Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee – Tue, Jan 8

NBA Power Rankings: Week 13

1. Toronto Raptors
Record: 30-12
After beating Milwaukee on Saturday and Indiana on Sunday, the Raptors became the first NBA team to win 30 games this season. In fact, no other squad has more than 27 victories. And Sunday’s win was notable because Toronto beat Indiana without the help of Kawhi Leonard, who was rested on the second leg of a back-to-back set. Impressively, they are 8-2 without Kawhi this season. However, the Raps did benefit from the return of Kyle Lowry (lower back pain). Lowry, who had missed six straight games and 10 of the past 11, tallied 12 points, eight assists, three rebounds, three steals, two 3-pointers. Lowry and Leonard haven’t played together since Dec. 9.

The Toronto Raptors are the First Team to 30 Wins; First in East

With Lowry and Leonard playing up to their standard, the Raptors have seen above-average contributions from crucial role players. Serge Ibaka is averaging 16.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He is also shooting 53.9 percent from the field. Pascal Siakam is averaging a career-high 15 points with 6.6 rebounds per game. He is a player that could win the Most Improved Player award. Fred VanVleet is averaging 10.5 points and 4.5 assists per game. VanVleet is one of the best sixth men in the league and helps anchor the bench.

Danny Green who also came to Toronto from the San Antonio Spurs like Kawhi Leonard did in the trade has averaged 9.5 points and he is shooting 40.8 percent from three-point range. Norman Powell just dropped 23 points against the Pacers which is his season-high. He is averaging 7.2 points per game. OG Anunoby is also averaging 7.2 points per game.

The Raptors have two-star players but they have players that have improved dramatically. The consistent bench depth and Siakam taking a tremendous step forward allowed for Leonard and the medical staff to monitor his health. The Raptors in games that Kawhi Leonard has not played in are 8-2.

Raptors’ Norman Powell thriving in return from injury | CBC Sports

“I’ve always been a firm believer in hard work pays off, and your hard work’s going to show, it’s just a matter of time, as long as you stick with the process, stay positive and continue to work through whatever is thrown at you,” Powell said. “I just feels good, just continue to work, continue to stay focused on the task at hand, and do whatever it takes to get wins.”

Powell injured his shoulder versus Utah in early November, and his return comes when the Raptors truly need him. Kawhi Leonard, who missed most of last season with a quadriceps injury, sat out Sunday’s game for maintenance — the team’s leading scorer has yet to play in back-to-back games this season and his health is carefully monitored. Point guard Kyle Lowry is still dealing with a bad back that kept him out of 10 of 11 games.

Raptors Waive Lorenzo Brown | Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors announced Monday they have waived guard Lorenzo Brown. He appeared in 40 games over two seasons with the Raptors averaging 2.2 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists. Brown also appeared in 32 games with Raptors 905 during the 2017-18 season and was named the NBA G League MVP. Toronto’s roster now stands at 15 players.

NBA Power Rankings: Did the Toronto Raptors climb to No. 1? | NBA.com

The back-to-back wins over Milwaukee (without Kyle Lowry) and Indiana (without Kawhi Leonard) were perhaps the biggest statement wins of the season for the Raptors given the logjam towards the top of the Eastern Conference. Yes, the win at Oracle Arena was big but given how the regular-season Warriors aren’t shaping up to be the same juggernaut we’ve grown accustomed to, a pair of wins over two teams in direct competition for home court in the East is as good as it gets.

The Raptors once again have the NBA’s best record and had it not been for the no-show in Leonard’s return to San Antonio in which they fell down by 23 in the first quarter and were never in the game, they would have been sitting atop this week’s power rankings.

NBA Power Rankings: Toronto Raptors are on the rise, Los Angeles Lakers take a dip | Sporting News

The back-to-back wins over Milwaukee (without Kyle Lowry) and Indiana (without Kawhi Leonard) were perhaps the biggest statement wins of the season for the Raptors given the logjam towards the top of the Eastern Conference. Yes, the win at Oracle Arena was big but given how the regular-season Warriors aren’t shaping up to be the same juggernaut we’ve grown accustomed to, a pair of wins over two teams in direct competition for home court in the East is as good as it gets.

The Raptors once again have the NBA’s best record and had it not been for the no-show in Leonard’s return to San Antonio in which they fell down by 23 in the first quarter and were never in the game, they would have been sitting atop this week’s power rankings.

Thoughts on Raptors’ weekend, Thibodeau and more – TSN.ca

1. RAPTORS BENCH: What a difference 24 hours makes. The Raptors only managed five points off the bench Saturday night, but the starters overcame their difficulties to find a way to still win in Milwaukee for their first win against the Bucks this season. On Sunday, the bench came up huge on the back-to-back against the Indiana Pacers with 52 points led by Norman Powell with 23 points. They must get greater consistency and production nightly from this unit. Hopefully this unit begins to settle into a nice groove.

