Morning Coffee – Thu, Feb 10

Raptors beat Thunder for 7th win in a row | TRADE DEADLINE DAY LFG!!!

10 things: Siakam dominates as Raptors earn neat and tidy win over Thunder – Sportsnet

Two — Pascal Siakam dominated the Thunder in every way imaginable. He finished the half with 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and one of the three misses was on a drive to the rim where he picked up his dribble outside of the three-point arc, used two long strides and his reach to get to the basket, before flipping the shot high off the backboard to himself with the intention of beating his man on the putback. Siakam’s whole night was one long highlight reel, with other highlights to include a spin move in transition which got him past two defenders — both his own man and the help defender at the rim — before finishing the scoop layup with his left hand. Siakam also grabbed 15 rebounds which is yet another sign of his endless motor. Despite playing 40 minutes, he showed no signs of exhaustion, nor any let-up in focus.

Raptors win again, but lack of depth remains visible on eve of trade deadline – Sportsnet

The Raptors led 34-22 after 12 minutes and were shooting 68.4 per cent from the floor in no small part because Siakam was 7-of-8.

“Just being aggressive I think that’s pretty much you know, kind of like my mindset,” said Siakam. “Just being aggressive, attacking gaps taking whatever the defence gives me, seeing lanes, and when it collapses you know, make the right play.”

Toronto slipped a little bit in the second quarter, especially in the final minutes when the Raptors got sloppy with the ball as they fumbled away seven turnovers that the Thunder were able to turn into 11 points.

The Raptors led by as much as 16 midway through the period but consecutive turnovers by VanVleet and OG Anunoby helped spark a 9-0 run just before halftime that was quelled by a Trent Jr. triple on the Raptors last possession.

It wasn’t a perfect first half, but the Raptors were good enough for long enough stretches that they led 59-51 to start the second half.

Not surprisingly it was VanVleet who made sure Toronto set the proper tone from there. After Dort hit a quick jumper to start the second half and cut the Raptors’ lead to seven, VanVleet hit two quick triples, stepped into a jumper and then hit a third triple to push Toronto’s lead to 17 midway through the third.

The Raptors’ urgency waned at times. The Thunder have the league’s most anemic offence on the season and struggle even more without Gilgeous-Alexander in the lineup, so it was understandably tempting.

But Toronto held the Thunder to 39 per cent shooting through three quarters, enjoyed an 87-72 lead to start the fourth and were able to coast home from there.

“I’ve been saying this to you guys all year,” said Nurse. “It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing. We’ve got to go play well. And we’ve got a chance to beat anybody… [So] we’re just trying to zero in on continuing to polish up some of the things that we’ve been doing and be who we are.”

They’ll get another chance to have their resolve tested against the Houston Rockets Thursday night, the last-place team in the West.

Thunder vs. Raptors: OKC loses a 19-point NBA decision to Toronto – Oklahoman

Pascal Siakam sent a message early: the Thunder was too small.

The Raptors center bullied his way to 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting in the first half. All but one of his makes came in the paint.

“They’re bigger and more athletic at this point than we are, but we always talk about the difference between strength and physicality,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “Physicality is a choice, and I thought we left something to be desired there to start the game.”

Twice in the first quarter, OG Anunoby muscled his way to the basket against Thunder rookie Josh Giddey.

The Raptors aren’t wide, but they’re long. They sometimes play positionless lineups with nothing but limbs spanning the court. Siakam, for example, isn’t a center in the traditional sense. He’s a versatile menace on both ends of the floor.

The Thunder shut Siakam down in the second half, but then Raptors guards Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. torched the nets in the third quarter for a combined 20 points.

Toronto topped Oklahoma City 117-98 Wednesday night at Paycom Center. It was payback, as the Thunder won up north earlier in the season.

“Good lesson for us,” Daigneault said, “because you can’t really counterpunch that team, especially with how well they’re playing.”

OKC Thunder can not survive swarming Raptors, 117-98 – Thunderous Intentions

The Oklahoma City Thunder saw Josh Giddey post 13 points, haul in nine rebounds, dish out six assists, and swipe a steal all while shooting 54-percent from the floor, and 1-for-4 from the three-point line. The sixth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft logged 28-minutes in this game after Mark Daigneault explained to the media he would be receiving fewer minutes due to the massive workload he went under in the early stages of the season for a guard that has never played in this long of a season. His rookie counterpart Scottie Barnes logged 31-minutes for Nick Nurse in tonight’s contest.

Giddey’s Rookie teammate Tre Mann did not find much success going 0-for-5 from the floor scoring two points, four rebounds, and delivering a pair of assets. Aleksej Pokusevski, the second-year project forward, had the best game of his season in 30-minutes shooting 77-percent from the floor, 4-for-5 from three-point land, four rebounds, four steals, an assist, two blocks, on his way to 18-points.

