Title: JONAS VALANCIUNAS WILL HAVE TO EARN HIS PLAYOFF MINUTES
Date: April 11, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about Jonas Valanciunas peaking at the right time while facing an uncertain playoff role.
Eleven months ago, Jonas Valanciunas was enjoying the best short-term stretch of his career. Called upon to carry a greater load with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan struggling with their respective shots and the threat of Hassan Whiteside looming in the paint opposite him, Valanciunas was dominant across two-and-a-half playoff games against the Miami Heat.
Coming off a strong opening-round series in which he averaged 13.6 points and 11.9 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers, Valanciunas was putting to rest any thought that Bismack Biyombo should be seeing a bigger role, or that Valanciunas’ style of play was no longer a match with the modern NBA. He dropped a 24-14-3-2-3 (points-rebounds-assists-steals-blocks) in Game 1 against the Heat and followed it with a 15-12-2-3-1 line, shooting 17-of-25 across the two games. In Game 3, he was well on his way to repeating, with 16 points and 12 rebounds in 22 minutes before disaster struck—Valanciunas suffered a badly sprained ankle that would sideline him for the remainder of the series and the bulk of the Eastern Conference finals.
Perhaps it’s a positive harbinger, then, that following the Raptors’ victory over Whiteside and the Heat on Friday that Valanciunas avoided a similar injury scare. Coming off a decent if unspectacular performance, Valanciunas was the last Toronto Raptor out of the trainer’s room, emerging with tape on his right ankle and knee. The 7-footer had rolled his ankle but played through it, even logging 6:25 of fourth-quarter action, a relative rarity until recently.
“All good,” Valanciunas smiled. “It’s not that easy to take me down.”