Through the first two months of the NBA season, the Raptors have played only 10 home games. They’ve had road trips of three, three, four and six games, and all of their games more than one time zone west are complete. Factor in that they did their training camp in Victoria, then spent time in Hawaii and Portland, and they really haven’t spent much time in Toronto. They’re back more often now, just in time for the best weather of the year (I say this earnestly).
“I know our guys are glad to be back. Seems like we’ve been on the road for two months now,” head coach Dwane Casey said Friday. “What we want to try to do is come and make our home court a special place, a hard place for other teams to come in and play.”
The Raptors have done well in that regard so far, losing just a single home game. They’ve got a quick two-game set against sub-.500 teams this weekend to try to push that home record to 11-1, and their desire to continue solidifying the Air Canada Centre as one of the best arenas in basketball comes up quite often. That doesn’t mean just playing elite competition well, though, it also means taking care of lesser competition emphatically. A thinned-out Brooklyn Nets team visits Friday, exactly the kind of game Toronto can make a statement about home court in.
“You can’t look at their record or say, ‘Oh it’s Brooklyn. No,” he said. “They’re gonna come in and make it hard for you. And that’s what I told our team this morning, we can’t come in and assume that okay, we’ve got Brooklyn, no. They’re gonna come in and make you compete at a high level for 48 minutes.”
The game tips off at 7:30 on TSN and TSN 1050. You can check out the full game preview here.
After a week of the team being on the road, I was finally able to ask for progress updates on Delon Wright and Lucas Nogueira. They were very vague, but encouraging: Casey said both players are coming along well, and even offered a “we’ll see” about them playing this weekend sometime. Both were initially listed as out on the injury report, only for Wright to be upgraded to questionable later. Casey revealed before the game that Wright is available, though he’s not sure how he’ll factor back in. Wright figures to be on a light minutes restriction.
As for the regulars, it could be Norman Powell who’s on the outside looking in if a minutes crunch comes. There’s a chance the rotation just expands back to 11 or 12, but Casey admitted at shootaround that while the team is willing to let Powell play through his recent struggles, it’s possible that a night off to regroup could be in the cards.
“Everybody’s making a big deal about the second unit now, but for me and our coaching staff, we expected it. It’s hard for young players to come in this league, especially on the road, to play at a high level and be as efficient as they’ve been,” he said. “They’re a young group of players, and Norm is in that group. We’re not panicking, we want ’em to play well, and we’re gonna let him play through some of it. But as an individual player, he’s gonna have to see what he’s doing, coaches working with him, seeing it on film, and work his way through it. And maybe buy him some time to sit and watch a little bit, I don’t know.”
Wright’s return should be a huge boost to a second unit that’s struggled to force turnovers and push the pace without him.
UPDATE: C.J. Miles is sitting with left shoulder soreness, as late a scratch as possible. (He was not listed among the inactives handed out to media or on the video board minutes before the game, so this must have been a very last-minute call.) (I’ve listed Wright as a SG/co-PG below simply because he’ll likely get his minutes with VanVleet.)
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Delon Wright
SF: OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: C.J. Miles
905: Bruno Caboclo, Malcolm Miller
The Nets threw everyone a curveball Friday afternoon, revealing that DeMarre Carroll would sit out his return to Toronto for rest the day after playing 32 minutes in a back-to-back scenario. As speculated in the pre-game, Allen Crabbe has also been listed as questionable. Crabbe was questionable yesterday before playing 35 minutes, and the team probably wants to see how his sore knee responds to that during a walkthrough before giving him a green light.
Caris LeVert probably stands to start in Carroll’s place, and Joe Harris could get the nod if Crabbe sits, too. Nik Stauskus is yet to play for the Nets, and throwing him into a starting role would seem out of character for Kenny Atkinson. He might get his first minutes with the team, though, as may Jahlil Okafor. In fact, the Nets might wind up getting weird and super-sized here, since their depth chart skews very center-heavy right now. They recalled Isaiah Whitehead from the G League for extra guard depth.
Check back before tip-off for a confirmation of Brooklyn’s starters.
UPDATE: Crabbe sits, too. Makes sense on a SEGABABA with a wonky knee. Seriously, let’s see some weird dual center vs. dual center looks, since the Nets have four healthy and only seven non-centers available.
UPDATE II: The predicted starters below are starting.
PG: Spencer Dinwiddie, Isaiah Whitehead
SG: Joe Harris, Nik Stauskas
SF: Caris LeVert
PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Quincy Acy
C: Tyler Zeller, Jarrett Allen, Timofey Mozgov, Jahlil Okafor
OUT: D’Angelo Russell, Jeremy Lin, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe
Long Island: Jacob Wiley, Yakuba Ouattara
- If you’re so inclined, I wrote about my favorite albums of 2017.
- James Herbert columned up on the Raptors, and it is as excellent as you would expect. It’s a must read.
- Alex Wong talked to players from the Raptors and 76ers about the epic 2001 playoff series. It’s a must read.
- Today marks the unofficial start of NBA trade season, with large handfuls of players who were signed this offseason becoming trade eligible. (Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka are not trade eligible until Jan. 15 and Norman Powell is not trade eligible at all this season, so this is more of a factor for other teams and the players who can be acquired.) It’s a complicated time of year with a lot of understandable wish-casting and ESPN Trade Machine usage. Which is fun. But the trade machine doesn’t cover every rule, and the Raptors are in a pretty tight spot for making trades, due to a number of CBA wrinkles.
- Also at The Athletic, I spoke to Lorenzo Brown about the dichotomy between an historically low NBA usage rate and one of the highest usage rates in the entire G League.
- Raptors 905 are playing at 7 tonight. I can’t juggle both at once, so your 905 recap will be a late-night edition.
- The Raptors continue to hold design contests for game-day graphics:
🚨 Thread Alert 🚨
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 15, 2017
- If you’re coming to the game today and have the means, please help a good cause:
This Friday, Dec 15th, the Lady Raptors will be partnering with @CP24 Chum Christmas Wish to collect toys for families in need. They’ll be collecting new, unwrapped toys pregame outside of @AirCanadaCentre Gate 1 beginning at 6:30pm. pic.twitter.com/OiGhF1EPJv
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 13, 2017
- Sticking with that theme, a shout-out to the returning DeMarre Carroll, who is bringing 30 local youths to this game through his Trust 15 non-profit. A reminder that Carroll was a tremendous member of the community during his two seasons in Toronto. (He also had some nice things to say about the Raptors’ play of late in Herbert’s piece linked above.) Do not boo this man.
Carroll spoke pre-game by the way, and he owned up to his play in Toronto:
Here's the full Carroll quote on playing better with the Nets: pic.twitter.com/nb7ThjiEyT
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 15, 2017
The Raptors opened as 11-point favorites and the line has sinced moved to Raptors -12.5. The DeMarre Carroll bump! The over-under has held at a whopping 218.5, with both teams playing at a top-11 pace.
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