He’s a modern, switch-friendly defender who’s currently shooting threes at a 36.7 percent clip — about 10 points higher than his slightly hitchy release might lead you to believe he’s hit. Through 12 games, no Raptors regular has a more gaudy on-court efficiency slash line than his 112.0 / 98.6 / +13.4. Anunoby is good a month before he was supposed to be wearing the jersey. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff — objective goodness that you simply can’t expect from a rookie, robust draft class or not. Hyperbolic as it may sound, Anunoby already holds the keys to the mystery box that is the Raptors’ future.
That brings us back to Sunday. A trivial loss to a collection of try-hards during the month in which sane players and teams don’t give a shit is irrelevant to the season-long goals of the Raptors, or the limitless potential of its most tantalizing young player. It may actually be better that Toronto lost, better that Anunoby didn’t quite complete the crowning of Baynes. While Boston’s cute little winning streak could very well be the apex of its Gordon Hayward-less 2017-18 campaign, the Raptors now have a carrot to chase; the desire to erase Sunday’s one-point disparity can now drive the Raptors on their quest to become something greater than they are now.
OG has a carrot now, too. It’s shaped like a 7-foot Aussie’s head top. Once he inevitably gobbles it up, the whole goddamned league may well be the next thing on the menu.
Casey wasn’t willing to cede Powell’s minutes (assuming Powell doesn’t play and, while he was much improved from a day earlier, he did not practice, which is always the best indication of when a player will return) to Anunoby, but he’s a good bet.
C.J. Miles, another option Casey could go with in the starting five, says Anunoby just seems to fit well with that starting group.
“I think the thing that helps is his strengths don’t take away from their strengths,” Miles said of Anunoby with the No. 1’s. “He’s good off the ball. He makes plays and uses his athleticism and length as a big part of the plays he does make — his cutting and getting his hands on deflections and getting out and running. He’s able to be even more of a threat in that situation because they have to go help but, I don’t want to say forget about him, but defences rotate away from him and he’s able to play within space and pick and choose.”
The key for Anunoby is going to be finding a balance between being a floor spacer for the likes of Lowry and DeRozan and an offensive option when teams invariably put the clamps down on his two all-star teammates.
Powell, who got a taste of playing alongside those two in the playoffs both last year and the year before struggled early on in the season finding that balance. For a time he all but abandoned his drive game in the mistaken belief that he was doing the right thing by sacrificing that in order to get the ball in the hands of his teammates more.
Eventually, Powell saw the error in that thinking and returned to form.
The expectation is Anunoby will struggle a little with this initially as well.
“They’re not leaving him, which creates an advantage in (terms of) rolls and spacing,” Casey said. “ He’s smart enough to (exploit) that, too. He gives us a tremendous amount on the offensive end.”
Of course, when considering the fit next to DeRozan and Lowry, there is give and take. Anunoby is not a high-volume shooter from three-point range like Miles — although he is shooting it a tick better so far — but he provides more versatility on the defensive end, and has proven an adept cutter. Powell, when healthy, can zip around screens defensively a bit better than Miles, while Siakam disrupts passing lanes better than Miles, along with every other player on the team.
You can see the dilemma. While there are questions about how the Raptors are operating late in games, they are still fifth in the league in points per possession and 16th on the other end. Casey, like most coaches, craves balance, so you can see why throwing Miles out there instead of one of the younger players does not always check out.
Yet, Miles is too important to what the team is trying to do for his minutes to stay so low — everyone involved knows that. It is one of those situations where there are no wrong answers, but there might be a right one. As the season goes on, Miles will probably find himself on the floor with two other wings, along with Lowry and a big man, in smaller late-game situations, too.
“Being with the first unit, it’s more about creating space for them and playing in those spaces, in the gaps, and making myself available to be able to use that part of my game to help them. (And) also … they help me,” Miles said. “In the second group, it’s a little more (ball) movement, understanding there are spaces to be more aggressive and kind of step forward a little bit more with the younger guys.
“I think, yeah, he came in this preseason and the hope was that he would maybe earn a spot within the rotation,” 905 general manager and Raptors assistant GM Dan Tolzman said. “And he didn’t shoot the ball great in the preseason, everyone knows that, and I think that probably hurt his confidence a little bit and maybe set him back in terms of where he’s at mentally compared to the other guys that he was fighting against.
“He shot the ball really well in the camp portion, and then the games started and it just didn’t carry over. Had that translated into the games, it’d be a whole different story.”
The story as it played out put both player and team in a difficult position. With three years of NBA experience under his belt, Caboclo would have to approve any G League assignment, and the Raptors were unsure during the summer whether or not they’d ask. Following the G League Finals, Caboclo quietly felt like he had graduated from that level, eager for the chance to start contributing in the NBA.
