Post-Game

Raptors comeback falls short, Timberwolves pull back away late

Raptors 92, Timberwolves 103 | Box Score

Summer League isn’t supposed to be pretty. The Toronto Raptors are playing to that expectation so far, dropping a second game in a row on Sunday, this one a 103-92 decision to the Minnesota Timberwolves that they clawed back to bring in reach and then watched flutter away in the fourth quarter. It was similar to Friday’s opener in a lot of ways, though the Raptors did themselves more of a favor with their shooting here, sunk instead by an inability to hold on to the ball, both on offense and around their own rim.

The game looked like an extension of Friday early on, and both the Raptors and Timberwolves looked very much like teams playing the early game in Las Vegas. The sides would combine for 12 turnovers to just 11 made field goals in the first quarter, and that the Wolves controlled the game despite not hitting a field goal for the bulk of the frame speaks volumes. We should have known this was coming when each team committed a back-court violation on their second respective possessions of the game.

It wasn’t all bad, despite the low aesthetic value. No quarter is going to be all bad when Tryggvi Hlinason is involved. Malcolm Miller and Alfonzo McKinnie hit the glass well, McKinnie was able to leak out in transition off of a stop for a dunk, and OG Anunoby was having an impact on just about everything defensively. There was just a lot of good followed by bad, like Augusto Lima having a nice block and then losing the handle on a dive pass, or McKinnie missing a tough floater after an Anunoby steal and then air-balling a three off of a great Anunoby find in semi-transition. Some over-eagerness moving the ball led to some sloppy turnovers and a couple of tough recoveries, with some “good” mistakes mixed in, like Rawle Alkins feeding a tough transition pass through to Miller for a save and finish, emblematic of some solid off-ball work for the Raptors. Codi Miller-McIntyre gave the Raptors a look at a lead late with a late-possession three, but a Malachi Richardson turnover and an inbounding turnover helped Minnesota hold a two-point edge after one.

Nick Nurse leaned on a deep rotation from there, getting nearly everyone involved by halftime. Again in the second, there were flashes, like Richardson’s trademark lefty step-back three or Anunoby initiating in the pick-and-roll and showing some good instincts, the finishing just left a lot to be desired. Issues on the defensive glass also set in, and some of Friday’s foul trouble set back in as Toronto tried to strike the right balance between increased aggression on the ball and sending Minnesota to the line too often. Minnesota was smart in picking their spots in response, with Amile Jefferson and Keita Bates-Diop in particular standing out with their heady play and helping build a seven-point halftime lead.

“I thought it was a loose-ball issue today,” Nurse said. “A lot of rebounds, kind of 50/50 – I’m not even sure some of them were 50/50, they might have been 60/40, 70/30 in our favor – and we weren’t coming up with them. They were a little scrappier than we were, kept some possessions alive.”

Jordan Loyd got the starting nod for McKinnie in the second half, and initially the biggest change it produced was sliding Anunoby to the four. After a scoreless first half, Anunoby scored nine points in the third, bullying a post-up in to start the quarter and later unleashing a nice spin move one-on-one and hitting a corner three on a nice Miller swing. Anunoby also navigated a side pick-and-roll trap well, though he missed on the resulting drive, and relocated well for a dump-off bucket after sending a wild drive-and-kick pass.

“It was a great spin move,” Nurse said. “We’re here to see if he’s got a little post game and he’s got a little iso game. And I thought he made some nice moves, he made a couple tough shots. I thought he was unlucky on a couple others, and then a couple of them weren’t so good. We’re trying to throw it out there, see what it looks like, and then see where we take it from there.”

The Raptors spent the third flirting with a come back in large part thanks to Anunoby’s efforts, and their shooting finally came around late to help the cause. Richardson caught fire with a couple of threes and a tough banked-in runner, and Loyd showed why the Raptors brought him back for a second consecutive Summer League by hitting a couple of jumpers and generally playing a heady brand of basketball. Alkins also had a big dunk driving baseline that was  a lot of fun. Bates-Diop tried to end a Raptors mini-run with an anti-momentum three as a trailer, and Richardson responded with another three of his own and the Raptors edged ahead by two entering the fourth.

“Malachi was pretty decent today, right?” Nurse said. “He’s got a quick trigger, he’s got some size. We’re really working hard on him with being more than just a gunslinger, but at least he’s that.”

