There was a solid streak of defensive possessions over Andre Drummond in the post, which isn’t too hard to do, admittedly, but was always positive. Was much quieter than usual with the Raptors, but his rebound remained excellent. Fine. It’s not his best game, but he still contributed.
GROAT, on the edge of GOAT. Thrown a nice lob at Khem Birch early on, and splashed a moonball pull-up out of the pick and roll with Siakam, then got a moonball float and-1 from the bottom line. He made his way to a series of free throws in the second, making open pit fouls out of thin air. His brilliant passes seemed to surprise the Lakers. He scored five points effortlessly from both sides of a two-for-one to complete the first half. Then he walked over their throats in the second half, putting the game aside (at least I thought so) in the third. When the Lakers had one last breathless run in the fourth, it was Lowry who rained jumpers (and jumpers, and jumpers, and ju-) on their heads until they gave up and they go back to their place.
Thrown free throws on his first possession, then landed a triple on his first live shot attempt. Follow up by attacking in the pick and roll and hitting an intensive push hit. Was very physical around the rim, throwing his body into defenders with the spinning motion or step through, making contact with the ground before he climbed up. Worked very well. Hit his jumpers in the midrange with quick dribbling movements to the open space. Beyond his finishing and creative ability, he made some quick decisions, and they were almost always correct, aside from some sloppy turnovers in the fourth. Incredible stuff. On the other side, Anthony Davis – who, should he have played? He looked hurt or at the very least like he had two charley horses – couldn’t get a thumbs up against Siakam. Excellent defense against the ball.
Eventually faced his nemesis, LeBron James. There were some tricky places. At one point he threw a pick and roll with Gillespie and simply forgot to take the ball with him as he tried to turn the corner. He missed his triples by wide margins. He however stripped Kuzma under the rim during a third quarter practice. His plus-minus was almost entirely due to sharing the land with Siakam and Lowry for so many minutes.
His confidence remains mountainous, but he missed his first jumpers in this one. I also took uncertain angles on the defense side. The Raptors took a different direction to shut the game down, and that made sense.
Spark plug tonight. Stole passes, cut for two. His energy stole points for the Raptors with ease. He had about 100 tiny games that won benefits for the Raptors, either by finishing, turning, or even just pushing the pace. He closed for the Raptors, and he earned it. Excellent performance thanks to a deep rotation option.
Was active under the rim on the offensive side, but struggled to get shots in the crowd. He really needs to work on his footwork and his speed with the ball. It was also not fast enough to protect the rim, as Kyle Kuzma dove over his head. Then, in the second half, he did exactly the things he struggled with in the first half. He made himself available for the passes and went straight to the dunks. Early rotation and cut-off of readers. Remained vertical. Great adjustments.
Reach a third place as Toronto fell behind in the first quarter, offering up some of Toronto’s only non-Siakam points early on. He hasn’t played much – much less than Stanley Johnson, in fact – but still closed for the Raptors. Connected on a float from the free throw line to beat the clock five minutes from time, Toronto gasping for the offense. Then cut for free throws.
Somehow caught a miracle foul on LeBron James on a push to beat the shot clock, and had a good flat on Gillespie for a dunk in transition. Hit a three on the next possession to tie the game in the second quarter. Got through well in the third quarter, although the Lakers practically stopped the game by then.
Hit another triple! But also received a very audible ‘get that shit out of here’ from Markieff Morris after being stuck at the rim, and fell very, very sleepy on the defensive end to allow a layup for Montrezl Harrell. Also fell asleep while keeping Kuzma. Ups and downs, of course, for a rookie who has seen very few teams play in the league.
His rotation choices seemed to be based entirely on flow, regardless of who was owed the minutes or what the rotation looked like on previous nights. It worked. He brought Siakam and Lowry into the game early in the fourth to keep the Toronto jump from evaporating. He coached this match like a man who wants to win.