Quick Reaction: Raptors 108, Kings 89

A bounce back! A fun bounce back!

Box Score

P. Siakam30 MIN, 32 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 10-12 FG, 3-3 3FG, 10- FT, 2 BLK, 4 TO, +19 +/-

32 points on 12 shots. He had a few sloppy turnovers to start the game, but he got on track with a straight-line drive for free throws. He followed that up with a step-up three from straightaway. It seems like Siakam needs to see a make early to stay confident and decisive. Then he went berserk the rest of the game. He hit a ton of midrangers in transition. Then he scored eight straight to start the second half, including some triples, before he went to work in the post and pulling out some filthy moves. Honestly, he’s only just returned from surgery, and playing incredible basketball most games. To focus on the negatives when he can do this is pitiful.

S. Barnes33 MIN, 2 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST, 1 STL, 1-8 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0- FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, +2 +/-

He’s having trouble getting touches in lineups that include Siakam, and in a sense that’s logical. Siakam is a much more established and versatile scorer. But Barnes needs to find ways to remain useful, either as a cutter, offensive rebounder, screener, or whathaveyou. He was a step slow, whether closing out on defense, or moving on the offensive end. But then Toronto went through a stretch of deflecting EVERYTHING on the defensive end, and Barnes made some highlights in transition. He found a way to get involved, but he needs to do it more consistently.

K. Birch23 MIN, 10 PTS, 9 REB, 1 AST, 4 STL, 4-7 FG, 0-1 3FG, 4- FT, 2 BLK, 0 TO, +17 +/-

His defense was fantastic early, getting strips in passing lanes and protecting the rim. However, he passed up a lot of open corner triples on the other end; someone needs to take corner threes for Toronto, who made precisely zero against Utah last night. He found a lot of deflections in transition, of all places, which was big for Toronto. For a stretch in the second quarter he was blocking everything that came remotely into his area, and he turned that energy into offensive mania in the second half, dunking everything, attacking the offensive glass, and flat-out bullying the woeful Kings. Has that step-on-your-throat-when-your-down gene.

F. VanVleet32 MIN, 13 PTS, 3 REB, 6 AST, 2 STL, 5-14 FG, 2-7 3FG, 1- FT, 0 BLK, 7 TO, +23 +/-

A sloppy first stint, but he absorbed the energy of the bench when he checked in for his second rotation, finishing and-1 after a beautiful one-handed gather, and locking up on defense. He didn’t pop, letting his teammates do most of the scoring, but he passed well, scored well when he had his chances. His hands under the rim were probably the most impactful rim protectors Toronto rostered (and Khem Birch was good as a rim protector!). He chipped in with deep, late-clock triples and beautiful connective-tissue dimes when necessary. Simple, but masterful.

G. Trent Jr.36 MIN, 23 PTS, 4 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 8-17 FG, 5-11 3FG, 2- FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, +23 +/-

He got some run with bench units, and his scoring was hugely significant in keeping them afloat. He got a little shot happy towards the middle of the second quarter (Toronto probably kept the bench in a few possessions too long during that stretch), but someone has to be aggressive with that unit in the halfcourt, so I wasn’t troubled by it. His more heralded teammates started balling out in the second half, so he faded a bit, but he gave Toronto what it needed when it needed it. Can’t get much better than that.

C. Boucher24 MIN, 10 PTS, 12 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 3-9 FG, 1-4 3FG, 4- FT, 2 BLK, 1 TO, +4 +/-

He was aggressive on the glass early, getting a tip-in towards the end of the first quarter, and fighting defensively. He erased Fox to end the first quarter. He was hyper aggressive rim running in the second quarter, posting up for easy passes in transition and even driving for layups. Just a monster, blocking or altering everything. This was as good a Chris game as you’re gonna get, minus the triples.

P. Achiuwa25 MIN, 6 PTS, 5 REB, 2 AST, 0 STL, 3-5 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 0 +/-

He ran a tight pick and roll with VanVleet on his first possession back, setting a SOLID screen and receiving a beautiful wraparound bounce from Fred. Achiuwa threw it down. He was really aggressive looking for advantage-creating passes in the half-court and transition, which didn’t always work, but was wonderful to see. He fit so well into Toronto’s bench group, showing great energy and lifting the team’s spirit. Quiet box score, but huge return game.

J. Champagnie3 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -4 +/-

Garbage time, not a lot to say.

M. Flynn3 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 0-0 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0- FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -2 +/-

Garbage time, not a lot to say. He got Boucher a triple out of the pick and roll though!

D. Banton11 MIN, 4 PTS, 3 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 2- FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, +5 +/-

His defensive overaggressiveness continued in this one, as he picked up full court on his first defensive possession before falling behind, having to switch, and then promptly fouling when the ball swung around and found his man. But he stayed in the game (good on Nurse trusting the bench despite early mistakes!) and improved, playing much tighter defense and pushing to draw free throws to end the first quarter. He even finished over Holmes in the second quarter, which was huge.

S. Mykhailiuk20 MIN, 8 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 3-8 FG, 1-5 3FG, 1- FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, +8 +/-

He was running pick and rolls, which is probably not the best usage of his offensive skills, and sure enough it resulted in a turnover. He settled in with the rest of the bench late in the first, early in the second, starting to score better and fitting in nicely on defense.

Nick Nurse

Nurse sounded like he was yelling directly into the mic in the first quarter, which was fun. You could hear him yelling at Scottie to get to the rim in transition, or Gary to cut. It was exceptional to hear what Nurse’s focuses were and when. That was fun and had little to do with Nurse’s grade. He used his challenge early in the first quarter to keep VanVleet from getting his second foul, and he actually won it! I really liked Nurse’s rotations tonight, including getting Trent and Achiuwa extra run with the bench groups, where their talents and aggression are really maximized. This was the bounceback Toronto needed, and Nurse did all he could to catalyze it.

Things We Saw

  1. Nurse trusted the bench even after early mistakes. Svi turned the ball over needlessly in a pick and roll. Banton fouled poorly again. But they stayed in the game and redeemed themselves, playing much tighter defense as they settled into the game. They won their minutes in the first quarter, which Toronto has sorely lacked recently.
  2. This game seemed like it was just “you shoot better, and they shoot worse, and that’s the game,” but the result was a lot more than that. Toronto’s rim defense improved dramatically after the first quarter, which meant they didn’t give up nearly as many open threes. They found energy in transition. They had centers playing almost the entire game. Even with a few players having relatively poor games, the Raptors were still excellent as a team. They refound their identity.
  3. Fred, Gary, OG, and Pascal have wildly different skillsets, and it looks like they’re the core four (less so Gary, but he’s had such a great few games in a row, it’s fair to include him at the moment) going forward. It’s cool to see them evolve in different ways. When his teammates are balling out, VanVleet becomes connective tissue, whipping passes, spotting up, and thriving in transition. When his teammates are slacking, Trent picks up the offensive rope, scoring in isolation and in pick and roll. When Toronto wants to knock someone out, it turns to Siakam. Anunoby kind of does it all as a defender and offensive player, great at spotting up, posting up, screening, driving, etcetera. So cool that they all compliment each other in such diverse ways.