There’s been some understandable chatter in the comments and in my mentions the last few days about the inability of the Toronto Raptors to put away lesser teams. I get it. They just lost a very ugly game to a pretty bad Los Angeles Clippers team, and no number of caveats or excuses would make that result look any worse than it does. It was a bad loss, and an unbecoming one, and the Raptors have at times during this era been guilty of playing down to their competition, which has often taken an undue toll on their stars.
Now, that really hasn’t been the case a third of the way through the season here. Yes, the Raptors have some shaky losses and games where they’ve allowed teams back into games (or had to fight back into it themselves). It would be a lie to say the Raptors consistently put forth a 48-minute effort commensurate of their overall talent level. At the same time, the Clippers are the first sub-.500 team to beat the Raptors all year. The Raptors also rank sixth in double-digit victories, fifth in victories by 15 points or more, and fifth in victories by 20 points or more. They’re third in the NBA in average margin of victory and in net rating.
That is to say, the Raptors are doing fine when the appropriate league context is recognized. Over 82 games, teams just don’t blow bad teams out every time they meet. If every game went as it should by talent, Golden State would go 82-0, Cleveland 80-2 (with no 20-point losses to New York), and so on (in this scenario, the Raptors would somewhere around 72-10 and only 20 games would be entertaining). You don’t like to see bad nights happen once, let alone multiple times in the first two months of the season, but it quite literally happens to everyone, and unless there are predictive problems underlying those nights or they become so frequent as to have a psychological impact in the locker room (whether it be in confidence or buy-in or whatever), it does not highlight some tragic flaw in the makeup of the team. It’ll happen once every three weeks or so, it will be frustrating, and then they’ll go back to being the fifth- or sixth-best team in basketball.
If it happens two road games in a row against bad Western Conference competition? I’ll put a giant red “panic” button for everyone in the quick reaction.
The game tips off at 9 on TSN and Sportsnet 590. You can check out the full game preview here.
The unfortunate news in this one, if you’re a Malcolm Miller fan, is that Miller is back with Raptors 905 after spending the last few games on the road with the Raptors. While this makes sense from a player development standpoint and to manage his 45 day clock, there was a hope when he traveled for a set against mostly bad teams that maybe he’d get to make his NBA debut in one of the games. Alas, he’ll have to wait, with any garbage time produced in a blowout going to Lorenzo Brown and Alfonzo McKinnie.
There were no shootaround or pre-game updates on the comebacks of Delon Wright and Lucas Nogueira, at least as of this writing.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell
SF: OG Anunoby, C.J. Miles, Alfonzo McKinnie
PF: Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl
OUT: Delon Wright, Lucas Nogueira
905: Bruno Caboclo, Malcolm Miller
With four players on the shelf for an extended period, the Suns have been granted an injury hardship extension to add Isaiah Canaan to their roster. This stabilizes some of the team’s guard depth at a time when Brandon Knight and Devin Booker are unavailable and when Mike James’ minutes have been erratic enough to suggest that were he not the team’s only other point guard, he might be out of the rotation altogether (though the Suns did convert his two-way deal to a standard NBA contract last week). Canaan has played 186 games for three different teams over five years in the league, most recently in a one-game cameo with Houston. He’s not exactly multi-faceted, but he’s a 35.2-percent career 3-point shooter who takes C.J. Miles levels of attempts on a per-minute basis. The Raptors will have to be aware of him in transition anywhere inside half court.
Elsewhere, Josh Jackson has been soaking up extra responsibility with Booker out, T.J. Warren is more or less the only player who can reliably create for himself (unless you’re a Danuel House fan, which I am), and a team of role players and long-term prospects has understandably struggled at both ends. The only question for Wednesday becomes where Greg Monroe draws in as the starting center against the Raptors again, which seems likely given Tyson Chandler played the role last night and they’ve been rotating it regularly.
UPDATE: Chandler is out entirely, due to personal reasons, per Scott Bordow. Monroe starts, as expeced.
PG: Tyler Ulis, Mike James, Isaiah Canaan
SG: Josh Jackson, Troy Daniels
SF: T.J. Warren, Jared Dudley, Danuel House
PF: Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender
C: Greg Monroe, Alex Len
OUT: Brandon Knight, Davon Reed, Alan Williams, Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler
Northern Arizona: Alec Peters
- Raptors 905 are playing at 7 tonight at Hershey Centre. We’ll have a recap up right around the time this game tips off.
- Friday marks the unofficial start of NBA trade season, with large handfuls of players who were signed this offseason becoming trade eligible. (Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka are not trade eligible until Jan. 15 and Norman Powell is not trade eligible at all this season, so this is more of a factor for other teams and the players who can be acquired.) It’s a complicated time of year with a lot of understandable wish-casting and ESPN Trade Machine usage. Which is fun. But the trade machine doesn’t cover every rule, and the Raptors are in a pretty tight spot for making trades, due to a number of CBA wrinkles.
- MLSE have reportedly purchased the Toronto Argonauts. This isn’t really Raptors noteworthy, except to point out that MLSE now owns the Raptors, Leafs, TFC, Raptors 905, Marlies, and Argos, at a time when Rogers is said to be feeling out the market on a Blue Jays sale. There’s a point in the near future where MLSE could own all of the major sports franchises in the city, which, given the recent success of several of those brands and MLSE’s investment in high-level executive talent and infrastructure in their capped leagues, is probably a positive.
- The Raptors are holding another design contest for game-day graphics.
Time for another round of #MyRapsDesign. We’re now accepting submissions for this Sunday’s game day graphic vs SAC.
You can submit on both Twitter & Instagram and remember to include #MyRapsDesign.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 11, 2017
The Raptors opened as 11.5-point favorites and that’s edged to Raptors -12. The over-under has moved from 217.5 to 220.5, likely because of the Chandler news.
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