’s 88-87 Raptors, with just under eight minutes to go, when Oubre picked up a pass in the paint from Devin Booker. Chris Boucher and C.J. Miles smothered him and the Raptors took the ball the other way. Miles dropped a pass off to Kyle Lowry, who zipped a bullet to the trailing Boucher for the lay-in and the foul.
That’s two points. Only it wasn’t just any and-1 foul — it was a flagrant 1 on Josh Jackson, who shoved Boucher mid-air.
Jackson also picked up a technical foul in the immediate aftermath and was tossed.
Which means the Raptors got a technical free throw and a free throw from the flagrant (that’s four points) and retained possession.
After a series of dribble hand-offs following the inbounds, Kyle Lowry drained a three.
That’s seven points!
I know it’s not really a seven-point play. But it was a seven-point possession! And that’s pretty cool. And extremely rare.
The Quiet Consistency of Serge Ibaka, aka Mr. Clutch
Once again I want to give it up for Serge Ibaka, who has just been so solid all season long. I picked on Ibaka after last season, because, even though his numbers at the end of the year were fine for his role, it was infuriating because game-to-game you never knew what you were gonna get.
This year has been such a different story. He had a dip after he came back from a short injury absence but other than that, he’s been remarkably consistent. He’s scored 22 in each of the last two games, had clutch buckets both last night and against Washington. And since that sub-par post-injury malaise, in the last eight he’s scored in double digits in every game, had 6 or more rebounds in every game but one, and is shooting .500 from the floor.
They’re not all-star numbers or anything, and you can still argue they’re not numbers worthy of his contract. Fine. But at least you know what you’re getting from him every night, and what you’re getting is positive.
So, three dumb games in a row. Will the Raptors and Grizzlies make it four in a row on Saturday? Tune in to find out!