Theo Maledon, also selected in the 2020 NBA Draft, delivers 18-points, three assists, and two rebounds off the bench getting more burn due to Josh Giddey’s sudo minute restriction.

The Raptors grew a 21 point lead, seeing this game tied once, and only a pair of lead changes in the entire contest. The two teams tied on the glass, Toronto had one less turnover, shot better from all three phases, and more points in the paint.

Recap: Toronto Raptors quiet Oklahoma City Thunder 117-98, earn 7th straight win – Raptors HQ

OG Anunoby opened the second quarter with a three-pointer to push the lead to 15. Back-to-back threes from Ty Jerome cut it back to 9, but the Raptors responded with an 11-2 run of their own, one that included Siakam tossing a ball to himself off the backboard for a layup, a Scottie Barnes-and-1, and a Gary Trent Jr. steal-and-dunk.

But a 9-0 Thunder run kept them in it, only a GTJ three provided the 59-51 halftime margin

Darius Bazley had a couple of slick jams and led the Thunder in scoring at the half with 12.

Fred VanVleet scored the Raps’ first eight points of the third, pushing the lead to 11; he scored 11 himself in the frame.

Siakam and VanVleet also busted out what is quickly becoming a favourite — and effective — play, Siakam streaking into the front court to put pressure on the defense, then dropping the lateral pass to VanVleet, open from distance:

’Tis a thing of beauty!

Meanwhile after a couple of Barnes free throws (the Raptors were a perfect 14-for-14 from the line tonight!), Anunoby scored a three — and then Barnes used the same pitch-back play from earlier, to find VanVleet for another three, giving the the Raps their largest lead, 77-60.

Poku scored five straight to keep the Thunder hanging around, but GTJ responded with five straight of his own, and the Raptors finished the third quarter with an 87-72 lead. They also had the advantage of this nightmare Thunder possession with 45 seconds to go in the quarter:

The Thunder never got closer than 14 in the fourth, and the Raptors led by as much as 21. Nurse finally felt comfortable enough to pull his starters with 1:47 to go; amazingly, no one cracked 40 minutes, and VanVleet played a relatively light 36.

Raptors starters aren’t pretty on offence, but their meanness makes up for it – The Athletic

There has to be a little methodology to it, though. Siakam is the most developed of the Raptors’ three big wings at this. Kenrich Williams is one of the few Thunder players with the strength to hold off one of the big Raptors’ wings. As soon as the help sagged, Siakam, who excels at recognizing offensive opportunities, whipped a pass to Anunoby.

But Anunoby’s development as a primary offensive threat has been hit or miss this season. Coming into Wednesday’s games, the Raptors were scoring just 0.84 points per possession on his post-up finishing attempts, putting him in the 28th percentile. The Raptors’ efficiency goes up a bit when he passes out of double-teams, but it’s still not a bankable look for the team.

Anunoby’s footwork is not consistent, but he clearly has the skills to make it a strength. He gave Pokusevski a lovely reverse layup from the block, and his passing, while a bit mechanical, is improving. His usage rate is the highest of his career and so is his assist percentage. Meanwhile, his turnover percentage is at the lowest mark of his career. He’s still not a high-volume playmaker for others, but he is doing more of it than ever without making more mistakes. That’s impressive.

“There are a lot of little things that go into it — really working on him just getting good position before he even gets the ball,” Nurse said. “He can seal (his man down low), he can get (advantageous) angles and he can get some deep catches, which is obviously where we want to get it. He’s seeing a lot of double-teams and help and things, he’s doing OK at those, getting better.

“And he’s got enough of a face-up game, too. If he can’t make any headway towards the lane, he can take the step-back a little bit. He’s got a lot going on there, a lot of things to work on, but I think it’s growing.”

The Thunder are arguably the most exploitable in the post. The Raptors’ size and strength are potential weapons, which is why adding another strong shooter, preferably with some secondary playmaking skills, should be their priority before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. The more space that the Raptors can create on the court, the more aggressive their three stud forwards can be to their primary defenders.

Make that seven straight wins for the Raptors with NBA trade deadline clock ticking | The Star

Siakam was the most effective — he led the Raptors with 26 points and scorched Pokuševski repeatedly — but all five starters scored at least 16 points in another share-the-responsibility performance across the board.

Fred VanVleet — bound for the NBA all-star game and three-point contest — made another six threes as part of a 21-point night, while Barnes had 17 points, Gary Trent Jr. had 16 and Anunoby finished with 15.

It’s that they can find mismatches to exploit that makes the offence most effective in halfcourt sets. Causing defences to double-team and rotate creates space for drive-and-kick action with open shooters camped on the perimeter.

