Friday’s game was as good as preseason gets.
21,000 fans going loco for the Raptors first appearance in Montreal since 2018, where tickets sold out in two hours. An entertaining finish that needed overtime for the second time in five preseason games, both against the same opponent (that has to be a record, right?). 271 total points. Two of the most popular Raptors having a game, something many fans were waiting for. Hell, even the refs made sure they were noticed.
Let’s break it down further.
O.G. is the OG
O.G. Anunoby was handed the keys to the offence for the Raptors with Pascal Siakam (rest) and Gary Trent Jr. (knee tightness) out of the starting lineup. He responded with 20 of Toronto’s 35 points in the first quarter. Some of it came in isolation, just making things happen with strong drives in traffic. Fred VanVleet in particular got Anunoby some open looks from three, where he made his first four attempts. O.G. had gone 0-9 from three over the last three games, as the Raptors shot 24 percent overall during the preseason. So it was nice to see those looks fall.
Anunoby also mixed in a couple of spectacular defensive plays, one in particular where he recovered from halfcourt to swat Grant Williams’ corner three out of bounds. Boston made a living from there (especially Derrick White) for most of the game. That’s nothing new, as Louis covered in detail a few days ago.
Anunoby’s final line: 32 points (13-21 FG), six boards and two blocks. He’s ready for the games to count.
#4 is back!
If there was a pie chart for fans worries (those who were) during this preseason, Scottie Barnes probably owned 80 percent of that. Then it was revealed that the reigning rookie of the year had been dealing with an ankle injury.
4 put all (I hope) worries to bed.
He spent the majority of the first half finding his shot, knocking down some midrange shots and two threes in the process. The second half featured Scottie attacking downhill – a lot. Three different times I wrote a note that a particular play was my favourite from Barnes in this game.
#1 – First Raptors possession of the third quarter. Scottie takes a dribble handoff from O.G, right to left crossover on Jayson Tatum to get by him and finishes.
#2 – Late third. Barnes in transition goes full steam at Payton Pritchard, then slows down with two long eurosteps for a floater off the glass.
#3 – I don’t have to describe this one.
What I loved most was how hyped up Scottie was after that move. It seemed like his “don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years…” (well just one year) moment.
Barnes finished with 25 points, four boards and four assists.
“That to me just looked different than its looked. He seemed really hesitant to pull the trigger earlier this year (preseason), turned down a lot of stuff, didn’t attack much. I loved some of his drives, I thought he really attacked the rim hard.” Nick Nurse said about Scottie postgame.
I’m in love with Koloko
(we got him for the low low)
It’s going to be fun watching Christian Koloko’s development this season. He made all six of his field goal attempts, ranging from dunks/lobs to a deep hook shot over Al Horford who had pushed him off the block.
Lots of little things too from Koloko such as denying Marcus Smart a lane to the rim, blocking an awkward shot. Tipping out an offensive rebound that led to one of Anunoby threes.
His mobility has been a topic of discussion since summer league. The first play below sparked a technical foul from the Raptors bench for stepping on the court (more on the refs later). The second one saw Koloko rotate from the three point line to deny Grant Williams.
Koloko was asked what he has learned about his game over the preseason.
“I need to foul less,” Koloko laughed.
The rook did foul out in 17 minutes, but Ben Simmons accomplished the same in feat in 12 on the same night against the Timberwolves. Part of the process.
A 19 point comeback wasn’t needed this time. Shoutout to the Montreal crowd bringing playoff-like atmosphere, which drew praise from Barnes, Nurse and Koloko afterwards.
The Raptors final field goal was glorious, as Precious Achiuwa slips on a Spain action, leading to a lob from Dalano Banton.
It’s fitting that Dalano is the one to run the play, as Nurse has credited Banton all preseason for taking more control of the offence when he is in the game and executing sets.
Back to the ref show. Simply put, the new rule of calling techs if bench players take a step on the court or standing the whole time is a vibe killer. The examples in the preseason have all come far away from the action.
Then… what was this?
Montreal didn’t get to see Chris Boucher (non covid illness), but Khem Birch started in his hometown. Nurse mentioned that Birch had been clamouring for more minutes and opportunity. Birch had four points and four boards in 14 minutes.
Justin Champagnie won the roster spot battle. Josh Jackson, D.J. Wilson and Gabe Brown were cut shortly after the game. This wasn’t a surprise after Champagnie played 25 minutes on Friday, compared to Jackson’s 11 and Wilson/Brown’s zero.
Cleveland on Wednesday. The games matter now!