Terrence Ross drops 22 point against a team bereft of capable wing players.
Yours truly only caught half of the game on an expedited scan through League Pass at 1:00 a.m., so if this recap might be short on coverage. I ask for your patience. It’s preseason for everyone.
Raptors’ 3 stars of the night
First star: Terrence Ross
It was just one of those games for Terrence Ross, who finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field. He came out gunning, consistently looking for his shot and although many were ill-advised, Ross’s stroke was consistent, so many of his pull-up long-twos splashed through the net. I’m not entirely happy with the process, but the result is that he busted out of his funk, which is good.
Ross wasn’t really tested defensively, as he mostly spent his time closing out on the Thunder’s endless supply of spot-up shooters on the wing.
Second star: Kyle Lowry
Lowry looked solid, and like the rest of the team’s veterans, he can’t wait for the season to start. He went toe-to-toe with Westbrook, building off his performance from last season, in which he dropped 22 points, nine assists and four steals in a December win against OKC.
Lowry also hit Westbrook with a nasty crossover, before drilling the pull-up (see below). Defensively, Lowry held Westbrook in check, which is really all that’s needed to stifle the Thunder’s offense in Kevin Durant’s absence.
Third star: Tie — Lou Williams and Jordan Hamilton
I couldn’t decide between Williams and Hamilton, who both continued to impress in their stints off the bench. The Raptors’ offense slowed down last night, so they weren’t just running relentlessly in transition. Instead, we got a chance to see Williams and Hamilton play in halfcourt. The key was decisiveness. They didn’t hesitate in making their decisions, either opting to attack right away, or pull-up which gave them the opportunity to catch defenders on their back heels. Notice that I didn’t mention passing, but they really aren’t out there to pass.
Hamilton’s play puts a bind on Masai Ujiri, who must decide whether or not to keep Hamilton or Greg Stiemsma. On merit alone, Hamilton deserves the spot, but Stiemsma fit a bigger need, though it’s one I personally feel Chuck Hayes, Bebe Noguiera and Amir Johnson can fill. Wings who can score are hard to find whereas big bodies are a dime a dozen. I’ve also enunciated this point repeatedly in my last few posts because there’s only so many thoughts a man has in his head about the Toronto Raptors.
Quote of the night
“He’s one of the toughest kids in the league. He will take your head off in a good way and I like that. He’ll be a good test for JV.” — Dwane Casey on Thunder center Steven Adams (via the Toronto Sun)
Thoughts on the enemy
Thunder in trouble without Durant
As one could have expected, the Thunder struggled on offense without Durant. Westbrook launched 15 shots in 27 minutes, but he at least potted eight assists to keep it level. However, I’m not totally convinced that the Thunder can even stay above .500 without last year’s MVP.
Look at their wings. Jeremy Lamb will likely start, and his shot is inconsistent at best. Anthony Morrow could also make a case, but he’s too thin to defend anyone at small forward. Beyond them, it’s Andre Roberson, who lacks any semblance of a jumpshot and can only service as a defense-first (though not great) wing. There’s not a single starting-calibre wing between the three. Unless they play Reggie Jackson full time at shooting guard, this team will be hurting on the perimeter.
Consider their head coach, as well. Scott Brooks deserves credit for being able to develop so many excellent players, but his playcalling leaves much to be desired. He has Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka, yet his schemes are rudimentary. He has 64 crayons in his box but chooses to only paint with red, yellow and blue. That’s fine when you have an exceptional red in Durant, but Brooks’s task now is to make do without one of his complementary colors. Can Scott paint a sunset without red? Does my analogy make sense? Who paints with crayons?
He could prove me wrong, and all the other doubters wrong, but he’ll need to if his team is to survive in the ruthless Western Conference. Durant can’t return fast enough.
Thunder hit bull’s eye with sharpshooter Morrow
Morrow scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. He also did a decent job defensively, though Ross sunk a number of tough shots over him. Given OKC’s shortage of wings, Morrow is probably a good fantasy options for those who missed out on Kyle Korver.
- If Lowry could fight his contemporaries, he’d start with Marcus Smart, then go to town on Westbrook.
- Steven Adams is incredibly physical, almost needlessly so. I see why so many players take exception to his playstyle. He fouled out last night because of course. It’s hard to dislike him, though, because look at that moustache.
- I’m not sure if these extra looks for Valanciunas is because it’s preseason, or if it’s a product of the Raptors’ coach staff being more confident in his game. He’s looked solid in one-on-one scenarios, though he’s as robotic as ever.
- How to play the post like Valanciunas:
- Step 1: Throw a half-hearted pump fake.
- Step 2a: Drive to the middle for right-hook.
- Step 2b: Spin over left shoulder and shoot 10-footer.
- Step 3: Profit.
- How to play the post like Valanciunas:
- This is going to shock you, but Amir Johnson left the game after twisting his ankle. Who would have thunk it? He appears to be fine, but I say just rest him until the season starts. He doesn’t need this. (video here)
- How is Bassy Telfair still in the NBA?
- The Thunder have a dude named Taliba Zanna, who is a real person who exists (maybe).
- Greivis Vasquez sat out because he was hit by a ball during shootaround
- Bullet point
- Over-under on James Johnson’s technical fouls this season — 8.5. Thoughts?