|O. Anunoby38 MIN, 18 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST, 3 STL, 5-12 FG, 2-5 3FG, 6-7 FT, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 9 +/-|
OG was frustrating to watch until the fourth quarter. Like we have seen before, he looked robotic when trying to create for himself but was spectacular in a 3&D role. He was instrumental in the team’s strong fourth quarter, knocking down momentum swinging triples and being a nuisance to Mitchell late. He may not be what he think he is, but OG is elite in the role we’ve seen him grow into over the years.
|S. Barnes32 MIN, 15 PTS, 3 REB, 7 AST, 2 STL, 7-14 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 3 TO, 20 +/-|
Our Rookie of the Year may have heard the criticisms on social media about his submissive play during the preseason. Early on, Scottie refused to concede possessions and actively seeked out opportunities. Though it rattled out and he did not actually create any space, the one possession in the corner where he showcased a noticeably more confident handle was exciting. Held back by foul trouble and a few errors that can be chalked up to youthful exuberance, Scottie exploded on both sides of the ball late in the game. Whether it was a contested bucket at the rim, an assist to an open three or an offensive rebound, Scottie brought it!
|P. Siakam34 MIN, 23 PTS, 11 REB, 1 AST, 3 STL, 9-20 FG, 1-3 3FG, 4-8 FT, 0 BLK, 4 TO, -1 +/-|
Pascal was everything we needed him to be tonight. The efficiency was not where you would like it to be but that was to be expected going up against Cleveland’s nightmarish length. Despite this, Pascal was our strongest player in isolation and did not back down even when he was not getting calls. The best part of Pascal’s performance was his rebounding. It’s one thing to save your energy for the offensive side, but it’s a completely different thing to bring it on both ends.
|G. Trent Jr.37 MIN, 19 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 5-12 FG, 4-8 3FG, 5-7 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 3 +/-|
While Gary was targeted on defense for most of the evening, his shooting is gold on a team that struggles to knock down jumpers. Like in the playoff series against Philly, Trent displayed a knack for finding us a bucket when the offense goes stagnant. When Cleveland erased an 11-point deficit to go up by two points, Gary created his own look on the following possession and got an and-1. Late in the contest, he knocked down a huge corner three to begin the fourth quarter and then capped the night with another three to put Toronto up four with two minutes left.
|F. VanVleet39 MIN, 15 PTS, 2 REB, 5 AST, 4 STL, 4-9 FG, 3-6 3FG, 4-4 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 7 +/-|
This was one of the best Fred VanVleet games we have seen in quite some time. He likely has felt like this since the beginning but Freddie played tonight like he no longer worries about filling the shoes of Kyle Lowry. Fred let the offense come to him early and made timely game-winning plays on offense and defense. On a team that has multiple weapons, this is the VanVleet we will need all season.
|P. Achiuwa18 MIN, 10 PTS, 5 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 4-11 FG, 1-4 3FG, 1-2 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -4 +/-|
Precious stumbled out of the gate on both sides of the ball. An airball from the top of the arc foreshadowed what eventually turned into a rough evening. Raptors fans – myself included – will push the MIP agenda but those moments that pop on the television screen that Precious often produces were non-existent tonight. Can Precious find a way to play free but also be a stabilizing presence for the bench unit?
|C. Koloko15 MIN, 3 PTS, 6 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-4 FG, 0-0 3FG, 1-2 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 3 +/-|
The new kid on the block had an impressive showing in his professional debut. Defensively, Koloko flashed in moments, particularly in the first half when he forced Evan Mobley to give up the ball in single coverage. His play earned him the right to be the first player off the bench in the second half. It was a small sample size but his defense against LeVert on the perimeter was special. I also enjoyed seeing him disrupt Cleveland’s offense up top whenever they tried to run something through Mobley, Allen, or Love. His length will be more noticeable against teams that don’t have Cleveland’s bigs.
|D. Banton09 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 0 STL, 0-1 FG, 0-1 3FG, 2-2 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-|
Dalano has the inside track on the backup point guard minutes and while he had a promising preseason, Nurse went to what he knew and still played Fred VanVleet 39 minutes. The Canadian sophomore can unlock additional playing time by establishing himself as a weapon in the halfcourt. As usual, his defense was stellar at all three levels.
|T. Young11 MIN, 3 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 1-3 FG, 1-2 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -14 +/-|
Things looked great early when he knocked down a corner three seconds after checking into the game, but Cleveland quickly reminded us how Thad’s limitations hurt a team that struggles to shoot from deep. The Cavs happily conceded those corner threes to Thad despite the vet knocking down the first one. There was also a possession in the first half during which the Cavs basically turned their back on Thad who was open at the top of the wing, only for him to pass it to Scottie on the block. He’ll have trouble fending off Otto Porter Jr. if the newcomer can knock down those corner shots like Cedi Osman did.
|J. Hernangomez07 MIN, 0 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 1 STL, 0-0 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -8 +/-|
Outside of the one possession he dug down to help on penetration to force a Cleveland turnover, Jauncho was invisible on the court. In his defense, the ball didn’t find him very often but it’s not a coincidence he didn’t make it to the floor in the second half.
Nick continues to concede the corner three. But he countered our frustration by attacking Kevin Love and Cedi Osman. He also realized he had to turn to Koloko early in the second half instead of going with the familiar option in Precious. While Raptors fans may not always believe in his offense and defensive philosophies, he does a great job of distributing opportunities between his five capable starters.
Things We Saw
- The bench continues to be an issue for this team. There isn’t a reliable source of scoring that most playoff teams can turn to. The defense can only carry us for so long. On nights when the defense isn’t there, it could be challenging.
- A playoff series between these two teams would turn into a nail-bitting classic. Sign me up!
- Raptors basketball is back! While we’ll continue to nitpick and overanalyze tonight’s game, my journalism professor reminded me to take a step back and chill. Back in early September, the first basketball conversation I ever had with him was about Donovan Mitchell’s advanced stats in isolation, and it was cool to see that come into play tonight. But today, he told me that regardless of tonight’s outcome, it is only the first game of 82. It’s going to be a long and fun season and we should enjoy the rollercoaster ride of a campaign. You saved me from having a heart attack tonight, so thanks Blake!