1 Are we sure Kawhi Leonard isn’t 100%? He says he’s working his way back, and will continue to take games off when needed, but he’s playing at an MVP level. He might have only scored 19 points against Phoenix, but don’t be confused, this was one of Leonard’s best performances yet. Defensively he was his usual overwhelming self. On offence he scored when he wanted to, but continued the trend of understanding more what his teammates want to do. Leonard handed out five assists and has 14 assists, with just two turnovers, over his past three games.
2 We should be used to it by now, but the ease Leonard displays getting to the basket is really something. DeMar DeRozan carved up defenders with great footwork, pump fakes, a quick first step … Leonard just seems to either bull his way where he wants to go, or use his superior length and athleticism to create separation. He even made it look easy against a great defender like Trevor Ariza.
3 Don’t remember seeing too many Kawhi-Jonas Valanciunas pick-and-roll plays this season, partly because Serge Ibaka has been spending more time on the court with Leonard, but they ran a nice one to open the scoring against Phoenix. Valanciunas set a screen on Leonard’s man and when rookie Deandre Ayton ventured too far out to try to double Kawhi, Valanciunas was able to slip in easily to the rim for a layup.
4 It feels like Leonard simply decided early in the third quarter that he’d had enough of Phoenix leading the game. Down three, he stole the ball, went all the way for a jam (and yelled that he was fouled on the dunk). Next he bulled to the hoop for a tough layup while this time getting a call. Those plays changed the momentum.
5 The Toronto defence is leaving quite a bit to be desired on some nights. Against Phoenix the interior defence was particularly poor, especially when Valanciunas was on the floor (even though Valanciunas blocked four shots, his most in a game since last March). Phoenix shot 50% at the rim, but that number doesn’t look that impressive when you see the Raptors hit at a 70% clip inside against the toothless Suns.
6 Not to pick on Deandre Ayton, who is probably going to average 20 and 10 for many years and is already a good passer, but his defence looks like what you’d expect from a rookie big man. He’s leaving his man too open when he comes to help quite often. His man-to-man defence looks solid though.
7 Seemed like a tough start to the trip for Danny Green, who took both a shot to the head and one to the groin in the same game. Green’s been a great under the radar addition. His offence hasn’t been this good since four seasons ago, his shooting is way up and he’s been solid defensively.
8 Green’s minutes are way up, at a career-high 30.6 per game, so have to think with OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet now back, along with Delon Wright, he’ll play a couple of minutes fewer per night. With Norman Powell having a bounce-back year, it will be intriguing to see how Nick Nurse divvies up the minutes to keep everyone happy and in the flow.
9 Lowry’s outside shooting numbers have come back to earth (40% from three, instead of the unsustainable 55-60% clip he was at after the first few games), but he’s still at 51% overall from the field thanks in large part to 60% work inside. Once he gets a head of steam Lowry is getting to the rim and finishing. The strength and speed advantage Toronto has with Lowry and Leonard is tough for opponents to counter.
10 Powell’s shooting in 2017-18: 40.1% from field, 28.5% from three, 53% at the rim Powell’s shooting so far in 2018-19: 50%/45%/60%. He’s earned his time. Three of Toronto’s best five-man lineups so far (per NBA.com) have included Powell. That said, C.J. Miles had a strong game, maybe his best of the year or close to it. There’s a lot of mouths to feed with this group.
1 Kawhi Leonard
2 Serge Ibaka
3 Kyle Lowry
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies