Narratives take time to evolve in the NBA. If you are a player, or team, known for not coming through in the clutch, you need an extended run of resilience to change people’s perceptions.
The Toronto Raptors, long known for regular season success only to cower at the sight of LeBron James, have done that the past couple of postseasons. Without DeMar DeRozan, the likable but playoff-erratic two-guard, Kyle Lowry has shaken off concerns about his clutch play with a series of exceptional efforts.
So here they are again, in a Game 7 against the gifted but somewhat green Boston Celtics, having won two thrillers in the second round series to make up for a Game 5 clunker.
And here’s why I like them tonight:
But first, here are the Friday afternoon odds from SPREADS.CA
A Deeper Bench
Both coaches, Toronto’s Nick Nurse and Boston’s Brad Stevens, overtaxed their core five Game 6, with nine players logging at least 47 minutes. So there’s bound to be some lethargy in Game 7. Without Gordon Hayward, however, it’s hard to see where Stevens can go to give his core five a breather, whereas Nurse – who played reserve Norm Powell big minutes in Game 6 – can rely upon one of his bigs more, hoping that Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka give him something.
Something from Siakam?
It’s remarkable that the Raptors are still playing when their All-Star forward Pascal Siakam has been playing so poorly. It can’t continue, can it? While Siakam has been exposed as something less than a primary option, he can contribute in this game if he just gets back to energy, and stops with all the fadeaways.
Kyle over Kemba
There’s no questioning Kemba Walker’s clutch chops, not after that UConn run. But after a 5-point clunker in Game 6, and considering the way Lowry has risen to the occasion whenever required, you’d have to give the Raptors point guard the edge. Whether with a shot, steal or flop, Lowry seems determined not to let Toronto lose. The little guy will be large when it matters again.
The Better Bet: Celtics keep it close, but Toronto makes the late plays. Raptors win by 5.
-- written by Juicy-J