We start today’s double header with Toronto and Boston. This was a much more exciting game than the previous one between these two. It was a nail biting finish, with Boston coming back from a double digit deficit to take a 2-0 lead in the series. Let’s get into the talking points.
I feel Toronto should of had this one. They were much better in transition tonight, they had more steals, less turnovers, almost twice as many points in the paints and a double digit lead with a few minutes left in the third…I feel they really blew a good chance to even the series. I don’t understand why Nick Nurse didn’t call a timeout on the final play? VanVleet did not have the hot hand. They could of easily had a timeout with 3-4 seconds left and drawn up a play to get a much better look. VanVleet finished 3 of 12 from long range. No disrespect to VanVleet, but it wasn’t his night and he wasn’t the guy I wanted shooting the final shot.
The Raptors need their role players to get going more offensively. They where much better tonight, but still failed to reach 100 points. That’s both games in this series that they have failed to hit that milestone. Full credit to Boston’s defense, but Toronto have to step up to the plate, especially the guards. Lowry and VanVleet were not good shooting the ball tonight, they weren’t even ok. They were bad. Combined they shot 3 of 19 from deep and 13 of 38 overall. That cannot happen. They need to shoot more efficiently or find someone in a better scoring position. They both had 7 assists, but that was heavily overshadowed by all of the missed shots. Siakam looked like he was going to have a big game but they could not find his offense in the second half.
On a positive note for Toronto, they had some good games from some of the other guys. Serge Ibaka continued to shoot the ball very efficiently, including some timely threes. Speaking of threes, OG was lethal from the corner tonight. He was also scoring effectively inside the paint. OG was ballin out tonight, but he had a few too many silly fouls. Especially late in the game, he picked up a couple of cheap ones, simply from being out of position. Look for him to improve that next game.
Tatum time! He had an awesome game on both ends of the court. 34 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Tatum was aggressive on offense, he didn’t just settle for jump shots. He forced his way inside, early and often. That being said, we he needed to shoot, he did and was pretty good at it. 14 of his points came at the free throw line (100% at the line tonight) and he made 4 three pointers on 57% from deep. Speaking of shooting the 3 well, how deadly was Smart in the fourth quarter? 5 straight in just as many minutes. I love watching it when a guy gets hot from outside. They were big shots too. You have to think if he didn’t make them, Boston don’t get a chance in this. Kemba also came up big late, after a very slow start for him. I’m pretty sure he was scoreless in the first half.
A few another notes from this game I want to mention. Firstly, I think it’s mandatory that the referees look for at least one hostile act every single game. That’s the only explanation I have for why we see so many reviews. Just because Lowry hits the ground, it doesn’t mean there was foul play. I love Lowry, but the man spends a lot of time on the ground. On the referee note, why does it take them so long on reviews? Surely there is away to get it done faster. Every out of bounds play you have to wait 3 minutes for them to figure it out. It sucks all the momentum out, especially in such a close game. One more thing before we move on, when did punching the air become an automatic technical? You can’t be calling that a technical on Tatum at the end. In such a close and important playoff game, let the players show emotion!
Secondly, I want to point out a few stats I found interesting. The Raptors did not take a single free throw attempt in the first half. So it’s not surprising that Boston ended the game with more attempts than Toronto. What is surprising, is that Toronto was feasting in the paint. You’d think with so many of their points coming from inside that they would have the free throw advantage. I’m not saying the referees were favouring Boston, I just thought it was interesting. I also thought it was interesting that the Raptors had more offensive rebounds, more assists, more steals, less turnovers and as I mentioned, dominated in the paint. Looking at the stats, you’d probably think that Toronto won this game. But, they didn’t! Boston take a 2-0 lead. Just like Milwaukee did last year…
Wow! Another wild one! Game 7 between Utah and Denver. It might not of been the game 7 bout between Mitchell and Murray we hoped, but it was still a very entertaining game and a very intense finish. Denver win an incredibly low scoring game, 80-78 and advance to take on the Clippers.
