Raptors-Blazers post-game debriefing with the enemy

Following the Raptors’ 110-103 victory over the Trail Blazers on Thursday, RR traded emails with Dane Carbaugh of Blazer’s Edge, debriefing on a really fun game that was played well enough on both sides. It’s a format for additional post-game content we’ve tried on occasion before, and tonight seemed like a decent night to give it a shot. You can check out our full recap here, and be sure to check out Dane’s excellent NBA YouTube channel, which features Xs & Os breakdowns, scouting reports, analysis, kicks coverage, and more, with updates multiple times a week.

Blake Murphy: That was one heck of a fun game. I really, really like this Blazers team, almost to a man, and they were just as spry as expected. At a high level, I’m of the mind both teams played pretty well around some shoddy defense and horrible officiating both ways.

Are you in agreement it was kind of a “both teams played well, the better team won” meetings?

Dane Carbaugh: I guess it was fun because of the final quarter, but man it was ugly. Especially in the third. The Blazers themselves are fun, from time to time. They’re doing a better job lately of closing at the end than letting it slip away. That was their issue the first 20 games or so.

Officiating was real spotty. And I usually don’t notice or say that. Weirdo shooting fouls, nothing called in the lane either way … and a flagrant for good measure!

I think both teams played OK and the better team won

Blake Murphy: We’ve talked about the Raptors a little bit and the myth that they don’t really run plays. Did you see anything you liked out of Dwane Casey on Thursday? I thought the team responded pretty well out of timeouts and on set baseline plays.

Dane Carbaugh: I liked that he either appeared to be calling out all the Blazers plays or running the Raptors like a defensive coordinator in football. Couldn’t tell which from broadcast.

But they are good in ATO plays, which I broke down and shared on RR before. I did think they did a good job coming out of TV timeouts with a non-sideline or baseline play too.

Also: Kyle Lowry shooting from 30 feet is nice.

Blake Murphy: He did that against the Suns on Tuesday, too. Don’t ever let it be said Casey comes unprepared on defense (though that will make some question further why he’s been slow to make playoff adjustments, but that’s a conversation for another time).

Are you suggesting Lowry from 30 feet can’t be a regular part of the offense? Does Damian Lillard have dibs on the “most ridiculous shooter, non-Steph Curry division” title?

Related, just how good can this Lillard-C.J. McCollum pairing grow to be? Is Lowry-DeMar DeRozan aiming too high, in terms of long-term combined value?

Dane Carbaugh: In that case they need to get Lowry an ear piece so he can just radio it in.

Lowry can bomb. He’s obviously been a much better shooter since his second full year in Houston and everyone, including Zach Lowe, is gushing over it. I’m all about it.

In terms of Lillard … I think, getting to watch him every game while at the same time covering the league nationally, he is right up there. There are shots each and every night that he hits that I still go crazy over. Are they the best shots? No. But style is a thing. Lillard’s contested threes have style.

I think the Lillard – McCollum backcourt can be very good long term. Compared to Lowry and DeRozan, I think you’re comparing two different animals. McCollum is one of the most surprisingly good penetrators I’ve seen come into the NBA in a long time, especially when you consider the package and his methodology. Put in the fact they can both shoot the lights out, it’s a lot different than what’s in Toronto.

Long term? Hell, why not? Portland’s stuck in a place without many big name FAs looking to come, so if you can get both guys like that through the draft, might as well see how it goes. I’m happy with seeing them both play in Oregon for a while.

Blake Murphy: I’d be happy, too. I loved the Blazers’ accelerated rebuild, recognizing Lillard entering his prime and focusing on players who weren’t too far away from contributing. My heart broke when they landed Al-Farouq Aminu and Boss Davis, and now Allen Crabbe really looks like a player, too.

Considering all of that and Terry Stotts’ fine offensive work, but keeping in mind Portland’s incentive to miss the playoffs (they owe Denver their first, lottery protected, as you’re surely aware), can the Blazers grab the eighth seed in the Western Conference?

And final one for you: You cover the league as a whole and have paid the Raptors plenty of attention. Are they the second best team in the Eastern Conference?

Dane Carbaugh: Can the Blazers grab the 8th seed? Yes. Sacramento is twisted and weird and less than the sum of their parts. Portland is the opposite of that. Utah has been uninspiring but could conceivably put some space between them if they start playing better as a unit.

Do I think they should? No. They’re going to get obliterated. But that’s not how basketball players work. Man that’s not even how you or I work when we’re on the court at 24 Hour Fitness. I’ve maintained they’ll start losing games when real playoff teams in the West need to configure their seeding the last 8 weeks of the season. I can’t eject from that position now, but they’re definitely going to win more games than I predicted and that’s great.

A lot of that is due to Stotts, Lillard, McCollum and Crabbe and their continued growth. Plus, role players!

As for the Raptors, yes from where I’m standing they are the second best team and for good reason: Spacing. When you watch the Raptors play compared to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago and the rest of the muck fighting to not get squeezed out of the final four, there’s a noticeable gap. In record, to be sure, but also in perception. The Hawks aren’t the Hawks of last year. Boston is slowly becoming a better offensive team. Chicago …

I’m excited for Toronto, the Raptors are not only good but they’ve learned from last year. They feel like a team that’s going to be able to be confident in the first round, stay strong when challenged in the second and be up to the task come Eastern Conference Finals.

OK! I just ruined it for you all! S’long!

Be sure to check out Dane’s excellent NBA YouTube channel, which features Xs & Os breakdowns, scouting reports, analysis, kicks coverage, and more, with updates multiple times a week.

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