What was left of the starting unit combined for three NBA seasons of experience, plus the first two weeks of this one heading in. The Raptors countered with 32 years of combined tenure. Yet the young Sixers wanted it more early, scoring a season-high 34 points in the first quarter on 56.5% shooting. The Raptors offered precious little resistance, allowing Philadelphia to assist on nine of its 13 makes from the field. For the starters, it was an embarrassing beginning against a team desperately searching for its first victory of the season, though Casey said his Raptors were “a little emotionally drunk from the night before and the tough game (against the Knicks at the ACC) to start the game.” Luckily, wizened veterans Kyle Lowry (the local kid who got more cheers than any Sixer during pre-game introductions) and Luis Scola answered the bell later on and sparked the comeback.
Luis Scola was the main catalyst of the big third, shooting 8-10 and scoring 17 in the quarter. It’s fitting the man who dominated the youngest team in the NBA was the elder statesman on the Raptors; the Argentinian found his offensive touch, posting 21 points on 10-15 from the field to go with his five rebounds and a steal in just 18:33 of work. Despite carrying the offensive load, Scola credited the team’s defence as the reason they made a run. “You get eight stops in a row, and then you start running, then you see shots,” he said. “When you see shots your confidence builds, your margin of error grows bigger.” The injury to the left thumb of Terrence Ross may be a blessing in disguise for the Raptors’ perimeter defensive woes. Head coach Dwane Casey singled out Powell’s insertion in the rotation as a reason for the increased defensive intensity. “He did a good job of being tough on the defensive end,” Casey said. “He got in to their shooters, their scorers, attacked the rim with some force. That is what young guys should do, come in and play with a lot of energy and add energy to the lineup.”
“I played with Luis when he was 25, 30,” Kyle Lowry said. “The way Luis plays, he’ll be playing that forever, because his motor is unmatchable and he just gets up and down the floor and when he’s making shots like tonight, he’s good.” Lowry had 23 points in another good outing in his hometown, while Cory Joseph had 15 points, DeMar DeRozan added 14 and rookie Norman Powell had 13 in his most extended outing of the season. “(Powell) did a good job of being tough on the defensive end, he got into their shooters, their scorers and attacked the rim with some force, that’s what young guys should do, come in and play with a lot of energy and add energy to the offence,” Casey said.
The Dinos broke the game wide open in the third thanks to newly-appointed starting power forward Luis Scola, who went into full FIBA mode against the hapless Sixers in the form of 17 points compared to Philadelphia’s 20. The 35-year-old, who’s playing in his ninth NBA season, has as many years of NBA experience as the entire 76ers roster combined — think about that for a moment. The Raptors owned a comfortable 96-77 lead into the fourth quarter and were on cruise control in garbage time. Hey, even Brazil’s favourite sons Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira made an appearance! Side note: this game was not very exciting.
Defence was good and a lot of Philadelphia’s points came in garbage time. That being said the first quarter saw the 76ers score 34 points and they still managed at least 20 in each quarter during a high scoring game. Philadelphia is still winless and were a depleted squad tonight yet still got above 100. Jahill Okafor was the top scorer for the game with 26 points. In the end though the Raptors got it done and did force 12 turnovers. The best defence is sometimes a good offence. Tonight that was the case, it would not be wise to make a habit of this however.
As was the story with multiple games this season, the offensive outcome plummeted at the start of the second half and the Raptors took full advantage. Lead by young prospect (?) Luis Scola’s 17 third quarter points, the Raptors came out of the break on an 11-0 run, well on their way to their second straight quarter with over 30 points and never looked back. This one was in the books by the time we were halfway through the third quarter. I swear I didn’t just copy and paste that from other game recaps so far this season.
Back-to-back blowouts against the Philadelphia 76ers, as the Toronto Raptors beat the Sixers 119-103. It was a tale of two halves, as Philly hung tough in the first half before the Raptors went on an 11-0 run to start the third quarter to form a deficit Philly couldn’t climb back from. A game like this exemplifies how important Nerlens Noel is for Philadelphia. While Jahlil Okafor, Hollis Thompson, and Isaiah Canaan did work on offense, the defense became a sieve against Toronto. The Raptors did their scoring by committee with six of their players hitting double-digit points. Even Luis Scola was able to turn back the clock, impressing by using his savvy skills to success down low against the Sixers’ athletic bigs, and even hit a three pointer in the third.
