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Bruno and Buycks looked good. The team did not.

In their first elimination game of Las Vegas Summer League, the Toronto Raptors somehow turned a 56-30 lead at halftime to 93-77 loss to the Houston Rockets. Like this recap, this game wasn’t pretty.

Game Recap

Call it a collapse, call it a breakdown, call it a tale of two halves. It’s hard to overstate how poorly the team played in the second half, scoring just 21 total points while allowing 63. The Raptors had a chance to advance to the next round and face the Cleveland Canadian Cavaliers but they blew it.

Of course, you’re probably overreacting if you read anything into the outcome of the game. This, in a nutshell, is summer league basketball. This is why the scores, and quite frankly, the stats don’t matter. It’s a hodge-podge of randomly assorted players playing against an equally disjointed squad. There’s no coaching, there’s no plays being called, and it’s hardly anything more than a dry-run test environment for teams to see their young prospects in action.

But if you’re type that needs an answer for everything, settle on this one: the Raptors couldn’t make the first-pass to initiate their offense in the second-half. With the Rockets changing their strategy to pressuring, double-teaming and hard-showing on the ball, the Raptors’ ball-handlers couldn’t deliver the first pass out of pressure to punish the defense. The bigs didn’t exactly do a great job setting screens to create space either, but it’s summer league. It’s easy to play pressure defense, it’s much harder to nail down timing on the attack.

With the loss, the Raptors move onto the consolation round, meaning they have at least one game left before we waive goodbye to Bruno, Bebe and co. If you find yourself upset at the outcome, heed the wise words of Ricky Rubio: “change your face, be happy, enjoy it!” It’s a silly pick-up game.

Bruno Watch!

  • 12 points, 3-of-7 shooting, 2-of-6 from deep, two rebounds, a steal, four turnovers

Bruno had a nice bounce-back game, showing just enough flashes to keep us intrigued. Some of the same issues with lack of aggressiveness reared its ugly head, culminating in a lack of physicality, but that’s to be expected. Not only is he extremely young and undersized, he also doesn’t speak any English.

Onto the positives. Bruno’s decision-making on offense looked good, drifting over to the right spots on the floor. He often waded over to the weakside corner, and with the help of Dwight Buycks’ delivery, he found himself open for a number of looks. During the third quarter, Dwane Casey revealed on-air that the corner three is Bruno’s favorite shot, and it showed during the game.

We also caught a glimpse of Bruno’s ball-handling. He certainly rates as below-average in that regard, as his gangly arms and general weakness makes dribbling around perimeter defenders an awkward endeavor, but Bruno wasn’t shy. I counted two instances where he tried to drive. He was fouled on both occasions, including this smooth and-one.

Defensively, the results were somewhat mixed. It’s clear that he really cares, and works hard on defense, but he’s over-aggressive at times, which sometimes leaves him out of position. It also doesn’t help that the language barrier doesn’t allow him to react to other players’ play-calls, and he is sometimes lost in the shuffle. However, with his 7-foot-7 wingspan, Caboclo is always a threat to contest the shot. When he learns how to harness his skills in an actual system, there’s the makings of an Tayshaun Prince-type defender in Bruno’s gangly frame.

“Bruno Watch” Watch

I respect NBA TV. A lot of people shit on the network, but I think they produce great content. Open-court, The Starters, Inside stuff — good shit.

But they need to drop it with the Bruno Caboclo narratives. Instead of trying to assess his performance as a player (as they do with most players on the court), play-by-play commentator Rick Kamla repeatedly circled back to the echo chamber that is Fran Fraschilla’s now infamous draft-day declarations. “Two years away from being two years away”. “Brazilian Kevin Durant”. He’s a huge project and a gamble.

And again, I want to clarify that it’s probably a directional order given by the producers, rather than lazy narration from Kamla, but he just kept recycling the same three topics. To their credit, his broadcast partner Brent Barry played it down, calling the comparisons to Durant ridiculous and unfair. Same with reporter David Aldridge, who generally backed Masai Ujiri’s draft decision.

But the NBA TV production crew just wouldn’t quit. They literally played a highlight reel from Durant’s rookie season, then led with the question”so what do you think?” Talk about setting the bar for expectations high and bar for intelligent conversation low. All in all, not a great day for an usually excellent broadcast company.

rpssWho needs Patrick Patterson and Terrence Ross when you have floor-spacers like Chuck Hayes and Landry Fields?

Bebe Doing the Little Things

  • Two points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block, zero turnovers

The numbers don’t look like much. Like every game to date, Bebe wasn’t prioritized in the offense, functioning as mostly a screen-setter. His ball-screens were good, freeing up Buycks to pick apart Houston’s defense. He finished with a team-high +12 for a reason. He was effective.

Bebe also demonstrated good passing vision with three well-earned assists to his name. His assists came from the mid-high post, where he found open cutters for easy looks at the rim. Once video from the game becomes available, I’ll link to a few of his dimes.

As I discussed in the scouting report, Bebe’s strength right now is his length, which is really showing up on defense. He remains diligent in contesting shots while staying near the rim. He also collected a highlight-worthy chasedown block. Keep following the Tyson Chandler blueprint, kiddo!

Dwight Buycks, professional point guard

Buycks received plenty of flack for his lack of leadership over the first three summer league games. His refusal to pass, especially to rolling bigs, cramped the Raptors’ offense, and made him look selfish.

In truth, summer league is not the place for a passing point guard to shine. It’s hard to run plays when there are none. Isolation drives or banal point-to-wing passes off a ball-screen is preferable to a likely turnover in the pursuit for the right pass. Buycks wasn’t as poor as he looked.

The process wasn’t much different for Buycks today, but he did end up with 24 points and four assists. It was unfortunately coupled with eight turnovers, but he fared better in the passing department. He hit a rolling Bebe in-stride and thrice found Bruno open in the corner for three.

Highlights from Dwane Casey’s In-game Interview

On Bruno

“‘Two years away from being two years away’ is not true. He’s probably one year away from getting to work, and the main thing he needs to do is get stronger.

He’s athletic enough, he has the wingspan at 7-foot-7. He’s got to learn to use what he has. He’s a tough kid…he’s intelligent.”

“He’s from humble beginnings. He is hungry. That’s one great thing, and why Masai was so high on him because he knew how hard this young man was going to work.

We worked yesterday, [the players] practiced for like an hour-and-a-half, and he and I stayed there for another hour working on shooting, ball-handling drills, corner threes, catching it one dribble on the floor and up. He will stay there as long as you will, so he’s a coach’s dream from that standpoint.”

On Lowry’s free-agency

“Not only the Rockets [were interested], but Miami was sniffing around…Lakers were calling.

You never know, but he had always said that he wanted to be in Toronto, that he wanted to continue what we started as far as our growth was concerned because finally, this was his team…now he finally has his team.”

On the need of a third PG

“We do need a third point guard. Dwight [Buycks] is one of the guys we’re looking at…he knows he’s on stage right now.”

On Jonas Valanciunas

“Rebounding is key. He needs to do a better job on both ends, offensive boards, defensive boards.

He’s working on his running, and he’s going to be working out every day in Los Angeles.

[Asked to give a statline prediction] “14 points, 10 rebounds.”

On DeMar DeRozan

“Gary Payton is working with him.”