2. TOM THIBODEAU: Thibodeau is out as the coach in Minnesota. I’m sure he’s probably asked himself, “was it really worth it long term trading for Jimmy Butler?” The drama from this summer and fall destroyed whatever he was trying to build there. I’m sure coach Brett Brown in Philadelphia has thought about that a bit in the last 72 hours as well. Tough business.

Tuesday game preview: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors | The Star

Raptors legend Vince Carter is averaging 7.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 17.6 minutes off the bench for Atlanta this season … The Hawks are without shooting guard Kent Bazemore, who was first replaced by Daniel Hamilton and more recently by DeAndre Bembry, who has reached double digits in points in his last three games … Kawhi Leonard is expected back in the Raptors’ lineup after sitting out the Indiana game. He and Lowry have not played in a game together since a Dec. 9 loss to Milwaukee.

Evaluating Dwane Casey’s job with the Detroit Pistons

Let’s look at Detroit’s three main players: Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond.

I truly don’t believe he’s got the most out of this group of guys yet this season.

Look at Reggie Jackson for instance. He had career-high’s in points (18.8) and assists per game (6.2) under Stan Van Gundy. It’s no coincidence that his usage rate was much higher during that season than it is now.

That’s mostly because of how Casey has used Griffin in this offense. He handles the ball a lot more than anyone else and everything runs through him.

It’s been something that he continues to emphasize as well on that end of the floor.

Three-point shooting has been another point of emphasis. Casey has been preaching it since he was hired by the Pistons.

They’re averaging about five more three-point attempts per game compared to last season. However, the Pistons are currently 28th in the league in three-point percentage.

Detroit is also just 29th in the league in field goal percentage and points per game. They’re not getting into their spots and attacking. They aren’t making wide open shots.

Marc Stein: Kawhi Leonard goes West, Kyle Lowry gets traded in 2019 | Tremont Herald

The NBA pundit said winning the championship in June would be the only scenario where he sees the Raptors keeping the former Defensive Player of the Year north of the border.

Leonard, who the Raptors acquired in a blockbuster offseason trade with the San Antonio Spurs last summer, has been the main catalyst behind Toronto’s resurgence in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors have become one of the favorites to come out of the East alongside the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and the Philadelphia 76ers.

Kawhi is averaging 27.3 points (49.7 FG percent and 36.1 3PT percent) and 8.2 rebounds in over 34 minutes per game this season.

A strong MVP contender, Leonard started 2019 with a bang after he recorded 45 points on 16-of-22 shooting in the Raps’122-116 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. He’s currently sitting at number two on the ladder just behind Milwaukee’s do-it-all forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Raptors resting Leonard makes sense at so many levels | The Star

The beating an NBA body takes in the course of game is impossible to quantify and even more impossible for a layperson to understand. Coming off hard games Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, his load  had been substantial and heavy. And if there’s a lingering problem, the fact a team errs on the side of caution in January cannot be disputed by anyone with a working brain.

Here’s facts: Every single human body is constructed slightly differently, musculature is different, the toll of repeated use is different and, trust me, the Raptors medical staff knows more than me, you and a thousand of our friends combined and if they think a night off is appropriate, a night off is appropriate. Frankly, they don’t care what you think you know.

(An aside: Found out why Leonard sits on that higher seat than anyone else on the bench when he’s not playing. With the way his body is constructed, the way the muscles blend together, they think it’s better for him to have his upper thigh/groin/pelvic area at that kind of angle rather than the one that comes with sitting normally. It’s not necessary for others, it is for him; it’s part and parcel of the care process they undertake)

21 Years of Vinsanity | TSN

“I remember how generous and how low-key he is. You might think he would have a big head or a certain way about him, but he’s not that way at all. He’s super close, engaging with everyone. I loved how he engaged with the fans here in Memphis, and not just on the court, but also fans when nobody’s watching. I love that because that means that he really meant those interactions and they meant a lot to him too. That was really good to see.”

The Toronto Raptors 2018-19 Mid-season Report Card – Raptors HQ

Nick Nurse: A-
It’s the mark of a good coach that he can adjust when adversity strikes. The Raptors were hit with one serious injury (to Jonas Valanciunas) and then had to deal with another significant, troublesome one (to Kyle Lowry). They’ve had some tough losses, and some tremendous bounce back wins. Through it all it’s been hard to keep them out for long, whether it be from game to game, half to half, or quarter to quarter. Obviously the players play the games, and it doesn’t take a genius to, say, put the ball in Kawhi Leonard’s hands and let him go to work. But that’s discounting the general mood rookie coach Nick Nurse has fostered with the Raptors, and the in-game tactical adjustments he’s made — whether it be his use of zone defense or his re-jigging of lineups on the fly. Even with fantastic players, a coach doesn’t get a team to 30-12 by accident.

[in an extremely Nick Nurse voice] …right?

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