Before each game of the Magic/Raptors series, we are going to get the perspective of someone from the North.
It’s clear as day that the Raptors are the better team, and after four games of questions, I think we’ve already touched on all the advantages they have over the Magic. So instead of asking another analytical question, can you give us a Toronto Raptors Starting Five First Round Power Ranking? Rank each Toronto starter in order of who has had the biggest impact on this series.
Great question. Here are my rankings (#1 being the best):
5) Danny Green -- I love Danny, and It’s insane that he’s the lowest in these rankings. Last year, he might’ve been the second most important player in the starting lineup. Green’s intensity and focus on the defensive end, combined with being the best, most dependable shooter in Raptors history makes for special player indeed. Yet, this series he hasn’t contributed a ton offensively, so let’s place him here.
4) Marc Gasol -- Gasol is an incredible complimentary piece to Lowry’s offense, opening additional passing lanes from the elbows and stopping Vucevic with a series of strips. Though, the rest of the Raptors starters have been so good I’m going to struggle ranking them. It only seemed fitting to rank Marc fourth.
3) Kawhi Leonard -- Yeah, I don’t know. Kawhi easily could have been number one, if not for putting up the worst performance I’ve seen from him this year. To be fair, he had the flu and gave us a huge bounce back game two days later. He’s been incredible on both ends of the floor. These rankings are hard, man.
2) Pascal Siakam -- Siakam has been the lone constant bright spot in this series. He’s manhandled Jonathan Isaac so far, knocking down jumpers and finishing gracefully at the rim. If Siakam had a bad game, I’m not sure how the Raptors would fare; but, there’s another Raptor whose importance to the team is more evident.
1) Kyle Lowry -- That’s right – he may not score the most points per game or shoot the best percentages. But, Lowry’s presence is felt more than any other starter’s. Without Lowry, the Raptors’ offense falls apart – especially without Gasol or Siakam. Kyle’s hustle and mojo is unmatched. He constantly wins 50/50 balls, making winning basketball plays when it matters most (as exemplified by his late-game heroics in Game 3). When Kyle struggles, the team struggles. When Kyle excels, the sky’s the limit.
One of the few bright spots in the series for the Magic has been the play of Aaron Gordon. From a Toronto perspective, what has impressed you most about Gordon’s play and which areas do you feel he most needs to improve?
Aaron Gordon’s ability to push himself through defenders and take over a game was very apparent on Sunday night. Although his team fell far short of matching his performance, Gordon displayed the type of all-around dependable play the team hopes he can keep up.
Of course, Gordon’s ball handling and shooting have a ways to go before he can keep up with the likes of the league’s elite. Right now, they’re the weakest parts of his game. Adding an impressive three-point jumper would allow himself to play off-ball more often, providing another scoring option off Jonathan Isaac kick-outs.
The Magic’s margin for error in this series is so small and yet they are averaging 15.3 turnovers per game. What have the Raptors done to force the Magic into turning the ball over so frequently?
The Raptors are playing aggressive defense, as evidenced by their high whistle count in Games Two and Three. Gasol loves to swipe at Vucevic in the post and interrupt passing lanes, resulting in many turnovers.
Moreover, the Magic are a young team and tend to make risky passes while the Raptors are a long, well-positioned team on the defensive end – that combination is less than ideal for the Magic. On top of that, Danny and Kawhi have Finals experience, while Gasol, Lowry and Ibaka have many playoff series under their belt. Every play matters in the postseason, and the Raptors’ core is fully conscious of that.
Thanks again to Dylan for chatting with us. Be sure to visit Raptors HQ for some great content about the Magic’s opponent, including a story on Kawhi Leonard’s two-way mastery driving the Raptors’ breakout.