Photo Credit: @LAClippers on Twitter
After two weeks of playoff matchups; some entertaining and others non-competitive, one thing was certain. Several members of the 2019 Toronto Raptors Championship team played crucial roles in their team’s first-round playoff series.
While some on that 2019 team are advancing to the second round – Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, others such as Marc Gasol and Norman Powell had their seasons ended. Former Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas and Lou Williams also made their mark over the past two weeks.
With the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated, the finals are up for the taking this year and former Raptors players are sure to make an impact over the next couple of rounds just as they did this past round.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the notable former Raptors performances from the first round of the playoffs:
Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers: Seven games: 41 MPG, 32 PPG, 8 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.3 SPG, 72-119 FG (60.5 percent), 16-37 3PT (43 percent).
Leonard turned back the clock and erased a disappointing postseason from last year with an incredible seven-game performance against the Mavericks. Playing over 40 minutes in six of the seven games and leading the team in scoring every night except game five, Leonard willed his Clippers to a comeback against the Mavs in a series that went the distance.
With the Clippers facing a 2-0 and 3-2 deficit, Leonard dominated the series and put together remarkable performances in game six and seven to keep their season alive. The claw scored a postseason best 45 points in game six on the road before following it up with a near flawless series-clinching performance yesterday.
Leonard is playing like he did against the Sixers and Bucks as a member of the Raptors in 2019. The Clippers can only hope that it continues as they face the top-seeded Jazz, trying to advance to their first conference finals in franchise history.
Danny Green, Philadelphia 76ers: Five games: 28 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 3 RPG, 2 APG, 17-35 FG (48.6 percent), 13-28 3PT (46 percent).
Green is another member of the 2019 Raptors Championship run who is advancing to the second round. He was a valuable piece during the five-game series win over the Wizards in the first round.
In game three, Green scored 15 points while adding four rebounds and three assists, on a game high five makes from beyond the arc. He continues to be a clutch playoff performer as Green led the team in three pointers made, with 13 throughout the five-game series.
While facing criticism for his performance against Atlanta in game one yesterday, Green is looking to secure his third straight NBA Championship with his third different team and fourth ring overall.
The top-seeded Sixers will continue to rely on Green against the Hawks as they hope to make the conference finals for the first time since 2001.
Norman Powell, Portland Trail Blazers: Six games: 36 MPG, 17 PPG, 2 APG, 2 RPG, 16/18 FT (89 percent), 38-76 FG (50 percent), 10-26 3PT (38.5 percent).
Powell shined at moments during a highly entertaining six-game series against the Nuggets. He started all six games of the series after starting only eight of 67 career playoff games with the Raptors.
A pivotal role in the Blazers lineup since he was acquired in March, Powell lived up to the “playoff Powell” moniker in game four. Shooting 73 percent and scoring a team-high 29 points, Powell helped the Blazers even the series at two.
In a game five double-overtime thriller that saw Damian Lillard put together a record-breaking 55 point game, Norm played a career-high 51 minutes, although he struggled with his shot, scoring only 13 points. Portland went on to lose game six, ending their season.
Powell’s contract expires this year and he is set for a big payday this summer. Whether it be with the Trail Blazers or somewhere else remains to be seen.
Marc Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers: Five games: 18 MPG, 5 PPG, 4 RPG, 3 APG, 8-13 FG (61.5 percent), 7-11 3PT (64 percent).
After sitting out the play-in, the big man saw increased playing time in the first round against Phoenix. Gasol has seen his production and playing time decline over this past year with the Lakers, especially since the team acquired Andre Drummond in March.
In a must-win game six, the Lakers started Gasol who played 18 minutes. While only putting up one shot, he was able to make an impact with his play-making, recording seven assists in that time.
Gasol made an impact from beyond the arc through the series, shooting 64 percent and a team-high three makes from distance in game four.
Gasol may be looking for a new team this summer and a return to the ACB where he would reunite with his brother Pau at FC Barcelona is not out of the question. Barcelona’s General Manager, Juan Carlos Navarro has made it their priority to bring Gasol back overseas to Spain.
Jonas Valanciunas, Memphis Grizzlies: Five games: 33 MPG, 15 PPG, 10 RPG, 2.6 APG, 7/8 FT (88 percent), 33-58 FG (57 percent).
In his third season with the team, Valanciunas remains a crucial part of the Grizzlies. After a dominant performance in the first play-in game against San Antonio and a solid performance against Golden State, he knew it would be more difficult against Rudy Gobert.
Valanciunas played a consistent series against the Utah Jazz, recording three double-doubles in five games. In game one, Valanciunas outplayed Gobert, helping Memphis grab a 1-0 series lead, their only win this postseason.
With one year left on his contract, the Grizzlies remain one of the youngest teams in the NBA. For the time being, Valanciunas looks like a core piece to a Memphis team with an incredibly promising future.
Other notable former Raptors in the first-round:
Serge Ibaka, Los Angeles Clippers: Two games: 9 MPG, 5 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 3-6 FG (50 percent), 0-2 3PT.
Injuries have caught up to Ibaka who is playing in his 11th postseason. The Clippers hope to have him back for their second round matchup against the Utah Jazz, starting on Tuesday.
P.J Tucker, Milwaukee Bucks: Four games: 22 MPG, 4 PPG, 4 RPG, 1 APG, 7-17 FG (41 percent), 3-11 3PT (27 percent).
Tucker came off the bench in each game of a dominant sweep over the Eastern Conference Champion Miami Heat. He will need to improve his shot going into a matchup against the red-hot Brooklyn Nets in the second round.
Lou Williams, Atlanta Hawks: Five games: 11 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 2 APG, 13-28 FG (46 percent), 3-7 3PT (43 percent).
34 years old, Lou Williams came off the bench in all five games against the Knicks as the Hawks easily won the series. Williams and Atlanta will face the Sixers in the second round.
Alex Len, Washington Wizards: Five games: 8.4 MPG, 4 PPG, 2 RPG, 4-7 FT (57 percent), 8-14 FG (57 percent).
While only playing 42 total minutes, Len saw his first career playoff action this past series, starting three of the team’s five games against the Sixers.