No one is too good for a win

9 mins read
Picture courtesy of the Raptors
Picture courtesy of the Raptors.

Picking up another win.

You’re supposed to get these games. No one in the whole world – the whole thing – is too good for a win. I refuse to turn my nose up at this, or the last game. However, the Raptors have basically only been winning these types of games, which isn’t great.

Hey there, skimmer! Here’s some talking points for you! Pick any you like and carry them forward into your life – the last defense against conversations regarding the weather.

  • For the second game in a row, the Hornets defense was attempting to take the legs out from Pascal Siakam’s game first, and the rest of the Raptors second. Their zone, which was actually fairly disciplined, took the post away from Siakam and moved him into the middle of the floor. His handle was lacking, and with the Hornets defenders ready to pinch in on drives, he became hesitant and then ineffectual. Was pretty happy with his defense, but he was poor on offense. He’s attacked space before in other roles, and there were opportunities for him had he been more diligent, but he wasn’t.
  • I am in favour of starting Boucher, or bringing him off the bench. Whatever they decide game to game, there’s solid rationale for both decisions. However, Baynes can fix all this very quickly by offering somewhere between 8-12 decent minutes at the center spot. The Raptors are putting work into Baynes’ redemption arc in pursuit of those 8-12 minutes, which is a huge difference from preseason expectations. Currently, the Baynes reclamation project is putting the Raptors in a massive hole to start games – last night was -10 in 4:20.
  • Fred’s on-ball forays that ended up at the rim were abject failures. But, his live-ball manipulation remains quite good and improving. When the Raptors are teeing off from three accurately, like they were in this game, he can really rack up the assists by creating to the corners of the court.
  • It’s nice to steal a game where VanVleet and Siakam aren’t particularly sharp. Would probably be nicer to win a game in a very convincing fashion where your stars play great, though.
  • Lowry, Anunoby, and Powell (even with all the defensive gaffes) deserve a lot of credit for this win. Anyone who’s played a good zone defense knows it’s really hard to stare into the teeth of it, and shoot over top with accuracy. The aforementioned 3 made up over half of the Raptors makes from downtown in this one (13 out of 21) and it wasn’t just catching and shooting. Each and every one of them made moves to find open space, and navigated screens to find shots on the outside. Well done.
  • The Raptors pick n’ roll defense is in disarray if they aren’t switching. They have really high, highs where Siakam/OG completely nullify an action for example, but there’s no synergy between the help-side when there’s breakdowns unless Lowry is at the back-end.
  • Not a single quarter that had less than 20-points scored. You might think that’s a given, but this season it hasn’t been. It speaks a little bit to their ability to launch over the zone consistently.
  • Even though Boucher has been truly excellent this year, he’s still a foul-prone player. This, mixed with Siakam’s recent development into an equally foul-prone player keeps popping up as a problem in these games. If the Raptors can’t pull away, that means more close games where they have to navigate foul trouble. It’s not just the scary prospect of fouling out when your team has had poor depth thus far, but how milquetoast defense can be when you’re trying not to foul. It takes the bite out of a lot of what the Raptors do well. Something to watch for in the future, and Boucher deserves credit for how he finished the game considering he had 5 fouls.
  • The minutes that saw Malachi Flynn on-ball and Norman Powell working off of it should be considered an absolute win. I hope to see Coach Nurse supplement some units with this look going forward.
  • Stanley Johnson still suppresses a lot of what the Raptors need offensively, but he hit both of his threes, and Nurse’s use of him like a closer in baseball in this game paid off in a big way. He was a fundamental part of some of the Raptors biggest stops down the stretch.
  • Devonte’ Graham, LaMelo Ball, and Terry Rozier are still fun as hell. I hope Hornets fans are enjoying watching that trio game in and game out.

Couple of Quotes

“He’s producing at a super high level on the offensive end. He’s affecting a good number of shots at the defensive end. There’s lots of polishing areas for him defensively, you know schemes and matchups. Learning, and not missing some of the coverages and things like that. These things usually take some time, and he’s certainly getting a lot of time. So, we need him to go quick and we need to keep coaching and teaching.” Nick Nurse on Boucher’s ability to close the game out with 5 fouls

“They’ll go in and out of zone, and switch to man. So, sometimes it’s kind of confusing when we’re trying to run our offense, but we figured it out.” – OG Anunoby on the different looks the Hornets showed them defensively

Here’s the reaction podcast. I love feedback, especially the bad kind.

And the Quick Reaction, which ironically, was quite slow (sorry Oren hehe).

As someone who leans heavily towards optimism in most things, the Raptors are a very intriguing team for me to watch this year. Everyone is flashing so many different things all the time, and it’s somewhat hard to discern what has staying power and what doesn’t. I can watch nearly 1000 Siakam shot attempts over a week, see him turning the corner on the west coast trip, and the guy can still inexplicably decide that there’s no more aggression in his game the next day. There’s been very little value in predictive analysis so far this year. Sure, there’s been little things now and again, but trying to forecast an oncoming trend seems pointless. I’ve felt much better about the Raptors playstyle in a couple of their losses than I do after this win. The transition away from pseudo-contender (or contender) to remains strange, for any team doing it. It’s tough to place the Raptors with any certainty right now.

Something fun, before you go

There’s a fantastic Japanese fan account for the Raptors, and a friend of mine Abdul went through the trouble of using google translate on the info cards from that account on twitter. It’s some pretty wholesome fun. How else would you find out Norm’s nickname is “Gnome” or that OG is the “golden egg” of the Raptors?

Have a blessed day.