Quick Reaction

Quick Reaction: Raptors 111, Nuggets 129

As always, player grades are subjective and are based on a player’s established track record and expectations. Even after an ugly loss, it’s important to be kind and respectful to each other in the comments. I probably shouldn’t need to repeat this every post. I also don’t ever want to do a quick reaction for a game this bad again.

Toronto 111 Final
Box Score
129 Denver

S. Ibaka18 MIN, 11 PTS, 3 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 4-10 FG, 1-6 3FG, 2-4 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -14 +/-

There was a whole lot of the bad version of Ibaka in this one, and it goes beyond shooting 1-of-6 on largely open threes and only grabbing three rebounds in 18 minutes. He was roasted by Millsap early, later fouled him on a 3-point make, and generally made poor decisions at both ends. Hey, he attacked a closeout for a dunk, though! Honestly, though, what his leash is on rough nights like this will be a legitimate question later in the year.

N. Powell29 MIN, 14 PTS, 3 REB, 3 AST, 0 STL, 6-11 FG, 1-5 3FG, 1-3 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -26 +/-

Continues to be one of the team’s most active and effortful defenders, though that’s a low bar in this one. His active hands helped force some turnovers, though there was an occasional trade-off with some Nuggets cuts he was late on. Offensively, he’s staying aggressive and had a few nice assists here, both good signs while he works his way through a prolonged shooting slump.

J. Valanciunas14 MIN, 8 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 4-4 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -7 +/-

His return is going to take some time to adjust given that the team was still finding his fit prior to his ankle sprain. It didn’t look great early, with Ibaka and Valanciunas struggling against Millsap and Jokic, and Valanciunas picked up a couple of tough fouls and got dunked on by Faried out of a timeout. I know saying anything about his usage is cause for argument, so I don’t mean to stoke the fire, but maybe a good way to get him re-acclimated would have been to feed him when he was 4-for-4? Fine for a first time back out.

K. Lowry25 MIN, 9 PTS, 5 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 4-10 FG, 1-5 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -21 +/-

Tried to be aggressive early on with the offense sputtering and showed flashes of a potential KLOE night but never found that gear. He wasn’t particularly great defensively, either, though he did draw his sixth charge of the season and defend the post well when switched. His body language was, umm, not great, and he started picking fights all over out of furstration. At least he had the nice lob to Bebe after Nashing the pick-and-roll, I guess.

D. DeRozan26 MIN, 10 PTS, 1 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 4-10 FG, 0-1 3FG, 2-3 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -16 +/-

Off to such a hot, well-rounded start that it was striking how shaky he looked here in contrast. He was looking to score early and his shot selection was a bit off (settling some), and while he tried to shift into a playmaking role, he was a beat slow passing against traps. This was also his first bad defensive performance of the season, punctuated by getting back-cut on two possessions in a row. I wouldn’t stress, he’s been quite good prior to this one.

D. Wright26 MIN, 12 PTS, 2 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 3-5 FG, 2-4 3FG, 4-5 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 0 +/-

I’d like to get an extended look at how he looks without another point guard on the floor at some point. Played well enough here despite some turnover problems, finding the right guys down the stretch and even hitting two threes, likely a big weight off for him.

P. Siakam20 MIN, 10 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 4-10 FG, 1-2 3FG, 1-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 4 +/-

Really active in the minutes he got to play and the team’s best rebounder on the night, though that was inflated some by playing the five in the close-out. That post-spin move he has is all kinda of entertaining, and hopefully it’s a weapon eventually. Not sure what happens when the rotation crunch comes down. An aside: It’s very hard to grade garbage time.

O. Anunoby17 MIN, 6 PTS, 1 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 2-5 FG, 2-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 4 +/-

Didn’t do a lot in the first half but made the most of the end-game, putting up numbers everywhere except blocks and turnovers. He’s going to be a potential five-category fantasy contributor in time. Not that it matters here. He hit two threes and had two steals produced by good anticipation and timing.

L. Nogueira16 MIN, 5 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 2-3 FG, 0-0 3FG, 1-1 FT, 2 BLK, 0 TO, -22 +/-

Got rewarded for Monday’s outburst with early minutes and provided some solid help defense, a nice pass on the roll, and a tough and-one finish on a Lowry lob. You know Nogueira well enough by now to know it came with some bad, and while it was partly a product of when Denver’s run came, he was hung with a minus-22, killing his status (for now) as the analytic demigod.

