Nice try, Dwyane
Wade’s 35 not enough as Raptors win again
It appears not even a turnback-the-clock game can up end the Raptors these days.
Dwyane Wade looked every bit peak-career Wade Sunday almost helping his visiting Miami Heat knock off the Raptors.
But not even his 35 points coming off the Miami bench could derail the Raptors, who won for the fifth time in a row with a 125-115 victory to improve to 17-4.
Wade got the opportunities he did because the Heat was extremely short-handed with Goran Dragic, Tyler
Johnson and Dion Waiters all back in Miami tending to various injuries.
But Eric Spoelstra’s first sub off the bench wound up playing just over 34 minutes and got up 22 shots, 13 of which found the mark for his highest scoring regular season game since 2016.
Delon Wright, who was already a huge fan of Wade’s before his older brother Dorell joined the Heat and became both Wade’s teammate and best friend, was Wade’s primary defender on a few of his season-high 35 points.
“This is probably the first time really since I played some with him in the summer that we (went at each other),” Wright admitted. “It was good though. It kind of brings the competitiveness out in you when someone is coming at you.”
Wade went right at Wright on his first two possessions scoring on one and then after his initial shot on the second missed, picking up his own
rebound and scoring again.
Wright got some payback with a pair of threes with Wade in coverage so it wasn’t totally one-sided.
Kawhi Leonard led all Raptors scorers with 29 points and picked up the first regular season technical of his career.
Leonard said a series of hard fouls that went uncalled against him and eventually led to him getting what he termed a “definitely” earned technical.
“It was just kind of getting out of hand with some of the calls out there,” Leonard said. “You work so hard in this game to try and win a game or score the basketball and when you don’t get your calls, it’s very difficult when someone blatantly fouls you.”
The Raptors will travel to Memphis on Monday and take on the Grizzlies Tuesday night.
RETURN OF THE BENCH MOB?
We saw it for the first time all season on Friday. Pascal Siakam back with the remaining members of the Bench Mob in Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and CJ Miles. With Jakob Poeltl in San Antonio the man at centre was Jonas Valanciunas.
The reasons we haven’t seen this reincarnation earlier this season are Siakam’s success with the first unit and the fact that all three of VanVleet, Wright and Miles have spent time dealing with injuries.
Nick Nurse revealed before Sunday’s game that he purposefully got Siakam out of the game earlier in the first quarter on Friday than he normally would in order to bring him back while his former bench mob members were still in the game.
Nurse will try just about anything and having seen the success that group had a year ago it’s no surprise he’s finding a way to go back to that. The bench consistency of a year ago has been missing for much of the season because of those injuries and the everchanging faces.
Getting Siakam back with that group even for shorter stints is a no-brainer if Nurse wants a little more consistency out of that second unit.
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
A day after former head coach Gregg Popovich seemed to go out of his way to dismiss any leadership qualities Leonard may have had in San Antonio, his new head coach said he was seeing things a little differently.
Popovich was being asked about Patty Mills and the leadership role that has been foisted on him with all the veteran departures in San Antonio. Popovich took Leonard out of the leadership role all together.
“Kawhi was a great player, but he wasn’t a leader or anything,” Popovich told reporters Saturday. “Manu
(Ginobili) and Patty (Mills) were the leaders. Kawhi’s talent will always be missed, but that leadership wasn’t his deal at that time. That may come as he progresses, but Manu and Patty filled that role last year, and LaMarcus
(Aldridge) came a long way in that regard also.”
Nick Nurse was asked about the differences he has seen in Leonard this year from the man he saw from a distance in previous years and quickly took the opportunity to weigh in on Leonard the leader that he has seen this year.
“Biggest things are he’s very serious about the game,” Nurse said. “He puts in a lot of time into the game.”
Then unprompted Nurse got into Leonard’s leadership qualities.
“Surprisingly, a good leader,” he said. “Seen some great leadership traits from him and he’s really good at both ends. That guy can really play both ends and everyone knew he was a great two-way player, but it’s nice to have him on your side and see it up close.”
Nurse was then asked to expand on his leadership comment.
“It’s obvious he’s got a little bit of a reserved personality,” Nurse began. “He is a little bit more gregarious than everybody thinks. He’s pretty funny and the guys really enjoy him, I really enjoy talking to him. He’s got a
good personality. He just did a few little things in training camp as far as getting some guys to go to the gym with him early, he opened up one of his shooting times pregame to let another guy that didn’t feel he was getting enough time, ‘Come shoot with me.’ Just some little, I think, neat things that say a lot about a guy. He does it quietly, but they’re leadership things to me.”
Leonard was asked after the game about his former coach’s comments.
“I heard about it,” Leonard said. “It’s just funny to me because I don’t know if he’s talking about last year or not, but I guess when you stop playing they forget how you lead. Other than that, it doesn’t matter. I’m here with the Raptors. My focus is on the season and not what’s going on the other side.”