Losing a game, getting it back, then watching it slip away

7 mins read
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 26: Dalano Banton #45 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball during the game against the Chicago Bulls on January 26, 2022 at United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

Has there ever been a team that plays the full 48? Are most good teams pulling off a solid 42-minute performance? Regardless, the Raptors have been trying to win these games in around 24, and despite their breakneck full court presses to get back into it, they fall short once again. This time, to DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls.

The good

Dalano Banton’s wingspan is actually pretty underwhelming relative to a lot of the other players on the roster (6’10). The good thing is that he’s very functional with his length, and that showed in spades against the Bulls as he, once again, played a major role in a frantic comeback that was built on ball pressure, and aggressive reads in passing lanes. He’s played less than 500 minutes at the NBA level, so it’s tough to make any sweeping declarations about his defense, but he’s popped up as a positive in too many games without shot-making to look elsewhere. He’s had a great start to his career on the less glamorous side of the court and last night was another feather in his cap.

Pascal Siakam’s shots fell everywhere but in the bucket last night, and that doesn’t have to be dissected or looked at as an indicator of shooting woes to come – he shot it poorly. Something small for the game, but significant for the future was his continued tenacity on defense and more positive reads as a playmaker. Siakam’s overall game will never leave you high and dry if he leaves it out on the floor like this. Playing the last 15 minutes of the game, in full-court press.

OG Anunoby post touches! In the bizarro world of the Raptors offense, and only more bizarre with a struggling Siakam, the Raptors initiated quite a few possessions through Anunoby in the post. He responded by punishing smalls all night, passing around doubles and pressure, and overall bringing a major amount of help to a Raptors offense that needed it from somewhere. It was a year and a half ago that I charted every shot attempt that followed a dribble for Anunoby, and back then it was clear as day that there was potential in the post-up. Now, we get to see it buoy the Raptors offense at times.

Gary Trent Jr. has made me pose a question to myself over and over again this season, and it’s one I’m, admittedly, hesitant to answer “yes” to. Is Trent Jr. one of the premier shooting talents in the NBA? Has he ascended past a really good 3 and D player into some sort of late shot-clock saviour who will also hit his spot up threes? His shot diet ranks up there as one of the most difficult in the NBA, and while 42-percent from the floor and 38-percent from 3 might not pop to anyone, he and the Raptors have to feel tremendous about those numbers given the difficulty of the shots that make it up. His playmaking is limited (but growing), he gets to the rim less than ever, and he still hardly ever gets to the free throw line. But, my god, he shoots the hell out of the basketball – and he did so once again on the way to his first back-to-back 30-point performances.

If you’re still a fan of DeMar DeRozan this goes under good stuff. If you’re not? File it under bad. He’s so fun to watch. Such a slick operator getting to his spots, and genius use of footwork to snake through doubles, the paint – wherever. He’s a throwback in the best way possible.

The bad

The late game offense wanted to fall to nobody. The Raptors battled in their way, the possession battle, and came out with 3 more possessions than the Bulls in the last 5 minutes, but the shot creation was lacking severely. Siakam, in the midst of his worst shooting performance in some time, and the Bulls defenders with freedom to swipe across him. Anunoby was a major positive, but his two baskets came off a dump down for a dunk, and an offensive rebound – not exactly something you can set your watch too. Trent Jr. was in the midst of exactly the type of game that would’ve made you comfortable with rolling the dice on jumpers down the stretch, but he got his second technical and got thrown out. Barnes went 1-3 from the floor and his make was a really nice take over DeRozan, but he couldn’t generate downhill looks in the halfcourt. This game needed a VanVleet something fierce.

This is the second game in a row where the Raptors have underperformed their offensive rebounding talent. 2 games don’t make a trend, but it’s something to watch for. VanVleet’s shooting woes preceded his knee flare up, the lower ORB numbers could be a small indicator of fatigue. No takes from me, just something to track.

And more than anything, the Raptors lost a gettable game. This wasn’t like the Blazers game where they hit the crazy shots then found themselves down 4. They took the lead with a dump down to Anunoby, and they had a real shot to grind out a win in Chicago against the 2 seed.

Tough stuff.

Have a blessed day.

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