F. VanVleet15 MIN, 7 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 2-8 FG, 1-3 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 7 +/-

Made a tough turnover immediately upon entering and couldn’t seem to shake it off from there. He continues to have a tough time finishing – somewhat expected, though not to this degree – and shooting from outside – a surprise – making for a really ugly stat line. Numbers aside, I wrote before the game that he could be the victim of a tightened rotation, and while this isn’t the game to make sweeping decisions from, it’s been a tough first few weeks for him. He’s better than this, but maybe not enough so for extended leash. Was nice to see him hit a triple late.

C. Miles14 MIN, 5 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 2-3 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -9 +/-

Looked more engaged than maybe anyone else defensively in the first half, hit his lone 3-point attempts, and attacked a closeout really well for a bucket. The two turnovers were avoidable. Better musician than Norm.

J. Poeltl12 MIN, 5 PTS, 6 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 2-3 FG, 0-0 3FG, 1-2 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -4 +/-

Don’t think the bump behind Nogueira here was a permanent move but an attempt to keep Nogueira involved in a matchup that isn’t Poeltl’s best. He was – and you’ll be shocked – solid in his 12 minutes, rebounding aggressively and playing mostly mistake-free. He’ll probably be back in his C2 role against Utah.

A. McKinnie9 MIN, 9 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-3 FG, 1-1 3FG, 2-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 14 +/-

Really made the most of his nine minutes of garbage time. All due caveats apply, but he brought a ton of energy, blocked a shot, got to the line, and flashed a nice, if somewhat out-of-control, spin move on a drive. He even hit a three, the big area he needs to show at this level. Opportunities will be scarce for a while the way things look, so it’s nice he made good on his first meaningful NBA run.

Dwane Casey

He didn’t have a particularly enviable job here working two pieces back in, and the decision to expand the rotation was fine. I know a lot of people were upset with Nogueira and Siakam over Poeltl and Anunoby, and there’s a case he wanted to reward the recent performances in the small gaps where the starters were seeing fewer minutes. Whatever the case, the Raptors probably need to reexamine some parts of the rotation and decide on which nine or 10 they’re going to go with from here. He takes some of the blame for the woeful defense and poor ball movement, because that’s what this space is for, however fair.

Things We Saw

  1. The first quarter was the complete opposite of Monday’s second quarter, maybe even the team’s worst of the year. They were in a 10-2 hole immediately, necessitating a timeout just over two minutes in, and the returning bigs looked particularly sluggish. There was a brief stabilization as the bench filtered back in, then the all-bench group struggled. Denver shot 13-of-21 in the quarter, good for 140.8 points per-100 possessions, and it looked every bit as bad as that sounds. It didn’t get any better in the second quarter, with the team being back-cut like crazy and giving up a lot of open jumpers. Still, they were somehow “only” down 14 at the half.
  2. If the 5-0 run and three consecutive stops to start the third quarter made you feel optimistic, sorry. Denver responded with a 9-0 run right after (or 16-5 if you prefer, or 40-15). The defense continued to be just unspeakably bad, and next thing you knew the deficit was 30 and it was time to close up shop and live to play Friday.
  3. This was the most concerning of the seven games so far in terms of the new offense and the team’s commitment to it. They not only shot poorly, but the ball movement looked mechanical and not nearly as organic as the last couple of times out. The ball-handlers shot terribly and largely ignored their bigs and wings. There’s going to be a re-adjustment period with everyone back as rotations sort out, but this was definitely the most disappointing game of the season so far.
  4. It was the fifth game of a tough six-game road trip and it was in Denver. Sure. It was also the worst effort the Raptors have put forward so far this season, a thoroughly disappointing outing where almost nobody played well. Denver turned in their best performance of the season in response. Now the Raptors have to win a tough game in Utah to return home having split the trip at 3-3.
  5. Nikola Jokic is ludicrous. There was one sequence where he blocked Nogueira, through a full-length outlet pass for a bucket, then hit a funky runner as the trailer in transition. He set up teammates, worked a nice two-man game with Paul Millsap (who was also extremely good here), and on the odd occasion he missed, he’s a magnet for his own offensive rebounds. He’s a special player, and the Raptors didn’t at all answer the call against him.

As always, player grades are subjective and are based on a player’s established track record and expectations. Even after an ugly loss, it’s important to be kind and respectful to each other in the comments. I probably shouldn’t need to repeat this every post. I also don’t ever want to do a quick reaction for a game this bad again.

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