5. Breakout performance: Delon Wright played the role of Norman Powell if we’re continuing those Game 5 vs. Indy comparisons. Wright was a two-way force. His 6–5 frame and savvy game sense allowed him to guard three positions, while also serving as the primary point guard on offense. He did clever stuff like snaking the pick and roll and collapsing the D, or rejecting the screen and blowing by his man, while also occasionally serving as a secondary attacker. Wright was also active in the passing lanes and produced two steals leading to transition layups.
6. Alpine Jesus: Huge performance from Jakob Poeltl. He executed the defensive gameplan to perfection: show high on Kemba Walker to take away the three, rotate back to tag the rolling big, then box out for the rebound. He managed this perfectly while also setting 2–3 ball screens per play on offense without a break. That’s exhausting. He also made a great pass (see below) and got a layup.
“For me it’s kind of going up again, going back in competition again and playing for something. I’m very excited,” said a tired Ibaka pre-game.
“I’m a Raptor now. I had a great time there and then things didn’t work the way all of us were thinking but things happen. I have an opportunity to play for a great team, a great organization and great city so I’m very excited.”
Ibaka already was a fan of Toronto, but talks with ex-Raptor and now former Magic teammate Bismack Biyombo also sold him.
“Yeah, yeah, since we met, me and Biz, he always tell me great stories about the city, the fans here, the team. He loves it here,” Ibaka said.
Each month the Raptors Community Sports Partnerships Group and @citizenwatchcanada acknowledge a fans work in the community. Nadia Jones is an integral member of the Beyond The Rim Program at Centennial College. At Beyond The Rim, Nadia manages an impressive team that teaches youth life skills through educational programming, athletics, and mentorship. Nadia’s contribution to the program has proven to be a great asset and an incredible influence. Congratulations, and thank you Nadia Jones, for volunteering your time and impacting the lives of youth in the community. #WeTheNorth
But just as important are the two full practice days the Raptors will have with their new and full lineup after the all-star break, which begins Thursday for those not named Lowry and DeRozan, who are headed to New Orleans to take part.
As much excitement as there is about adding a player of Ibaka’s pedigree – he’s been a first-team all-defensive player three times, led the NBA in blocks four times and has turned himself into a 39 per cent three-point shooter – reality was beginning to set in even as the buzz around the move faded.
The Congo native isn’t joining a well-oiled machine, just trying to fit in. That would be nice. Instead the 33-24 Raptors are teetering on the edge of a top-four seed in the East after coasting along in second for all of last year and the first half of this one.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri says that’s not the case.
“Everybody thinks this is because (Raptors players) were saying this,” Ujiri told Bob McCown and Arash Madani on Prime Time Sports Wednesday evening. “Because DeMar said we need help, now, ‘OK now I got them help.’ I’m not waiting for DeMar to tell me that we need help or tell the media that we need help. That’s not even close.”
“As soon as we get back, he’s gonna be the first thing,” Casey said Wednesday of Ibaka. “We’ll get back here and have a couple of good practice days before we hit the second stretch of games. It’s a great time, for he and Pat to come back. Getting those guys back (can’t come) soon enough.”
Having two starting calibre veteran power forwards will give Casey all kinds of new options to explore. But to see Ibaka and Patterson as a panacea for all that ails the Raptors is foolish, which is why two full days of practice after the break and before a Feb. 24 game with Boston is so important.
“One guy is not going to be a magic wand,” Casey said. “It’s going to be everybody collectively, coming together and doing their job and I think everything will fall in place. As you can see, when you pull one thread out, it has a ravelling effect so getting him put in there, getting Pat back into the second unit, getting that back to a semblance of normalcy is going to be very important for us.”
Jakob Poeltl is used to standing on the sidelines cheering alongside fellow Toronto Raptors youngsters, cheering on his teammates as old hands such as DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas get the job done.
But the roles were reversed on Wednesday, as fresh faces such as Poeltl and Delon Wright put in a veteran fourth-quarter performance to ensure a 90-85 win over Charlotte Hornets, snapping a three-game losing streak in the process.
DeRozan and Valanciunas were on their feet on the bench as Poeltl, Wright, Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph outscored the Hornets 32-10 in the final 12 minutes.
“Today it was the other way around and I think it’s amazing that our veterans that didn’t play at the end still cheered us young guys on like that,” Poeltl said.
Like any team in the NBA, the Raptors have made their share of transactions. Some have been big, some of been small, some have been small but then become big, and some have been big but then become small. (That about covers it.) With the trade for Serge Ibaka yesterday, it felt like time to go back into the Raptors archives and decide: What is the best trade in Raptors history?
I’ve got a list of my candidates, with a bit of commentary for each. There may be some debate here, but I think this list sums up the absolute highs of the Raptors on the trade market. (Much thanks to Basketball Reference and Real GM for the assist.)
Casey was glowing over the play of Wright and Poeltl down the stretch, but the duo’s play shouldn’t overshadow Lowry’s clutch threes, Carroll’s tenacity on the glass as a small-ball four, or Cory Joseph’s excellent secondary playmaking in that final frame. Every member of the Raptors’ new leading lineup in the NET Rating column (screw off with your small sample caveats) chipped in to Wednesday’s oddball victory.
While Casey noted that Toronto’s young guys might be in the running for more minutes after the All-Star break, he expressed the need to rediscover the standard M.O. that this team has thrived on in recent seasons.
Just the right play
Sometimes it’s the simple things that work and it was a basic, rudimentary basketball play that sealed that win.
High pick and roll, find the roller going to the basket, lane clogged, kick to a shooter, shot made.
Simple, one-two-three and the fact that was Kyle Lowry and Jakob Poeltl and DeMarre Carroll shouldn’t matter.
Every team in the game everywhere runs that set, it’s just having the presence of mind at the NBA level to do it that set last night apart, as Dwane Casey said.
“The pass that Jakob made to DC on the wing was huge, big-time. To have the presence of mind to be going to the basket, the guy was in front of him, the defence stopped him and he had the presence of mind to find DC and, like I said, it’s a make or miss league and DC made the shot.”