Minnesota counter-pushed early in the fourth, opening with an 8-0 run by once again finding the seams Toronto’s aggression provided. Alkins was perhaps a little too eager in passing lanes, and Nurse began tinkering with his bench mix to try to stabilize things. Miller-McIntyre came through with another clock-beating three to end the drought, but continued foul trouble got in the way – Miller picked up a fifth, and Toronto was flirting with the penalty before the halfway mark of the quarter. The shuffling led Nurse to try dual small point guards with Andrew Rowsey and Giddy Potts, and Shevon Thompson drew the call at center and rewarded the faith with a nice floater in the lane to pull back within one.

The Raptors flirted with taking control when Anunoby drove for a dunk, and Minnesota answered right back with a run of their own. Bates-Diop hit another big three, Anunoby missed a corner three and got blocked on a late pull-up two, and then Bates-Diop capped a great night with another three, this one a back-breaker. Anunoby did manage to attack for a nice bucket in response, it was just a little too late with the Raptors down 10 and only two minutes to go. A banked-in Potts three briefly kept the hope alive, with time eventually doing what time does and slowly extinguishing all hope (and, uh, Jefferson putting Minnesota back ahead 11 in the closing minute). Potts tried to fight that inevitability with a huge dunk attempt that drew back rim and a foul, and that was about the end of it.

Toronto’s backs are against the wall now as much as a Summer League team’s can be. They’re 0-2 and haven’t looked particularly sharp on offense in either game, shooting 49 percent here and 44 percent on threes but coughing the ball up 19 times to undercut themselves and harm their defense. Nurse has talked about the desire to finish with more shooting possessions than opponents, and the Raptors aren’t doing that so far thanks to the turnover and fouling issues. The shots they have taken have varied in quality, with dribble penetration to kick-start things at a premium. There are enough positive signs to think things can click with another day of reps under their belts tomorrow, and there’s still plenty of window for a player or two to step up and stand out. Monday should be interesting in that sense, especially with everyone except Chris Boucher and Fuquan Edwin having already been given a chance to show something.

Notes

  • Yes, we’re copping my Raptors 905/Team Canada recap format here with half-gamer, half-notes. I figure it lends itself better to games like these where people might not be as concerned about the game-flow as the actual player performances.
    • As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason. Take it for what it is, and enjoy.
  • RAPTORS NOTES: Jordan Loyd was the most impressive Raptor on the day, scoring 17 points in 24 strong bench minutes and staying within his role really well. He also dished three assists…Malachi Richardson’s offensive upside was on full display with a 4-of-5 mark from outside and 15 points…Codi Miller-McIntyre had another nice showing with 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting and a team-high four assists…Shevon Thompson has been the team’s best big through two games and had 10 points, six rebounds, two steals, and a block in just 17 minutes.
    • It was a mixed bag for OG Anunoby again, as he shot 5-of-15 and had three turnovers but showed glimpses off the dribble, led the team in rebounding for a second game in a row, and dished three assists…Malcolm Miller was uncharacteristically a non-factor…Alfonzo McKinnie struggled shooting once again…Rawle Alkins had a very quiet follow-up to his breakout Vegas opener, playing just eight minutes.
    • INJURIES: Fuquan Edwin sat with left knee soreness once again…Jordan Loyd was active after missing the opener with back spasms.
    • IN ATTENDANCE: Basically the entire Raptors front office was in attendance, right up to Bobby Webster, Masai Ujiri, and Wayne Embry….Fred VanVleet was in attendance to support, not wearing sleeves of course because it’s heavyweight season. DeMar DeRozan was here, too…Nick Nurse sang a lot passionately to both national anthems before the game.
  • TIMBERWOLVES NOTES: Jared Terrell is already making the Wolves look smart for grabbing him on a two-way deal as an undrafted free agent. The Raptors worked him out before the draft. He had 13 here on 6-of-9 shooting…I wrote about Amile Jefferson at the G League Showcase and he got a two-way deal soon after. Minnesota would be smart to try to keep him in the fold again as a depth big. He plays a very smart game and is an elite defensive communicator…Keita Bates-Diop was downright awesome. Very smart player, and his jumper was falling here. He finished with 24-11-2-1-2 and was the best player in the game.
  • UP NEXT: The Raptors next play Monday, tipping off against the Oklahoma City Thunder at 3:30 ET.

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