The Toronto Raptors have five takeways in a 117-115 win over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.
One – the Raptors were far from their best but enough to avoid the Rockets. They were immediately in the hole, with the team’s young players making restless decisions on both ends of the floor, 24 points behind at the start of the second quarter. But before the game was out of reach, they regained their composure, trailed by two separate events to tie the game, and trailed by a narrow margin towards the end to collect their 48th win of the year.
The Raptors have locked the fifth pick in the final week of the regular season and will meet on the road against Philadelphia or Boston.
Two – it was a controversial ending in the end. Gary Trent Jr. beat the watch with a drive to split multiple defenders for a floater with 4.8 seconds left. In the final game, the rockets headed towards Rookie Center Alperen Sengun, where Pascal Siakam gave him a shadow in a backdown. Siakam eventually forces Sengun’s hook to stop, but the replay shows Siakam slapping him twice in the drive, both pushing Sengun across the arm as he swipes the ball, and then he cuts her back as he spins.
Houston took the opportunity to force overtime, but they are also tanking so who really lost in the decision?
Three – Siakam wishes the raptors through a lazy performance. Siakam was able to run the knife through the defense, finding many favorable matchups against inexperienced rockets, who could not hold him straight. Siakam started at a slow pace, with many contacts not making paint calls, but he lobbied officials in the middle of the second quarter and was given the next three calls after his drive. Even without the flute, Siakam was still able to go to his place. He didn’t use a midrange jumper because there was very little resistance at times, but Siakam consistently made accurate passes and trusted his teammates despite his ice-cold shooting performance. He finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists though he had nothing to work with.
Having played in every game since returning from COVID-19 in late December and playing 40 minutes in 6 of his last seven games, there is no point in sending Siakam to New York for the final game of the regular season this weekend. He should be observed from home with other veterans.
The value of four া Thad Young is the stability he brings. Ever since getting accustomed to his new team after the trade deadline, Young Nick has had an insurance policy when the games went bad. The pair of Chris Boucher and Valuable Achievers have been great this season, but they are still fundamentally erratic players who tend to sway wildly in strength overnight. Young is the reliable reserve that ensures. He is defensively in all the right places, he competes at a high level in his limited minutes and plays selflessly in offense.
Young’s push in the second quarter was the start of a comeback, creating a deflection at one end and a smart pass on the offense – including a gorgeous give and go sequence with Siakam – to attack the highly exploitative gaps in Houston’s defense. He also blended into his own scoring in eight attempts with 14 points, mostly through his faithful left hook shots. Young was also huge in the clutch, following a drive for a putback from Siakam and breaking the full-court pressure of the rocket with a spinning hook to lift the Raptors in the last two minutes. Young played the entire second and fourth quarters, showing impressive tolerance for the intelligent experienced.
Five – This was an opportunity that was not taken for granted by some young players. Scottie Barnes had one of the worst games of her year but rallied for a strong finish with 12 points in the fourth quarter when she finally started to play in the stream of crime. Achiwa went back to the old habit of forcing him to commit his crime and was aggressively overwhelmed against Sengun at the post.
The biggest opportunity for the point guards was missed, as Armoni Brooks and Malachi Flynn were completely invisible for slipping while checking up their rival jumpers or trying to run the ball. Only Justin Champagne took the opportunity, showing his new confidence in the three corners which was one of the highlights of his development at the G-League level, and reminded us of his ability to bounce off two big rockets. To win possession.
The other was Utah Watanabe, who played the entire fourth quarter and rushed across the venue with two steals, three rebounds and a breakaway sting. Unfortunately, the lasting impression with Watanabe will block Jalen Green’s superhuman rush, but it should be appreciated that Watanabe consistently plays with strength, which is especially appreciated on a night where other bench players floundered.