Morning Coffee – Sat, Nov 24

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Raptors sinking resources into sleep education – TSN.ca

Moments after the buzzer sounded, after DeMar DeRozan famously peeled Lowry off the Air Canada Centre court, Jonas Valanciunas sat in front of his locker and reflected on what went wrong. The 21-year-old sophomore centre had recorded a double-double in each of his first three playoff contests, but his impact faded as the series went on, culminating in one of the worst games he’s ever played. Valanciunas missed four of his five shots and scored three points in 27 minutes that afternoon. The Raptors were minus-23 with him on the floor, plus-22 with him off it.

The seven-foot Lithuanian didn’t want to make excuses, but after some prodding he admitted that he hadn’t been sleeping well. The biggest takeaway from his first postseason experience, Valanciunas told reporters that day, was the importance of managing his emotions and getting adequate rest ahead of big games.

Quarter of the way through the NBA season and Raptors are sitting pretty | The Star

Schedule: Two four-game trips made the first quarter of the season look imposing when the schedule was announced, but the Raptors breezed through it.
Going 7-1 on those two trips was an unexpected bonus, but the overall strength of schedule showed Toronto had one of the easiest starts to the season of any team in the league.

It gets tougher quickly, though. There’s a December trip out west to face four of the conference’s best teams — the Clippers, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Nuggets — that comes after a Milwaukee game at home and before the Indiana Pacers are in Toronto right after the trip is over.

Making a big move early in the season was vitally important given what’s ahead; the best thing that can be said about the schedule was the Raptors took care of business when they had to.

The Wizards’ melodrama plays to yawns in Toronto as the Raptors score an easy win – The Washington Post

Their act also might be growing stale with the officials. Although Wall logged 32 minutes and contributed a game-high 11 assists to go with 11 points, he earned no free throw attempts despite making four drives to the rim. Only twice in his nine-year career has Wall played more than 30 minutes but did not get a free throw attempt. The first time also happened this season, during an Oct. 30 loss at the Memphis Grizzlies; at the time, the Wizards were 1-6 and only beginning to realize the depth of their spiral.

Now the Wizards are 6-12, and their explanations for losses have become routine.

“We were chasing the ball all over the place, and we stopped making shots,” Coach Scott Brooks said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Washington played its second straight game without starting center Dwight Howard but found an early boost from his young replacement, Thomas Bryant. His energy and defense meshed well with the revamped starting unit; there were deflections, stops and positive signs as Washington held a three-point lead near the midway point of the first quarter.

But it didn’t last. Just like old times, the Wizards spent the game playing catch-up and showing they can compete with a better team when necessary. The spark ended with a flood of open shots that devastated the defensively challenged Wizards.

Wizards can’t get threes to fall in loss to Raptors – Bullets Forever

There was a time in the not too distant past when games between the Wizards and Raptors were defined by whether or not Washington’s talent could overcome Toronto’s execution. On Friday, the Wizards had a good game plan. They pushed the pace, got up lots of quality shots attempts, and limited turnovers. They still lost by 18 to a Toronto team that was too talented, too deep, and just too good for Washington to handle.

The Wizards attempted 46 threes — a new franchise record — but only made 9 of them (19.6 percent) en route to a 125-107 loss. Every Wizard who played — including newcomer Okaro White — attempted at least one three, but Markieff Morris and Austin Rivers were the only Wizards who made more than one triple, and both of Rivers’ came after Scott Brooks waved the white flag and inserted the reserves for the final three minutes of the game.

Even though Washington fired at will, they struggled to get the ball to the shooters that needed it most. Otto Porter was 1-of-6 from deep. Bradley Beal was just 1-for-3 in 33 minutes of action. The Raptors dared John Wall, Kelly Oubre Jr., Markieff Morris, and Jeff Green to beat them. They accepted the challenge, but combined to go 3-of-24 from deep.

On the other side, the Raptors went back to what they did so well against Washington in the playoffs last season. They went 17-of-39 on threes (43.6 percent) and got contributions across the board. Nine of the ten Raptors who played at least five minutes made a three, including Kawhi Leonard who toyed with the Wizards on the way to 27 points and 10 rebounds in under 31 minutes of action.

Recap: Raptors highlight Wizards’ wretchedness, cruise to 125-107 win – Raptors HQ

“I was happy,” said Nurse. “He had a right wrist injury, right. I think he made his first three he took, maybe his first two. That was the first thing I said I was like ”jeez,” he checks in the game and hits a three right off the bat, which you know, that’s probably the thing you’re gonna check on the most.”

