For the first time in its 25 years of existence, the Toronto Raptors finally had proper representation and impact at the All-Star Games this year.
This season, other teams can’t ignore the Raptor’s potential and everyone knows why. They defeated the Golden State Warriors (two-time defending champion) in six games to win the 2019 NBA Championship.
Since January 12, the Raptors had an impressive 15 game winning streak – the first in their history. This also made them become the first professional sports franchise in Canada to win 15 games in a row in the NBA. Right now, their aspiration for the second seed at the Eastern conference already has everyone talking. Most betting apps have the Raptors at +750 to win the Eastern Conference currently.
By fan vote, Paul Siakam was named an All-Star Starter. And it is apparent even to the naysayers that Raptors coach Nick Nurse, along with his coaching staff is doing a good job.
In the recently concluded 2020 NBA All-Star Games, the trio of Nurse, Siakam and Kyle Lowry, were key figures in a highly competitive quarter. The toughness which Kyle Lowry instigated in the game is one that has never been witnessed in the history of any NBA All-Star, and everyone – both players and fans totally love it.
Many applauded Lowry’s tough play but point to the NBA’s change of format as the main reason for the change in the 2020 All-Star Game.
Image source: Kyle Lowry (TSN)
It appears that making people solve math and changing formats is the elixir needed to revitalize the All-Star. The experiment by the NBA with the Elam ending – i.e. taking the leading team’s score after three quarters and adding 24 points to it (in honor of Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey).
The total score after adding the extra points became the target score. This approach heightened the intensity towards the final quarter of the game making it one of the most entertaining All-Star Games ever played.
Though the first three quarters were filled with long timeouts – typical of “play for charity” games where players don’t put in extra effort. The fourth quarter was far from boring. It was electrifying as the defense got tighter and the competitiveness of the players increased by a notch.
When Harden of Team LeBron made a 3 to tie the game at 146 – the fight to get the 11 points to win the game kept all eyes glued to the court. It was at this point that Kyle Lowry of Team Giannis took not one but two incredulous charges. The first one was on former teammate Kawhi Leonard and the second on James Harden. Lowry’s charges mark the first charges ever recorded in NBA’s All-Star Games which was a delight to all viewers.
Lowry finished the game with thirteen points, eight assists, five rebounds, and three steals in twenty-eight minutes. This was by far the highest minutes by any Team Giannis bench player.
Despite Lowry’s impressive play, he missed a couple of shots that would have gotten his team to 157 – which vexed some fans. It wouldn’t do well to place the fault for the loss of Team Giannis on Kyle as there were other factors at play.
The Guard department was limited as Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young were both first-timers at the All-Stars Game. Jimmy Butler went unnoticed in the first half of the game but Kemba Walker did great. He scored 23 points on 18 shots. Understandably, he was under strong pressure from Team LeBron’s closing lineup.
Pascal Siakam got crunch time for Team Giannis but finished with a total of 18 minutes. In 7 out of 10 shots, he scored 15 points, with a steal and six rebounds. Siakam missed a free throw that would have gotten his team 154 points. Even if he had scored, it wouldn’t have made any difference as they were unable to bridge the gap between them and their opponent.
Pascal Siakam (NBA Canada / Twitter)
Raptor’s coach Nick Nurse also made a significant impact on the All-Stars. There’s probably not much to be done having a team of A-list players. The only thing Coach Nick had to do was getting it right in the fourth quarter when things got intense. He played Raptors Lowry and Siakam the whole quarter which made some quarters say he was biased. Playing these guys was probably a safe bet to him as they work together on a daily basis and he knows what they’re capable of.
Kyle Lowry and head coach Nick Nurse (Frank Gunn/CP)
All in all, All-Stars 2020 is one that would be on the lips of many for a long time due to the intensity and competitiveness it offered. Many applauded this dramatic change which was quite different from the usual average performance of players in games like this.
The change in NBA’s format – where player’s wins will go their charities – can also be said to be responsible for this. TNT played the fourth quarter without any commercial as a tribute to Kobe, so there was no interruption as the two teams fought to get to 157 points.
However, Kawhi Leonard of Team LeBron was named the first Kobe Bryant NBA All-Star MVP. From 3-point range, he went 8-for-14 to get to 30 points, the highest point recorded in the game.