We’re one game closer to the postseason! The Raptors dismissed the Knicks rather perfunctorily last night, and no one got hurt — and Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby had the night off — so all things look to be going in the right direction.
And, yet, a disclaimer:
But— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) March 29, 2019
But hey, a game’s a game! Let’s find a few things to talk about from last night:
Did the Raptors Solve their Turnover Problem?
The Raptors have been playing as if they were lathering their hands up with baby oil in the pregame lately, just letting basketballs slip through their fingers and tossing them all over the place.
So it was rather refreshing to see this little stat in the third quarter:
This is quite astonishing: Raptors have 1 -- ONE! -- turnover in the first half and it was Lowry's offensive foul— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) March 29, 2019
The Raptors would add a few more in garbage time to end up with eight turnovers, but it was great to see them moving the ball so efficiently as they built up a big lead.
... but it’s the Knicks.
Marc Gasol, Looking for the Corners
Speaking of efficient passing, how about those early Marc Gasol-to-Danny Green buckets?
The dime: Money— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 28, 2019
The shot: Money pic.twitter.com/aKcHDCnC8V
Baseline b ️uncer pic.twitter.com/VU2hG7n3NB— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 29, 2019
We all know Gasol is a heck of a passer. But there have been plenty of times since his arrival that he and his teammates just haven’t quite seemed to be on the same page... and its led to many of the aforementioned turnovers.
So, much like the reduction in turnovers we saw last night, you hope that these Gasol connections are not a one-game blip, but the start of a trends towards finally getting into the right groove and learning how to play with each other.
... but of course, it’s the Knicks.
So, How’s Jeremy Lin’s Confidence?
Jeremy Lin has looked, let’s say, a little shaky of late. He hasn’t looked confident in either his shot or his drives, and just doesn’t seem comfortable out on the floor.
So with the Raptors in Madison Square Garden, site of Lin’s best stretch of basketball, would he rediscover himself?
Results early didn’t look good. He finished the first half 0-for-2, and a -4 in 10.5 minutes — in a game the Raptors were leading by 19. He finally started to look a little better in garbage time — he was 4-for-6 in the second half, had a crafty lefty layup in traffic, and later knocked down a rare triple — so maybe, maybe there’s some light at the end of this tunnel.
Lin’s not going to have a huge role in the postseason, but if he can use these final few games to get on track, and show the coaching staff that his head’s in the right spot, and they can count on him if need be, that’d make me very happy.
How’s Norm’s Confidence!?
Guess who doesn’t need a confidence boost right now:
Filling in for @ekoreen : pic.twitter.com/YsRl6PtQks— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) March 29, 2019
After struggling against Oklahoma City, Norman Powell has been excellent in the past three games. Which, to be fair, doesn’t mean much, as Norm’s entire career thus far has been “short spurts of excellence” following by “somewhat longer spurts of mediocrity” (not to mention whatever the hell last season was).
Still, I suspect Nick Nurse is looking closely at who’s gonna fill that ninth man spot in the playoffs, and Powell is averaging 9.5 points on 50% shooting, including 45% from downtown, in March. If Powell can keep this up — and I hope he can, I have been a Powell fan since Day One — he’s likely earned that spot.
would be very cool w norm shooting 90 percent from three the rest of the way through.— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) March 29, 2019
Did Pascal Siakam Finally Close the MIP debate?
Yesterday was a great day for making fun of former NBA players who clearly don’t watch a lot of basketball:
#TheJump is off today to make room for baseball’s Opening Day, but if you still need your NBA fix, please enjoy @ZachLowe_NBA and @RJeff24 get into a very, um, impassioned discussion on the Most Improved Player award. pic.twitter.com/492wK04ssZ— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) March 28, 2019
D’Angelo Russell is having a great year and he’s going to have a great career. But I don’t see how Pascal Siakam doesn’t win this award this year, and last night was pretty much a micro-cosm of why: Siakam finished with an efficient 31 points on 11-19 shooting, and was +31 has the Raptors improved to 53-23 with a 25-point win, while Russell finished with 13 points on 6-for-19 shooting and was -13 as his 38-38 team suffered a 13-point loss to the 76ers.
Of course, you can’t decide on this award based on one game, right? Except that’s exactly the argument Richard Jefferson was trying to make!
I don’t want to make too much fun of Jefferson and Tracy McGrady here. If ESPN wanted to pay me a bunch of money to do some half-assed analysis and keep my name relevant after I retired, I’d be doing the exact same thing! But this isn’t hard. Siakam has improved in every facet of his game and earned starter’s minutes (that were far from guaranteed when the season started). That’s the definition of most improved.
Each game is bringing us one step closer, folks. Six more to go, starting with another super-fun tank-fest tomorrow night in Chicago. Only two weeks until the postseason!