The Raptors needed a highly efficient offensive game because they certainly weren’t sharp defensivel against a Thunder team missing its leader in injured guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

“It wasn’t a defensive work of art tonight by any stretch of the imagination, but I mean, I’m realistic enough to know that that happens during the course of a season,” Nurse said.

Oklahoma City repeatedly got open looks outside the three-point line but couldn’t knock them down, saving Toronto from its own so-so performance.

The Raptors are now 17-6 since New Year’s Eve and are among the five hottest teams in the league with the trade deadline coming Thursday afternoon, and the all-star break at the end of next week.

Red-hot Raptors keep rolling with decisive win over Thunder | Toronto Sun

Wednesday’s tip wasn’t exactly a physical affair. In fact, the only times OKC threatened the visitors was when the Thunder created a quicker pace. OKC has no post game to speak of, a finesse team that is very susceptible on the block.

Mid-way through the fourth quarter, head coach Nick Nurse had Dalano Banton at the point with VanVleet getting a well-deserved break. When all-star Freddy re-entered, the Raptors were leading by 17 points.

Siakam handled the ball a lot because no one could match up with him, going 36 minutes before he committed his first turnover. Decisive, aggressive and assertive, Siakam was once again very good.

On his errant pass, he tried making a cross-court pass on the run with a defender on his hip. He made a deft pass in transition to a diving Barnes, who scored off glass in a classic break.

He then took his man off the dribble with the Thunder in a zone to score on an easy layup.

Nurse liked the adjustment Siakam made in the second half.

“He faced up more,’’ the coach said. “There was so much traffic when he would spin dribble. He had to get it out or score over the top.

“It was a good learning experience. He keeps doing it right over the course of a game.”

Raptors shop for trade deadline fits, on and off the court | The Star

So for Webster and Ujiri, it’s the “kind” of person the Raptors acquire that’s vital. The group they’ve got works well together, gets along well together and shouldn’t be disrupted by personalities that may not mesh.

“In talking to the players, they really believe in themselves. They believe in this team, they’re happy with the growth,” Webster said. “I think they’re getting more comfortable playing with each other, and that’s a credit obviously to (coach Nick Nurse) and that group kind of figuring it out here.

“As soon as you zoom back and kind of take the one-, two-, three-year kind of picture, that hasn’t changed for us.”

The Raptors have had great success with significant mid-season deals.

The acquisition of Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2019 propelled them to a championship and galvanized the group, and bringing in Gary Trent Jr. (from the Portland Trail Blazers) to a losing situation a year ago worked out because he seems to have melded well with this collection of men and women.

It will be a big part of whatever Webster and Ujiri pull off.

“I think because of that (history) we can go in eyes wide open as far as: This may look great on paper, this may look great in all the conversations about who the player is, but it’s going to take time to work it together,” Webster said. “No different than it’s taken 30, 40 games for this team to kind of figure it out.

“So I think we go in understanding there’s not a perfect player or a perfect match, and I think that’s been helpful for us over the years to understand what that looks like.”

Wednesday unfolded typically for the Raptors and around the league. A deadline always ramps up pressure to get something done. Calls and contact between teams comes more quickly and with more urgency.

For the Raptors, one of the hottest teams in the league right now, finding a way to add talent but not diminish chemistry and still build for the future is paramount.

Charles Oakley 20 Questions: On Tim Hortons, his love of Toronto and the worst cook he ever played with – The Athletic

10. What might the Raptors have accomplished if Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady stayed together?

I think they definitely could have made it to the Finals. Maybe won a championship. Those two guys, such great talent. I think Vince put the city on his back, on the map. Probably got more kids interested in playing basketball when a lot of people weren’t playing basketball at a high level. You see a lot of pros coming out of Toronto, now, to the NBA. He brought a creation there, and gave kids hope.

11. What did you mean when you told reporters that, when you arrived in Toronto you told teammates “this is a job, not a daycare centre?”

It’s showing that, “Hey, you’ve got to come to work, bring your hard hat and let the fans know we’re together at all times.” I know a lot of people said they didn’t want to come because of the taxes, and this and that. But once we got there, guys put all that beside. When the fans came to the game, they saw good, intelligent court play. We didn’t let teams come in and try to regulate us. Because we were in Canada, we let them know, “You come here, it’s going to be a rough night.”

12. You write the game is softer than when you played: As a spectator, do you like it more, or less?

I try to watch it. It’s not just softness. It’s a lot of the stuff that goes on in the game. Teams doing stuff that other teams are doing, and they don’t have their own identity. You’ve got to have your own identity. You’ve got to get your own way of playing with the players on your team.

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