I hate it when movies do this, but I’m going to start at the end. Quin Snyder must be kicking himself that they had to burn two timeouts on the one play. Imagine if they still had the timeout when Gobert grabbed that last rebound. They would of likely gotten a better look than that Conley three. It almost dropped though! Did he have time/a passing lane to get the ball to Mitchell? Mitchell was in a much better position to score and would be the choice of guys to take the final shot. I just realised VanVleet and Conley both missed potential game winners today and both had dud games. Maybe the baby bump has finally ended. I felt bad for Mitchell when he turned it over on that last play. Not the way you want to lose. It was a great show of sportsmanship for Murray to be the one to lift Mitchell off of the ground. It was a battle that will be talked about for years to come. Now that we’ve recapped the ending, let’s go back and look at the rest of the game.
Jamal Murray is human after all. 33% on the field and 16% from deep to finish with 17 points in 41 minutes. Not the swansong of the series we hoped for. Utah double teamed him for a little bit early and that seemed enough to throw his rhythm off for the rest of the game. He made some key buckets in the fourth quarter and contributed a lot defensively, but it wasn’t the performance we’ve gotten used to seeing. Maybe we’ve just been spoiled. I’m sure more than anything, he is just happy to have gotten the win. I’m curious to see how he bounces back in the next round, but I can’t see him dominating against a real defense like the Clippers. I’ll be cheering for him anyway.
It was a slow start for the opposing star as well. Mitchell took a while to find his groove, but when he did he looked lethal. A lot of unlucky bounces went his way tonight. He could of easily scored 30 or more, but ended the night on 22 points, 40% shooting. Mitchell also played good defense, especially on Murray in the fourth quarter. On one play he was actually looking at Murray and licking his lips. He was locked in. I feel bad for Mitchell to be knocked out of the playoffs again, but there just isn’t enough help around him.
Moving on to the big guys! Jokic was incredible, which is very handy because his team needed him tonight more than ever. With Murray struggling, it was up to Jokic to carry the offensive load and he sure did. 30 points and 14 rebounds to go along with it. This is the Jokic that Denver needs. When he is engaged on both ends, you can see why a lot of people rank Denver as one of the best teams at the start of each season. Too bad he loses focus so often. Still, that’s not the time to get into that now, because he had a good game, stepped up when needed and lead his team to a game 7 victory.
If Jokic was incredible, I don’t know what to say about Gobert. Phenomenal? That’ll do. He had a game for the ages. Utah were done in this game. Mitchell lead them back offensively, but Gobert was the defensive anchor they needed. I remembered why he was DOPY for 2 years running. 19 points, 18 boards and 2 blocks. His presence was made known inside the paint on both ends of the court. He got into foul trouble early on, but managed to stay in the game and still play nearly 40 minutes. Great defensive effort by Gobert tonight.
Let’s look at some of the role players. Firstly, Denver. Mason Plumlee played about 8 minutes and save 3 for three rebounds, his box score is empty. That does not do him justice though. Just like Gobert, he made his presence known defensively. Especially when it mattered most. Malone made sure to sub out Jokic and put Plumlee in on the important defensive stops at the end. I was really surprised to look at the box score and see that Michael Porter Jr. only played 17 minutes. It felt like he was in this game more. He did not waste any of those 17 minutes though. Especially early on, it felt like it was going to be the MPJ game. He finished with 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Very impressive showing from him. I can’t wait to see how he develops and works on his game.
For Utah, early on I thought this was going to be the Joe Ingles revenge game. Revenge against me for calling him out the last two games. Ingles was aggressive early and scored the first 5 points of the game. Then he went cold again. He finished with 7 points, on 30% shooting and 20% from outside. Another disappointing offense effort for Joe. Speaking of Ingles, was it necessary to review that foul on Murray? I said earlier today that it is mandatory for the referees to review at least one foul for a hostile act every game. I was just joking though, I didn’t know it had actually become a rule. Surely at least one of the referees was watching the game close enough to realise a review was completely unnecessary?
Ingles wasn’t the only one for Utah (or Denver for that matter) to struggle offensively. I already mentioned how bad Conley was. Clarkson couldn’t find his range from outside, going 1 of 5. O’Neale struggled to find his shot. Basically everyone. Not surprising when you look at the low score. Credit to both teams for playing much better defense, it was just a shame that barely anyone stepped up on offense.
Another exit for Utah and after blowing a 3-1 lead, they must be very disappointed. I wonder if coach Snyder will be the next coach out the door?