The abundance of triples helped the Raptors claim a 17-point lead at one point in the second quarter. But as has become a trend, that lead evaporated quickly as Toronto’s commitment to giving a shit did the same. Forgive them for feeling secure against the team that can’t go a week without leaking how much they hate each other.

By Game 80 it might morph into a sincere a concern, but at the quarter mark of the season it’s almost admirable how few minutes the Raptors need to actually try for in a given game to pull out a win. After a holding 70-62 lead at the half, Toronto gave up a quick 9-0 run to Washington. During the timeout you could almost hear John Wall announcing the Wizards’ arrival in the East contender conversation.

Raptors’ faith in 3-point process pays off in win over Wizards – Sportsnet.ca

After missing their first four, Toronto made seven of their next nine 3-pointers — including a pair of end of shot-clock bombs by the struggling VanVleet — to lead 38-26 at the end of the first quarter. VanVleet hit another tough one early in the second, and the spotty (from deep) Siakam hit a corner triple while Anunoby — back after missing three games with a wrist injury and led a vibrant bench with 15 points – hit one before the end of the half as Toronto led 70-62 after 24 minutes having shot 10-of-23 from deep.

It was a welcome turn.

Of the six Raptors with a history of high-end perimeter shooting, only Green (3-of-7 last night) has had a good start through the first quarter of the season, connecting on a team-best 44 per cent prior to Friday. Lowry (15 points and nine assists with two triples on the night) is hovering around 35 per cent, having fallen off badly after a scorching start, while VanVleet (3-of-5), Miles (1-of-7), and Ibaka (1-of-2) have all underachieved by shooting less than 30 per cent from deep.

Miles was back in the lineup for the first time in five games and was expressing optimism that his slow start was a product of sample size, more than anything. Even the best three-point shooters aren’t metronomes – a 40-per cent season has plenty of 1-for-7 nights.

“You just know that you’re going to come out of it,” said Miles who is now shooting 25 per cent from deep on the year. “It’s one of those things, one of those times. Especially in the beginning of the year, different shots, different role, different lot of stuff goes with it too. I’ve been through worse.”

Wizards epitomize quarter-mark dysfunction across NBA – Sportsnet.ca

“Pretty significant difference,” offered guard Bradley Beal, who only attempted three treys, making one. Partner John Wall was 1-for-7 but they’re supposed to fire away. What about Kelly Oubre, shooting .289 for the season from behind the arc yet tossed up six in this one, pitching a shutout? It was suggested to Beal that maybe, um, some of wrong guys were jacking them up.

“I wouldn’t say that. Wouldn’t say that … wouldn’t say that,” Beal repeated. “We all believe in each other and when it’s not going in you have to stick with it. If you’re open, you got to let them fly. You got to think the shots will fall.”

Not long ago, the Wizards were a measuring stick for the Raptors. Now, not so much. The Wizards’ biggest issue remains that that Beal and Wall are in their seventh season of bickering and giving each other the stink eye – which is OK if there’s a title or two sprinkled in there. Last month, they joined forces to accuse some of their other teammates of being too selfish, which at least suggested some kind of unity. A week ago today, Beal and guard Austin Rivers had a verbal altercation in practice, as did Wall and Jeff Green – arguments that expanded when Beal allegedly called out general manager Ernie Grunfeld in the middle of the argument and Wall said ‘F-you’ to his head coach Scott Brooks when Brooks tried to intercede in his argument.

Bizarrely, further fuel was added when the team’s former in-arena emcee embarked on a profane rant against Grunfeld … five days after the same emcee, Rodney Rikai, had been formally honoured by the team for his service. Woof.

NBA-best Raptors remain a work in progress – Sportsnet.ca

“To last in a season, you’ve got to be even-keeled throughout the whole game. Never too down, never too high,” said Leonard, who scored 27 on 12-of-22 shooting. “We’re playing well. But I still think we can get better. The whole lineup hasn’t been in. Guys have been out.”

Leonard — who contributed his fifth double-double in 14 games as a Raptor Friday — is still regaining his sea legs after missing nearly an entire season. Nurse is still figuring out how to best deploy his hot-and-cold bench. Danny Green is just beginning to show how valuable he can be. The Raptors are playing plus-10.9 basketball with Green on the court, and minus-2.5 with him off of it.