The preseason went as it did, though, and on Tuesday, Caboclo showed what may be the best sign of his growth as a prospect yet: He requested an assignment to the 905, taking a tough conversation out of the hands of the Raptors’ brass.
“I just think I need to play,” he said. “So if I stay on the bench, I’m going to the 905 so I can have playing time. I think it’s better for me, so there I can have a chance to show myself and maybe coach can see I can play and maybe help the team. I’m excited.”
That’s what the defence was far too often and in particular the big men, who simply have to be better at getting out to shooters.
Lucas Nogueira, who certainly didn’t have himself a good day by any stretch of the imagination, had a couple of slow, lazy closeouts when the Celtics were taking control in the third quarter.
He was two steps too slow getting out on Marcus Smart one time and then gave a half effort trying to contest a Jaylen Brown three-pointer not too long after.
This is not to pick on Bebe entirely but it’s an example of the inconsistencies that make it frustrating to watch him sometimes. He did have seven rebounds and that’s good but slow reaction and missing all the shots he took make it one of those days.
So I have well tried to sleep this one off although find myself unable to move past the saltiness. For starters I have no problem with Demar, ball in the best hands is vital, no arguments there. The problem is, as some have mentioned is just….run a fucking play…like anything….Personally, I have been a Casey supporter, pointing to his work on our bench unit as a sign hes doing the right things, and he is in some respects, but this is the first time i’ve genuinely felt he has to go. Even through the Wizards sweep and other BS I felt he was the right man for the job. Times do change though and I just felt as last game laid it out as clearly as possible how bad a coach he is facing Stevens. The broadcast mentioned “oh this is a play they worked on this morning, lets see how this goes” ….2pts. FFS what do we have to do. This was a Boston team of ROOKIES and SOPHMORES…no Kyrie, no Hayward, so whats the logical extension that we can ever beat this team at full strength. I feel as though this game put us in our place in more ways than one. Oh and the rebounding? better not play Poeltl, he couldn’t possibly help being arguably the teams best rebounder. I had more of a problem with that than FVV, at least hes scrappy and does make some winning plays, putting us into a position to win.
SN: You’re seen as an intense guy, a hard guy. Where did the love for the keys come from?
NP: Growing up my dad, when I was younger, taught me just a little bit of the piano, so I got a feel for it. It was like my get away from everything. Not a lot of people knew I played the piano because I kept it to myself. So I thought this is a way to show a different side of me and have a bit of fun.
The offensive woes that lead to poor transition defence stem from slightly different spacing when the Raptors have the ball. More movement gets players in different spots than they might have been used to, and with shots coming from different places — and often quicker than the team is used to — players can be caught by surprise.
It’s something that’s easy to work out once everyone is used to where shots are being taken from and who is taking them, but it’s getting to be long enough with problems still persisting. Missed shots — the Raptors are shooting only 33.5 per cent from three-point range, but take 31.1 shots from beyond the arc on average each game — and floor balance are often off.
It’s led to the inconsistency that has plagued Toronto through a 7-5 start to the season, and the Raptors give up an average of 13.4 fast-break points per game, which ranks 27th in the 30-team league.
“There are a lot of things we see we are not doing and we’ve got to do better,” Casey said.
So, despite being outplayed, the game was still there for the taking. To be clear, this isn’t an issue with the final shot, it was a decent look. A lot of voices aren’t seeing the forest for the trees here. The shot was fine, the issue is what led up to it (and what leads up to it so often … dig into my archives and you’ll find I’ve harped on this many times).
Why make DeRozan basically the entire show pretty much from the time he returned to the game with 5:43 remaining?
That let the NBA’s best defence to this point set up and fully expect what was coming, with little to no doubt in their minds. Plus Jaylen Brown had bitten on DeRozan’s fakes so many times that there was pretty much no way he’d jump early again. He was staying down and tight, period. With no movement, the other players basically spectators for every possession, it put DeRozan in a tough spot. He had to be nearly perfect and he had no support. It just doesn’t make sense to isolate on every possession. Way too predictable and it can breed discontent (remember DeMarre Carroll’s parting words about trust issues and the supporting cast feeling marginalized?).
The Raptors are supposed to be a changed group that shares the ball. Why completely abandon that for half of the final quarter of games? Take advantage of DeRozan’s gifts, sure, but don’t tie one hand behind his back while you are trying to do that.
Raptor Norm Powell left the TD Garden in Boston on crutches Sunday. While he was walking on his own Monday, he’s listed as doubtful for this game. Anunoby started in his place in the third quarter Sunday. . . . Houston’s dealing quite well with the absence of the injured Chris Paul, rattling off six straight wins and leading the Western Conference with an 11-3 record going into play Monday night. . . . Harden is shooting 44.7 per cent from three-point range in his last six games. . . . Capela had a 20-point, 17-rebound game in Houston’s Sunday win over Indiana.
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