It’s Game One of the “maybe everything’s going to be okay” schedule for the Toronto Raptors whilst without Pascal.
(Seriously, all this slipping in Dallas is a liability issue the NBA should investigate. Pascal went down. Against Brooklyn, Christian Wood and Tim Hardaway Jr. also slipped and hurt themselves. Mavericks? More like Mavslicks).
The b2b Bulls games were test runs for the Raptors. Not so pretty test runs; they should be darn happy to start 1-1 sans Pascal.
No more mucking about.
Are the Raps forreal or not?
It takes time to adjust to the loss of a Superstar responsible for so much of a team’s success at both ends. That’s fair. But for all the hubbub of internal development and growth (I am so a part of this narrative by the way), these next four games against Houston, Indiana, Oklahoma City, and Detroit, are the kind of games demonstrating they are, indeed, developing and growing – at least, at a rate expected of them.
As Lou Zatsman said the other night on the Rap Up, the Pascal-less Raptors, so far, basically look like the 2021 Pascal-less Raptors: Muck and Chuck with a dusting of Freddy Magic.
That wasn’t a sustainable recipe last year, and I don’t think it’s going to be much of one this year either – even though Koloko and Otto Porter Jr. provide more mucking potential.
Someone, not named Freddy Double V, must also step into the playmaking, attacking, defence-disturbing void Pascal left. If not, it could be a rocky 2-3 weeks and Freddy may not live to see Hannukah – which, according to Kyrie Irving, might be primarily celebrated somewhere deep in the Congo (lol, sorry, I had to).
This game is such a classic one for Toronto to let slip: a crud opponent, amidst a cramped schedule (5 games in 7 nights) with a few bumps and bruises down the roster. And, yet, these are exactly the games Toronto needs to capture to contend in the East. No more excuses for being the Young and Unfocussed. They are too talented and too deep to not walk on the floor and eviscerate lesser opponents.
The Rockets, thus far in the early season, are 26th in offence and 28th in defence. To Toronto’s greedy delight, they turn the ball over a lot and shoot quite poorly (though, just as bad as Toronto….). Look for Toronto to pressure the likes of Jalen Green (48th in TOs) and Kevin Porter Jr. (2nd in TOs) who, together, are responsible for over 50% of the team’s usage rate.
Careful, though, the Raptors must be. Houston is sneakily 2nd in offensive rebounding percentage rate, a solid transition team, and a mediocre 3-point shooting group. Pushing Houston and the pace of the game into the realm of chaos should be the game plan, but Houston can thrive there too. They get a sniff of confidence and that precarious gamble with entropy becomes all the more uncontrollable.
For those of you who may not watch Houston on a nightly basis, keep an eye out for the following:
- Sophomore, Alperen Şengün – who has come alive in the past 6 games – and his dazzling footwork and passing.
- Rookie Jabari Smith Jr., who has not played well of late, but is a 6’11”, three-point shooting, defensively versatile center (!?) AKA a Masai fantasy.
- Rookie Tari Eason – he might be the Herb Jones of this draft – a roaming, tough, defensive predator shooting 50% on two 3-point attempts/game AKA a Masai fantasy.
Tip-Off: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: SportsNet 590
Pascal Siakam (groin) and Khem Birch (knee soreness) are out.
PG: Fred VanVleet, Dalano Banton, Malachi Flynn
SG: Gary Trent Jr.
SF: O.G. Anunoby, Otto Porter Jr, Thaddeus Young
PF: Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher, Juancho Hernangomez
C: Christian Koloko, Precious Achiuwa
Jae’Sean Tate (ankle) and Bruno Fernando (knee) are out.
PG: Kevin Porter Jr., Daishen Nix, TyTy Washington Jr., Trevor Hudgins
SG: Jalen Green, Eric Gordon, Garrison Mathews, Josh Christopher
SF: Kenyon Martin Jr., Tari Eason
PF: Alperen Şengün, Usman Garuba
C: Jabari Smith Jr., Boban Marjanović, Darius Days
Moneyline: Toronto -382; Houston +312
Spread: Toronto -9
I’m going Toronto Toronto Over. Why? ‘Cause I’m going to be terribly bummed out if the Raps don’t rampage the Rockets.
One must will it with the karma of financial dedication. (This is totally not true and do not bet unless you are comfortable doing so on your own accord).
Be safe, friends.