Raptors News

Pre-game news & notes: La Loche visits, Ujiri speaks, Patterson and Lin sit

To date, the Toronto Raptors have had one of the tougher schedules in the NBA. John Schuhmann controls for quality of opponent, travel, rest, and home/road games, and he ranks their schedule the third-hardest. Team Rankings have a bit of a hidden soup, and they give the Raptors the most difficult schedule to date. There are more, and they’re in agreement that the Raptors haven’t had the easiest time. That’s not an excuse – they don’t really need one with where they are, anyway – but it’s worth noting.

Things change dramatically from here, and it starts Friday with the visiting Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors are set to play BRK, NYK, @BRK, @PHI (B2B), @CHA, PHX, a six-game stretch with exactly one game the Raptors shouldn’t be expected to take care of handily. Playing in Charlotte is tough, but even that game will be something close to a pick-’em. Everyone else on that slate is below .500, significantly so in the cases of Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. There’s perhaps some risk of complacency over such a stretch – the Raptors could play far below their standard and still come out 4-2 – but Toronto should be looking to ratchet up their defense and, more importantly, use the easy stretch to get some of their key players some additional rest (whether that’s with an occasional day off or just some 30-minute outings).

It’s time for the Raptors to go on a run.

The game tips off at 7:30 p m. on Sportsnet One and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.

Raptors updates
The Raptors may be back to waiting on a game-to-game update for Patrick Patterson. After missing four-and-a-half games with a left knee strain, Patterson returned for two games, facing a minutes restriction. He even started one of those games, a long-awaited move, but playing at less than 100 percent clearly disagreed with him. He sat out practice on Thursday, and with the schedule as light as it is over the next week-plus, now would be the right time to get him some additional rest to get back to full strength.

UPDATE: Patterson is sitting out as a continued precaution as he works his way back to 100 percent.

Even if Patterson can go, he may not start. The Raptors can probably afford to go dual-centers against the Trevor Booker-Brook Lopez frontline. They’d also have the option to downsize, starting Norman Powell and shifting DeMarre Carroll to the four again. Powell was excellent last time out against Brooklyn, and the “small starters” have outscored opponents by 5.3 points per-100 possessions in a small, 27-minute sample. (The dual-center starters have been outscored by 1 PPC in 50 minutes, the starters with Pascal Siakam outscored by 5.9 PPC in 321 minutes, and the starters with Patterson have outscored opponents by an obscene 26.4 PPC in 136 minutes.)

UPDATE II: Nogueira starts at PF again.

And yes, Bruno Caboclo has been recalled in the event this is a blowout.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Fred VanVleet
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross
PF: Lucas Nogueira, Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Delon Wright, Jared Sullinger, Patrick Patterson

Nets updates
When the Nets last played the Raptors, they “rested” Brook Lopez in what seemed like a bit of a curious decision. It wasn’t a back-to-back scenario, it was late December, and Lopez wasn’t dealing with an injury. Little did we know, though, that Lopez was just saving all of his energy to drop 28 points on the Golden State Warriors a few days later, helping the Nets very briefly threaten the league’s top team. In other words, if the Nets wind up resting someone on short notice tonight – they played yesterday, after all – just trust them.

We already know that Jeremy Lin won’t be playing, as he’s out for a couple of weeks with a hamstring issue. The Nets won’t rush him, and as much as Raptors fans love watching Lin (myself included), his penchant for going off against them won’t be missed. That would shift the point guard duties to Isaiah Whitehead, but Whitehead is questionable after leaving Thursday’s game with a knee sprain. In that case, Spencer Dinwiddie would be the lone natural point man on the roster, potentially requiring Randy Foye or Buckets Kilpatrick to run the position for long stretches. Kilpatrick can really fill it up and has improved some as a playmaker, but Foye’s beyond his NBA utility now, and Dinwiddie is, based on his recent resume and a fair amount of D-League observation, a fringe NBA player.

Elsewhere, Trevor Booker played through a hip injury Thursday and in a back-to-back scenario could conceivably be rested, and Chris McCullough has been recalled from Long Island. And hey, welcome back Quincy Acy!

Whoever plays, there’s not a great deal to fret. Not only do the News only have one lineup that’s played more than 51 minutes or more than 11 games together, most of their most commonly used groups have been outscored, some by significant margins. The one five-some to look out for? If Whitehead plays, the team’s starters with Joe Harris in Bojan Bogdanovic’s place have outscored opponents by 13.2 points per-100 possessions over 51 minutes. Maybe there’s something there worth eploring deeper for head coach Kenny Atkinson.

UPDATE: Whitehead is out and Joe Harris is starting over Sean Kilpatrick.

PG: Spencer Dinwiddie, Randy Foye
SG:Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick, Caris LeVert
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
PF: Trevor Booker, Quincy Acy, Chris McCullough
C: Brook Lopez, Luis Scola, Justin Hamilton
Out: Jeremy Lin, Isaiah Whitehead


  • This is an absolute must read on Masai Ujiri from Bruce Arthur. Just, stop what you’re doing and read it.
  • It hasn’t been made official yet, but I’d expect Bruno Caboclo to be recalled to sit on the bench for this one, and possibly get some close-out minutes. (UPDATE: He’s back.) The 905 are back home for over a week now, but with different teams handling the D-League Showcase differently, it’s hard to tell for sure if the Raptors will assign their guys on Dec. 18 and 20. That the Raptors hit the road for all of next week confuses matters further.
  • Delon Wright could conceivably be on assignment during the Showcase. He and Jared Sullinger have both been cleared for a return to team practice, which is amazing news. Casey said before Friday’s game that the plan likely includes some 905 time for Wright and that the conversation has maybe happened or will happen with Sullinger, who has to approve an assignment.
  • Here are a few interesting quote from Masai Ujiri on Sportsnet 590 The Fan yesterday, one about the trade market and one about the play of Valanciunas:

  • Don’t forget to #NBAVote like me and JV:

    The height of my game is like DeMar DeRozan’ vertical

    A photo posted by Blake Murphy (@eblakemurphy) on

The line
The Raptors are 15-point favorites, down from 16.5 and right in line with the margin when they last played and Lopez sat. Maybe it’s Patterson’s absence failing to resonate, maybe it’s the Nets perceived to be getting worse, or maybe the Raptors have just convincingly shown now that they can put teams away. That’s a ton of points to give, if you’re betting on the game – you might really be betting on the 905 closing things out. The over-under is up to 224.5 from 222.

Raptors 117, Nets 97

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