Quick Reaction: Raptors 123, Hornets 103

The Raptors are ridiculous lately.

Box Score

S. Ibaka26 MIN, 10 PTS, 8 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 5-8 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 2 BLK, 3 TO, 6 +/-

Extra-days-off Ibaka was fully present here, especially with his effort on the glass and bounce on defense. He missed clean threes, yes. Everything else was there, including the silky mid-range game (he’s at 48.8% from that area now), effort for loose balls and offensive boards, and a pair of blocks (the biggest bump his numbers get with extra time off).

O. Anunoby11 MIN, 0 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 0-0 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-

Left the game in the second quarter with a right ankle sprain. He appeared to hurt it fighting through a screen, limped for a possession, and eventually went right to the locker room. Here’s hoping it’s minor, but with only a back-to-back left before the break, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to just give him an extended break.

J. Valanciunas25 MIN, 21 PTS, 9 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 9-14 FG, 2-2 3FG, 1-4 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 7 +/-

He’s playing the best basketball of his career right now. There’s no more to say about it than that. Brought great energy at both ends, was strong on the defensive glass, fought for loose balls. It was the fifth time in nine games he’s hit multiple threes in a game. He did a great job on Howard outside of the first few minutes of the game, too (Howard winning the rebounding battle is entirely based on defensive rebound opportunities).

K. Lowry27 MIN, 12 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST, 0 STL, 4-9 FG, 4-9 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 4 +/-

Had a tough start and then took Casey’s call on his shoulders, doing all of the little KLOE things over the next few minutes to turn things around. Effortful on defense, made some tough passes to get teammates going, and was happy to feast only on catch-and-shoot threes for his own numbers. Maybe take it easy getting bodied going for these offensive rebounds until April, though.

D. DeRozan29 MIN, 25 PTS, 2 REB, 8 AST, 2 STL, 10-19 FG, 3-6 3FG, 2-2 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, 9 +/-

DeRozan’s first and third quarters were things of beauty. After the 10-0 start, he was a terror getting to the rim, scoring 10 points in the paint the rest of the quarter. He was also in full mind-meld mode with Valanciunas, looking for the big man frequently and effectively. He hadn’t been shooting well of late but this was the whole package – 25 points on 22 possessions, eight assists, strong defense. Awesome stuff.

P. Siakam22 MIN, 9 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 4-5 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, 14 +/-

Let him run! Siakam grabbing boards and pushing in transition or attacking in semi-transition has been fun. It wasn’t seamless here – give it time – but the energy was great and the defense was even better.

D. Wright20 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 0-4 FG, 0-2 3FG, 2-2 FT, 2 BLK, 2 TO, 10 +/-

Can we show some love for Wright’s ability to get blocks in the mid-range? He had a nice one on MCW here and blocked another shot from behind, sneaking behind a Poeltl contest. He didn’t hit a shot and was still a major plus.

C. Miles18 MIN, 24 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 8-11 FG, 6-9 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 28 +/-

There are few things as fun as Miles getting cooking. The award-winning post-three smile was on full display here, as he hit 6-of-9 from outside (nice), brought a nice defensive intensity, and came up with a steal for a dunk the other way that looked like a pretty good Delon Wright impersonation. And two 4-point plays!

F. VanVleet17 MIN, 10 PTS, 3 REB, 4 AST, 1 STL, 4-6 FG, 2-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 26 +/-

The sequence where he made a tough finish, stole the ball in the backcourt, and then finished again was perfect VanVleet. Wonder who the first Raptor fan to get a “bet on yourself” tattoo will be. Him and Wright also have a really nice telepathic connection throwing each other passes for corner threes – complete trust the other will be where they’re supposed to be, always.

J. Poeltl17 MIN, 4 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 2-6 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 27 +/-

Uncharacteristically rough shooting night, missing some bunnies he’s usually a safe bet for. Had a great dump-off for Ibaka (Pascal jealous?), finished on a very tough Miles pass, was a positive defensively outside of the one minute where Zeller was cooking.

N. Powell16 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -5 +/-

Received the second-half start in place of OG after not playing in the first half to maintain the bench rotation. Immediately got a touch to initiate and found Valanciunas on a dump-off. Was incredibly low-usage in the OG role. Encouraging to see him have a sustained stretch of positive team play, garbage time excluded (was +12 in third).

L. Nogueira6 MIN, 2 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -14 +/-

Consistently putting up huge negatives in garbage time is worrisome. Not because it MATTERS really, but because it may make the staff less confident in him if they need him. He’s better than these uninvested late minutes of late.

M. Richardson5 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -12 +/-

Hit a pull-up mid-range shot in his debut with the team, so he’ll now be sent to Mississauga to hammer that out of his shot spectrum. (Hard to tell much from five minutes but he did muscle out a defensive rebound really well.)

Dwane Casey

Notched his 300th win as head coach of the Raptors, the first coach ever to do so with the franchise. Was smart to call an early timeout down 10-0, and he REALLY gave it to his team. It was seamless from there. A ton of threes, 30-plus assists again (three straight games with 70%+ assist rate), low minutes for the starters, great in-bound plays for Valanciunas and Miles. When the biggest complaint is “he probably should have called a timeout a possession earlier when OG was hurt,” or “Free Malachi,” things are going well.

Things We Saw

  1. The Raptors almost literally couldn’t have gotten out to a worse start, down 10-0 when Casey had to call a timeout two minutes in. Some of that was good shot-making – Kemba was on, and even MKG’s janky jumper rimmed in off-dribble – but damn. Better get used to these early starts (they’re 3-1 in early tips but have struggled to get going) for Game 1 of the first round. Really good response after the early hole, though, and they were ridiculous in the third.
  2. The bench? It’s still extremely good. Even with Cody Zeller (aka Maximum Plumlee), Lamb, and Kaminsky doing the things they sometimes do against Toronto, the Hornets were woefully over-matched against the Raptors’ subs. I mean this in the best way possible, but the Raptors must be so damn annoying to play against. I don’t know
  3. The impact is pretty plain on the starters. This is going to be so helpful later in the year and keep them fresh for the playoffs. Over the last 10 games, Lowry is averaging 28.8 minutes, DeRozan 31.3, and Ibaka 26.7, and the Raptors are 8-2. They’ve won five in a row by 15 or more and none of those players have topped 30 minutes in that stretch or played in the fourth quarter. The Raptors are playing like a damn juggernaut lately.
  4. This team is so much fun. Have a great Sunday, everyone.