It’s a work in progress, which is why a night like Friday can be a good thing. It can be learned from. It also started a game-every-other-day run the Raptors will be on through the middle of December, which will include dates with some very good teams: Memphis, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Golden State twice. Friday should have been easy. The next few weeks shouldn’t. We’ll see how hard the Raptors have to work during it.

“I feel like it’s going to be good for us, just so we can get in a rhythm,” Leonard said of Toronto’s upcoming schedule. “I think this is a time we can gel as a team.”

Five observations from Wizards’ 125-107 loss to the Toronto Raptors, a game decided entirely by threes | NBC Sports Washington

Too much Kawhi: There is a group of NBA players that because of their size, athleticism and skillset are essentially impossible for the Wizards to match up with defensively. Kawhi Leonard is one of them.

He’s too quick and strong for Otto Porter Jr. He is too crafty for Kelly Oubre Jr. He’s too fast for Jeff Green and too big for Bradley Beal or John Wall.

For some of the best players in the NBA, the Wizards have a logical option to guard them, at least from a physical standpoint. For Leonard they do not, much like when they go up against LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Ben Simmons and the like.

Leonard scored at all levels. He hit threes and midrange jumpers, destroyed them on the fastbreak and even dropped in some buckets from the post.

DeMar DeRozan is an excellent player, and one the Wizards have had some trouble with in the past. But Leonard is on a different level, and Friday showed how the new-look Raptors are even harder to stop than they were before. The Wizards have no answer for him, at least in man-on-man matchups.

Killer threes: The Wizards continue to find themselves on the wrong end of the three-point battle. The Raptors popped off for 17 threes, a season-high, and they shot 43.6 percent from long range. That was despite a series of open looks that rimmed out in the first half.

The Wizards, meanwhile, couldn’t get their own threes to fall. They went just 9-for-46 from the perimeter. Those 46 attempts were a franchise record.

Some of them were forced, but they missed a host of open shots, which has been a problem this season. They entered this game 27th out of 30 teams in wide open three percentage (33.7).

The Raptors did a solid job overall of contesting the Wizards’ three-point looks. Washington put up some ugly numbers across the board. Oubre went 0-for-6, Wall 1-for-7, Beal 1-for-3 and Porter 1-for-6. Yuck.

Today’s NBA is all about the three-point shot and the Wizards have been awful on both ends of the floor. If they could just improve their threes on offense and defense, this season would probably be very different.

Daily Digits: The Wizards’ outside shooting still hasn’t come around – Bullets Forever

The Wizards set a new franchise record by missing 37 threes during their loss to the Raptors on Friday night. Prior to Friday’s game, Washington had only attempted 37 threes eight times, and they had made at least a dozen in all eight of those games before their 9-for-46 outing against Toronto.

The Wizards were unusually bad and unlucky on Friday, but they’ve struggled all season long. They’re only shooting 31.7 percent from deep, just a hair ahead of the only two teams behind them — the Thunder and the Hawks.

Believe it or not, the rotation player the Wizards shoot the best with on the floor is Dwight Howard. When he’s playing, Washington shoots 2.4 percent better than their season average. Problem is, even then they’re only shooting 34.1 percent which would tie them with Denver for 23rd in the league.

In fact, the only places where you can find the Wizards shooting well is when they have all their key players together at the same time. The Wall, Beal, Porter, Morris, Howard lineup is 33-of-80 from deep (41.3 percent) and the Wall, Beal, Oubre, Porter, Morris lineup is 11-of-26 (42.3 percent). No other five-man lineup that’s attempted at least 20 threes has made more than one-third of them.

While the bench has made some strides this season, when it comes to making threes, they’re still relying on the same core of six players they always have to get the job done.

Raptors Superfan: We owe a lot to VC-15

There isn’t a more polarizing figure in the history of the Toronto Raptors than Vince Carter.

To some, “Vinsanity” will always be the player who put Toronto on the NBA map — a jaw-dropping talent who brought respect to a then-fledgling organization north of the border.

But to others, Carter will always be the superstar who demanded a trade out of Toronto. The team captain who was reportedly tipping off opponents on the Raptors’ play calls. The guy who chose to attend his graduation in North Carolina on the morning of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in Philadelphia (and missed the buzzer-beater that would have sent Toronto to the conference finals).

Ask any particular Raptors fan about the team potentially retiring Vince’s jersey and you’ll quickly find that the debate is very black and white: You either love him or you hate him. It’s a sensitive topic.

But one Raptors fan knows exactly where he stands with the one they call “Half-Man, Half-Amazing.” And we’re not just talking about any Raptors fan here.

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