While the Cleveland Cavaliers are blowing out the Atlanta Hawks in wildly entertaining fashion, the other side of the Eastern Conference bracket is mired in a fighting contest of a series where both teams have combined for a whopping 62 turnovers in just two games. Kyle Lowry’s moonshot has been the best moment of the series, and the rest has been a procession of missed DeMar DeRozan jumpers, crippling offensive lapses, and Goran Dragic biting all the way through his damn lip.
Kyle Lowry is clearly suffering from his lingering elbow injury, and he’s on a historically-bad playoff shooting streak. He had the ball in his hands on the last possession of regulation with the game tied, and he proceeded to chuck up this airball.
Neither Lowry nor DeRozan have their sea legs under them yet, but the Raptors are headed down to Miami tied up at 1-1 thanks to DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valaciunas. The big Lithuanian had 11 points and seven boards in the fourth quarter and overtime, but more importantly, he outplayed Hassan Whiteside. Blancote has been quite the boogeyman for Toronto, blocking three shots tonight, altering plenty, and contributing as much as anyone to the struggles of the Raptors’ guards.
Where Whiteside is long and springy, Valanciunas is stout and immobile. He managed to help Toronto muscle out the ugliest of comebacks while only picking up a single foul, which is fairly remarkable given the type of game it was. Toronto’s offense was comically static (my favorite sequence: Lowry has the ball at the top of the key, two Raptors come up to screen for him, neither knows what they’re doing so they both stay, then Lowry runs into an easy double and he clanks a jumper) and their most successful strategy was missing shots in Valanciunas’ direction so that he could either score on tap-ins or find the right guy to pass to in the chaos. He only took nine shots, which isn’t out of character.
Valanciunas has a decent little post up game, but his role in this series is primarily to fight in the post and get burly. Thankfully for him, both games have been ugly, drawn-out, and sluggish. His round 1 matchup against the rangy Myles Turner wasn’t ideal for him, but against Whiteside, in this slow-ass series, he’s right at home. Watching the Raptors and Heat club each other and miss jumpers with three seconds on the shot clock isn’t fun, but the wrestling match that happens after is, and Valanciunas is going to have to keep scrapping because nobody looks close to offensive competence at the moment.