Put Backs

Postgame news and notes: Leonard not enough to lift Raptors

The away team won both legs of the home-and-home between Toronto and Oklahoma City, as Toronto coughed up a game that they led for the majority. This falls directly into the “it’s fine” category of losses. On one hand, the turnovers and rebounding were problems for Toronto, but the Thunder’s shooting was unseasonably warm, finishing 20-for-43 from deep. Jerami Grant shot 5-for-8 from 3, and Dennis Schroeder 4-for-7. That’s tough, but sometimes great teams get hot and beat you. The Thunder were desperate, having sunk to 8th in their conference in recent days. Toronto didn’t need it as badly. Although, Kawhi Leonard still balled out. He was in playoff form, scoring 37, including 20 in the fourth.

Nick Nurse was talking a lot about turnovers after the game. Here are some other relevant words from him after the game:

  • “They got a lot of points out of their secondary guys other than George and Westbrook,” he said, impressed with the Thunder’s distribution of scoring.
  • Toronto didn’t score as well in the paint as they could have. They missed some bunnies, which Nurse acknowledged.
    • “I thought we missed a bunch of one-on-one, inside of 5 feet, plays. We drive all the way in there, and look like we’re going to com away with something.”
  • On Pascal’s defence:
    • “We got a number of guys that can play. I’m pretty happy with the defence of Pascal, Kawhi, Danny. Those guys are interchangeable parts… There’s some good flexibility there. I thought Pascal did another really good job on Westbrook.”
  • “I like the force (Kawhi) was playing with offensively. He did get hung up a couple times, but he got hit a lot. He did shoot 10 free throws, which might be a record this year, but I thought he could have shot another 10.”

Lineup notes

    • After demolishing the Thunder in their minutes on Wednesday, Toronto’s starters broke even in their first shift, 16-16.
      • To Toronto’s benefit, the Thunder changed their starter-starter matchups to start. Instead of Paul George marking Leonard, the Thunder started with Russell Westbrook on the superstar. Leonard cared not, knocking in a triple on his first shot attempt. Westbrook is an excellent, physical defender, but he freelances more than George; Leonard took advantage of any lapses early.
      • However, they went on to win their minutes by +15, which was an even larger margin than the first game. The starters were, as always, fantastic together.
    • Toronto used a VanVleet-Siakam lineup to close the first quarter, and it dominated. They finished +6 in 3 minutes. VanVleet created space with the dribble at will, and Siakam was unstoppable.
      • The two were probably Toronto’s two best players on the night. Or Green. Or Leonard. But VanVleet and Siakam were incredible, and there were stretches where they were the two best players on the floor. Toronto’s future is bright.
      • However, the same VanVleet-Siakam+bench lineup was crushed to close the third quarter. Jeremy Lin spent too much time handling the ball, the rock didn’t move, and VanVleet was forced to attack set defences single-handedly. It was Toronto’s worst stretch of the game. Three different VanVleet-led bench units ended up combining to go -27 in 7 minutes of gametime. That was the game right there. As always, VanVleet is an outstanding weapon alongside players of his talent level or better. He’s not enough to lift the bench on his own.
    • Even though some bench units struggled in this one, it’s kind of a necessity to throw some poor backcourts onto the floor when Lowry is out. On the positive, it looks like Nurse knows the secret in letting the bench thrive in the future:


  • I mentioned the Thunder’s offensive rebounding as a really important note in my pregame notes. It remained a problem, with the Thunder snaring four offensive rebounds in the first four minutes. When Toronto cleaned up their own glass (and their turnover problems,) that’s when they made their runs.
    • More important were turnovers. Toronto committed 21, 15 of which came from Siakam and Leonard alone. Some were unforced, and some came because the Thunder are so long and athletic on defence. It happens, and it’s great preparation for playoff defences.
  • For a stretch there, Siakam was the best player in the world. Just for a stretch. But holy heavens, his defence, transition scoring, corner shooting, everything. It was something to watch.

To Top