Sneaking out with a win against the Hornets

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Source: Raptors.com

So, you like shooting threes, eh? Well, shoot all the threes in the world!

Trying a new type of recap. Louis will have a more story based piece in 2 hours, if you’re looking for that. If you hate this, let me know.

You’re a skimmer? You want a talking point or two? Cool. Pick one and take it to the water cooler. Or, erm, the virtual version of a water cooler. Is discord the virtual water cooler? Slack? I don’t know.

  • Pascal Siakam’s shot-making was relatively poor, but his playmaking was really good and his assist numbers don’t tell the story of how much he affected the Hornets defense – constantly drawing two defenders, if not three.
  • Chris Boucher is on one of the best contracts in the league (team-wise) and the vertical threat he posed on offense was the saving grace for the Raptors down the stretch with 7 points (out of 12, Siakam had the other 5) and 8 boards in the 4th quarter.
  • Kyle Lowry is still lifting bench units, and his playmaking (particularly the type that gave teammates layups) was incredibly sharp in this game, but he’s still a little gun-shy, for whatever reason.
  • Fred VanVleet continues to struggle at the rim, and his work spotting-up was a little underwhelming. Still, he pushed in transition as much as possible and made plays where he could.
  • Yuta Watanabe continues to make his case for more minutes. His defensive rotations are crisp and on time, and his closeouts are typically great.
  • The Raptors went nearly 5 minutes without a bucket to start the 4th quarter against the Hornets zone. The shooting never came around (1-11 from 3 in the frame), but they did gang rebound on the offensive glass without allowing any fast break points the other way. So, they figured it out.
  • The Hornets had trouble breaking the Raptors down with their initial actions, which were typically defended well, but once the second-side action came in the Raptors were dead in the water. The heavy motion defense kept leaking points from players who could cut into it or shoot over it.
  • OG Anunoby had a nice little stretch of play in the first quarter that included some on-ball stuff. Nice to see.
  • Stanley Johnson had a near perfect offensive game as far numbers go, but he continues to shrink the spacing significantly when he’s out there. He’s making a case for minutes, but Nurse has to be more selective about who he plays with.
  • The Raptors were vexed by a zone defense, and the “break in case of zone” glass that Matt Thomas is being kept in remained un-smashed. Interesting.

Couple of Quotes:

“The kid is playing so hard.. he’s a guy that gives you maximum energy every time he’s on the floor. He’s going to give you everything he’s got. He just plays with an extreme hardness.” – Kyle Lowry on Yuta Watanabe

“I feel like at the end of the day my role is still the same, starting, not starting. I think they pretty much see what I do: bring energy to the game, play defense, shot-blocking, run the floor and hit threes when I’m open. Starting or not starting, this is my role. I’m good with the way I am. I’m good with the position I’m in. I just want to get better. That’s what I’ve been saying since the first game, I want to get better every time.” – Chris Boucher on starting

Here’s the reaction podcast. The host is a goober.

The Quick Reaction.

If I wake up early enough, I’ll have some game statistics from Cleaning the Glass posted here, but it’s 2AM and the statistics haven’t migrated onto their site yet. If you’re reading this? Well, I’m sleeping. Cast aspersions on my work ethic if you must. Gotta get my 8 hours.

One of the worst things about watching the Raptors this year is that you know a double-digit lead is basically nothing. They’ve consistently shown that they will blow any lead. This has been a bit of a trend leaguewide, but the Raptors are taking this thing to a whole different level. If the season continues to trend this way, they might be the first NBA team to encourage their fans to remain insecure when up by 20. When Siakam is playing well and putting pressure on the rim, a lot of these problems are alleviated because he adds diversity to the offense. But, the Hornets sold out to get the ball out of his hands or have him take a jump-shot. How do you counteract this with the current roster?

Asking Siakam to score over double teams, or consistently finish through 3 defenders in the paint is insane. The most you can ask of him is to make the right pass (and work on his foul drawing). If he commands extra attention, the rest of the roster has to take advantage of that. Lowry is obviously very capable – he’s one of the league’s best 4-on-3 and 3-on-2 decision makers. He’ll guide people into layups. VanVleet and Anunoby have to be a little bit better putting pressure on the rim. Maybe neither are ready, and maybe they thought they had more time to develop that aspect of their game, but Powell is M.I.A. and someone has to punish defenses for overloading.

Somewhat open 3-point shots are easier to create than lanes to the rim, but one has far more value, and defenses are far worse when they don’t know what they’re facing possession to possession. Last night the Hornets took the Raptors high-variance punch from downtown, flashed zone in response, and nearly stole the game. There’s no doubt this will be a trend this year. Ideally, something they can phase out.

It worked for one night though, even if it was by a hair. Gordon Hayward, the Hornets best player, is likely back for the rematch on Saturday night. The Raptors defense will have to be sharper, and their offense significantly less boom or bust. But, hey, a win is a win.

Have a blessed day.

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