Like many people, the first thing that caught my eye looking at the Raptors schedule were the first seven games in October. All against Eastern Conference opponents that at least made the play-in tournament in April. Now in the rearview mirror, 4-3 is a passing grade for most fans.
What wasn’t expected was Toronto visiting a 5-2 San Antonio team following that perceived gauntlet.
This is the first leg of a Texas two step that will see the Raptors play in Dallas on Friday before heading back to Toronto.
Raptors scope (4-3 | Offensive rating – 12th | Defensive rating – 10th)
We most likely won’t know Fred VanVleet’s status until near game time. If he doesn’t play, Scottie Barnes may be asked to run the point again. Barnes flourished with more offensive responsibilities vs the Hawks, putting up season-highs of 21 points (that included a career-best five threes) and eight assists. Scottie also played a key role in the Raptors defensive scheme against Trae Young.
Pascal Siakam’s playmaking role would also increase. He’s already the Raptors do everything guy, with a franchise record (and current NBA best stretch) of at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in six straight games. The fun MVP murmurs have echoed amongst some media and he got some of those chants from fans on Monday. Siakam is averaging career highs of 26.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg and 7.4 apg through seven contests.
Also, remember the 24 percent three point shooting that raised some eyebrows in the preseason? The Raptors rank eighth at a very respectable 38.1 mark. Is that sustainable with guys like Scottie and Chris Boucher making more than half their attempts? Maybe not. But Precious Achiuwa hasn’t found the mark yet at 22 percent so there’s still room to grow.
Spurs scope (5-2 | Offensive rating – 11th | Defensive rating – 22nd)
San Antonio and Utah have confused many so far. They were assumed to be the frontrunners to battle for Victor Wembanyama. Instead Gregg Popovich’s squad has already posted solid wins against the 76ers, Bulls and Timberwolves twice.
One thing that’s noticeable is the Spurs embracing the three point shot. This is something Pop has historically bristled against, as the Spurs have ranked bottom six in attempts over the last seven years. A couple of those seasons saw San Antonio rank dead last. These new look Spurs are hoisting over 36 threes a game, eighth most in the league and rank sixth in percentage (39.4).
Another observation is the rise of Keldon Johnson. He’s also questionable on the injury report but Johnson has excelled in his fourth season following the Dejounte Murray trade. Keldon was the first round pick the Raptors traded in the Kawhi Leonard deal (29th overall) averaging nearly 24 points, five boards and four assists with a 60.3 true shooting percentage. He’s leading the Spurs three point attack, making almost four a game at a 43.5 percent clip. Johnson was on the U.S. Olympic team in 2021 and could be in the conversation for Most Improved Player.
Update: Johnson has now been ruled out of this game
Can’t forget about Pascal’s old buddy Jakob Poeltl either. He’s rumoured to be on the trade block but is averaging a double double (14 pts, 11 reb) this season.
Tip-Off: 8pm EDT | TV: TSN 4/5 | Radio: TSN Radio 1050
Otto Porter (personal reasons) and Fred VanVleet (lower back stiffness) are both questionable. Otto hasn’t made his Raptors debut and Fred missed his first game of the season on Monday.
Update: Porter has been upgraded to probable. Good chance he makes his Raptors debut!
*probable lineup if Fred remains out, will update later*
PG: Scottie Barnes, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn, Jeff Dowtin Jr.
SG: Gary Trent Jr, Ron Harper Jr.
SF: O.G. Anunoby, Otto Porter Jr, Thaddeus Young, Justin Champagnie
PF: Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher, Juancho Hernangomez
C: Christian Koloko, Precious Achiuwa, Khem Birch
OUT: Devin Vassell (left knee soreness), Keldon Johnson (right calf tightness) Isaiah Roby (flu like symptoms) and Blake Wesley (MCL sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: Jeremy Sochan (flu like symptoms)
PG: Tre Jones
SG: Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, Malaki Branham
SF: Doug McDermott
PF: Keita Bates-Diop, Zach Collins
C: Jakob Poeltl, Gorgui Dieng
The Raptors are favoured by 6.5 points. Over/Under is at 224.