Get your coffee ready people, we have some more basketball to watch in the wee hours of the morning! The Toronto Raptors look to sweep their double-header against the Houston Rockets in Japan following an exciting comeback victory on Tuesday.
During the opening game it took Pascal Siakam canning a deep bailout three at the end of the shot clock all the way from Sapporo to fully wake me from my slumber. It then took one of James Harden’s 20 second isolation possessions to put me right back to bed. Fortunately, in spite of Harden’s unguardable ‘Hardenness’, the game was played at a breakneck speed with points galore. Sure, neither team played a lick of defence but don’t let that deter you from being very justifiably excited.
Each offseason hypothetical that has been percolating in my brain, from Siakam’s all-star leap to Terence Davis Jr. playing point guard minutes, became a reality. Fred VanVleet led the offence commendably in Kyle Lowry’s absence and Siakam immediately took over the number one scoring option reins without hesitation. It’s fun to see your oversized children all grown up! New faces trickled onto the court and countless different lineups were experimented with, something that we will no doubt see again today.
Despite the minimal emphasis on defensive intensity, Nick Nurse will be expecting his team to do a better job guarding Harden. The former Most Valuable Player ran amok from the get-go, dicing the Raptors for 21 first quarter points. He also did this:
“Oh he nutmegged him!”
James Harden showed out against Rondae Hollis-Jefferson 😮 pic.twitter.com/l80snJcHdA
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 8, 2019
Okay, maybe Harden isn’t always boring to watch then.
Toronto will continue to play without Lowry or Marc Gasol, the former recuperating from off-season surgery and the latter likely still nursing a hangover from the NBA/World Cup double championship celebrations. These games without Lowry are a fun test to see which players are capable of picking up the lead ball-handling slack. It is an area that Nurse will want to address as early as possible, especially given the Kawhi Leonard shaped hole on offence.
As a viewer, aside from ignoring the existence of team defence, the greatest importance from these games is to watch individual player’s skills, their development, and general team chemistry. The Raptors fresh faces and returning veterans meshed well on Tuesday, let’s hope for the same cohesion occurs today.
(Update: Marc Gasol has now been cleared to play.)
Tipoff: 6AM EST | TV: Sportsnet
Projected Lineup (Raptors)
PG: Fred VanVleet, Cameron Payne, Isaiah Taylor
SG: Norman Powell, Patrick McCaw, Terence Davis II, Matt Thomas
SF: OG Anunoby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson, Malcolm Miller, Oshae Brissett,
PF: Pascal Siakam, Dewan Hernandez, Devin Robinson, Sagaba Konate
C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher
Projected Lineup (Rockets)
PG: Russell Westbrook, Austin Rivers, Gary Clark, Michael Frazier
SG: James Harden, Ben McLemore, Shamorie Ponds, Chris Clemons
SF: Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Thabo Sefolosha, Daniel House Jr.
PF: PJ Tucker, Nene, Jaron Blossomgame, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Bennett
C: Clint Capela, Tyson Chandler, Isaiah Hartenstein