The Sixers, having watched Toronto rip off the first 11 points of the third quarter, were searching for a needed spark three minutes into the second half. Moments after establishing a new career rebounding-high, Jerami Grant provided an emphatic end to his team’s drought, surging down the lane and slamming home a dunk. On the Sixers’ ensuing possession, he again did his best to bring energy to the court, delivering another stuff. Brett Brown Said – On the short-handed Sixers’ attempts to keep pace with the Raptors: “We just tried to put out fires all over the place. You’re just trying to find combinations to be competitive, find ways to score.”
Going one-on-one against the likes of Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo, Okafor again looked very good. The defensive shortcomings are what they are, but there is often a learning curve here. It’s tough for such a young guy (rookie big men are almost never good defensively) to log heavy minutes without much help. I still have some long-term reservations about his defense and rebounding, but he’s in a situation where both of those things will get exposed.
“That is a deep playoff team with veterans,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We just tried to put out fires all over the place going big, going small. . . . And all over the place you are just trying to find combinations to stay competitive, be competitive, find ways to score.”
On Wednesday night, the Raptors opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run that morphed into a 21-6 streak to put the icing on it. The Sixers missed seven straight shots during the 12-0 run, committed three turnovers and saw a six-point deficit spiral out of control. The Sixers got no closer than 14 points the rest of the game. “It’s a problem and we’ve talked about it before. We identified it three games ago,” Brown said. “We just can’t arrest it and right now we have a problem. We have options of maybe starting a different group. We tried blitzing to try and generate some energy and we just can’t start third quarters well.” Luis Scola scored 17 points in the third quarter, made somewhat easier by the fact Nerlens Noel sat out for the second straight game because of a pair of sore wrists. Without Noel, the Sixers started the second half with rookie center Jahlil Okafor and guard/forwards Jerami Grant and JaKarr Sampson helping him guard the paint.
Without Nerlens Noel’s 9.8 boards per game, somebody is going to have to pick up the slack. But more than that, Okafor has expressed to his coaches his desire to become a better rebounder and they have spent the past week watching film and working with him in that area. In the long run, he could be an absolute stud in this league if he can become a formidable rebounder to go along with his scoring ability.
In his sophomore season—this one—he wouldn’t have to spend so much time sitting idly on the bench wondering when, if at all, he’ll hit the floor. There would be a D-League team in place, giving him an opportunity to play as much 5-on-5 basketball as possible, something that was extremely hard to come by—in practice or otherwise—as a rookie. That was the plan. And, so far, everything has gone accordingly, as Caboclo is developing right in line with what Masai Ujiri and the Raptors projected for the 20 year-old. But plans change as circumstance dictates. And right now that means the door, thought to be firmly locked as recently as earlier this week, has opened for Caboclo to earn minutes on the Big Club. The truth is, he’s not ready yet. But in a pinch? When you’re handcuffed by a roster being torn apart at one of its thinnest positions? It’s worth a shot—and preferably one from deep.
He’s tied for the top spot in Win Shares with Andre Drummond, a player who’s had a team built around his talents, unlike Valanciunas, who hasn’t had a typical high draft pick experience. During his rookie and sophomore seasons, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay were ahead of Valanciunas in the pecking order. After Gay and Bargnani were moved, Lou Williams was brought in. He’s always been around a lot of shoot-first types. Toronto has also been trying to win instead of building a team slowly. When it looked like they were ready to move on from their core after the Gay trade, they starting clicking on the court, putting any rebuilding plans on hold. Unlike most high picks who show promise, Valanciunas hadn’t been able to grow at his own pace and allowed to make mistakes. Now entering his fourth season in the league and after gaining valuable experience playing for the Lithuanian national team, he’s finally ready to live up to the high standards required of a starter on a good squad.
That sentiment is shared by guard Shannon Scott, one of 15 players who tried out for the NBA D-League team. He was undrafted after his collegiate career at Ohio State University, but signed with the Raptors as a free agent in August and played with them through the pre season before being sent down. “It gave me a taste of the NBA lifestyle, the way they have to be prepared to play every single day,” Scott said. “I’ve kind of got that mindset now and I’m trying to bring it to the D-League, so just in case I get called up, I’m ready for it.”
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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