|P. Achiuwa21 MIN, 8 PTS, 6 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 4-9 FG, 0-2 3FG, 1- FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, -7 +/-|
He was really gunnin from deep to start the game, but they didn’t drop for him. I like the idea though, as he’s probably better equipped at this point to catch and shoot then barrel in and try to create something for himself. Defensively he was, shall we say, less than engaged. Didn’t bother to rotate and wasn’t active. He seized control of the offense in the second half, somewhat to the team’s detriment, as he took touches away from OG Anunoby and Gary Trent. But he did make a few tough shots.
|O. Anunoby41 MIN, 16 PTS, 5 REB, 3 AST, 0 STL, 7-19 FG, 2-8 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 2 TO, +3 +/-|
He was out of rhythm to start the game. Couldn’t create advantages with the dribble, and his shot wasn’t falling. When he doesn’t start games in the paint, he can get off to a slow start. Finally to end the second quarter he started initiating in the post and dimed up Khem Birch, before hitting a pair of fadeaways, before slinging a cross-court pass to Gary Trent for three. Later he had trouble getting touches. The guy needs to demand the ball! He was quiet to end, too, aside from a transition dunk. VanVleet shifted to the role of the closer.
|S. Barnes37 MIN, 21 PTS, 9 REB, 1 AST, 2 STL, 9-14 FG, 1-2 3FG, 2- FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, -13 +/-|
When the jumper is falling, he looks pretty, pretty good. He hit three jumpers to start the game for Toronto, a catch-and-shoot middie, then a pull-up from the identical spot, and finally a catch-and shoot from a few feet behind, a triple from the same angle. In the second quarter, he grabbed a rebound and ran the entire court for a monster one-handed dunk. In the second half, Orlando legitimately gave him the Pascal Siakam treatment, with a center guarding him as the primary in the halfcourt to try to force him out of the paint. He didn’t put up the same gaudy numbers after that, which goes to show; he needs to trust his jumper. Especially on a night when it was already working for him.
|F. VanVleet40 MIN, 19 PTS, 1 REB, 6 AST, 0 STL, 7-16 FG, 3-10 3FG, 3- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 0 +/-|
He’s usually a master of making himself useful when his shot isn’t falling, but not even his admittedly excellent defense could rescue three quarters of this game. He missed jumpers, failed to rotate the defense by hitting the paint, and wasted a few possessions dribbling. To be fair, he made some great passes in the fourth quarter, running solid pick and rolls! He started hitting his midrange jumpers. It was a fairly classic case of “call an ambulance (first three quarters) but not for me (fourth quarter).” His fourth quarter was legitimately superstardom, too, as he rained jumpers. Still, he has to give more than veteran leadership and defense to start the game.
|G. Trent Jr.32 MIN, 19 PTS, 3 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 7-13 FG, 2-5 3FG, 3- FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, -11 +/-|
Trent is perhaps the best barometer of Toronto’s offensive structure. When it’s working and creating advantages, Trent will feast. HIs first basket was a great floater after a pump and go against a rotation, and it was a solid building block for his offense. He hit plenty of fancy midrangers in this one. But when the offense isn’t creating anything, Trent can grind to a halt and have difficulty finding looks. He was his usual (!) defensive wizard self, even getting a clutch steal with a few minutes left and diming up OG Anunoby for the uncontested three. He won the game with a tipaway on a Magic chance to win. Just, he’s been so, so much better than could have been expected on the defensive end.
|C. Boucher18 MIN, 9 PTS, 4 REB, 0 AST, 2 STL, 3-5 FG, 1-2 3FG, 4- FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, +18 +/-|
He played his way out of Nurse’s dog house. He started the second quarter with a great closeout to the corner to force a missed three. He hit the offensive glass and took the right shots, even if he missed them. It was a good process game, even if it wasn’t full of highlights. He was a huge positive, and his being a team-high plus-minus in the game was not a fluke.
|K. Birch23 MIN, 6 PTS, 6 REB, 3 AST, 1 STL, 1-3 FG, 0-1 3FG, 5- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, +15 +/-|
He hit the offensive glass early, at least, when Toronto’s offense was sputtering. He made some nifty passes in the paint, set solid screens, defended well. Normal Khem stuff. Actually, another point about those screens: he crushes people, man. Fred VanVleet especially needs that space in the pick and roll, which is why I think Birch is a better partner than Precious Achiuwa there. Birch was a huge reason why Toronto stayed afloat through three quarters.
|D. Banton23 MIN, 10 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL, 4-6 FG, 0-0 3FG, 4- FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, +4 +/-|
He ran a pick and roll in the first quarter that gave me heart palpitations. He went slow, put his defender on his back, then probed until the big stepped up, before he finally fed Khem Birch. That was craft! Later, he pass-faked his way to a completely uncontested triple. That was craft! Banton combines his energy and athleticism was an extremely advanced basketball IQ; he knows where to be on both ends to make impact. He pushed in transition in the fourth quarter, getting steals, hitting Anunoby for corner triples. He was legitimately Toronto’s second best player tonight. It’s starting to look like Banton isn’t just a shot of energy, but a legitimately valuable and helpful NBA player.
|S. Mykhailiuk6 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 2 STL, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -4 +/-|
His very first touch was to save a garbage possession by grabbing a loose ball and hitting a buzzer-beating jumper. Didn’t get much run after that, and I get it; his defense doesn’t offer as much disruptive ability as any of his possible replacements.
I love that he brought Banton in early again, and he gave him lots of on-ball leash. The triple-Canadian-B group of Banton, Birch, and Boucher was Toronto’s first group of subs to start both halves, and it did change the feeling of the game both times. I wasn’t happy with Nurse’s willingness to let all of his guys initiate offense, but I get the idea, and for all the nights it doesn’t work (tonight!) it pays off down the road. So I get it, even if it didn’t look pretty tonight when Achiuwa called his own number with Anunoby standing around in the corner. I also think an eight-man rotation, with the three Canadians off the bench, is probably Toronto’s best hope for winning at the moment; the Raps will add Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe to a beefier 10-man rotation when they’re healthy.
Things We Saw
- For all Barnes’ positives (and they were many!) he did give up a few blow-bys on the defensive end. He’s already a fantastic off-ball defender, with great awareness and knowledge of where to be to match his athleticism. His on-ball work can be iffy, especially when he’s matched up against a jitterbug guard. That’s really not an issue, especially for a rookie, especially especially for a player of his size; he’s not supposed to be a defending-everything star, not yet. But it’s still worth mentioning.
- OG Anunoby has got to get more touches. Even though his jumper wasn’t falling, he is a better initiator than almost anyone on the squad. The Raps ran him alongside an all-bench (and Trent) group, and he could hardly touch the ball. When he did get it, he ran over a defender in his lust for the rim. That’ll happen when you don’t get it for so long, and you’re supposed to be the star carrying a group. Where’d his post offense go?
- Nurse closed with Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Gary Trent jr., OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes! Juicy. Ultimately, though, ineffective. Birch probably would have made sure the game never got so close in the final minutes.
- With a few minutes left in the game, Scottie Barnes stripped the ball off a Magic player out of bounds, and the refs called a foul. Barnes turned to the bench and circled his fingers, asking for a review. Nick Nurse immediately — without even looking at his video review guy behind him on the bench — called a timeout to review. That’s trust in a rookie right there. Barnes ended up being right, and he won the jump ball for good measure after.