My Holiday Sing-Along Party is happening Dec 6 at @TheDanforthMH! Proceeds benefit @MLSEFoundation & The Special Olympics Canada. Live Nation PRESALE Thursday at 10 AM w/ Password Headline. Public Sale Friday at 10 AM! @LiveNationCmdy @Raptors @TSN_Sports @sobeys @ComedyRecords pic.twitter.com/LI3mvbdOVz
— HelloooJack (@HelloooJack) November 1, 2022
One — This was a complete letdown performance by the Raptors from start to finish, and it mostly boiled down to the lack of effort on defence. The Thunder, whose roster resembles that of an undergrad classroom, finished with 70 points in the paint and had eight players score in double digits. Not a single Raptors player could keep their man in front of them, and the rotations in behind either came too late, or were non-existent. This was such an out-of-character performance by a team that identifies and prides itself on defence, and it leads one to question if something is afflicting them behind the scenes. Fred VanVleet left the game early with a non-COVID illness, which might explain the total lack of energy by the team in what should have been a competitive contest.
In the second quarter, Barnes just watched a defensive rebound bounce over his head. He looked to be caught flat-footed and did not move to go get it.
It’s unclear whether he could have gotten the ball if he had made the effort. Maybe it just would have put the Raptors further out of position, not that it mattered — the Thunder got an easy bucket off the second chance anyway. Still, it’s a bad look for a team that has to be defined by its effort.
The Thunder outworked the Raptors from the jump Friday, and Barnes’ performance exemplified all of that. It’s not that Barnes was necessarily bad to start, but he was kind of just … there. He was flat. If there has been a reason to criticize Barnes in his young career, it has been that. Even when he’s playing well, he often takes a while to get going, to get into the middle of the action.
He does not have the luxury to feel things out right now. Without the injured Pascal Siakam, the Raptors need Barnes to be assertive from the tip. He’s clearly capable of playing with purpose. Barnes wasn’t always very good in the second half of this one, but he was aggressive: attacking an advantageous matchup against Josh Giddey repeatedly, hitting the glass hard, zipping some passes around the court and putting legitimate pressure on the ball. Not all of the activity was executed perfectly, but it was preferable to his previous passivity.
Barnes has deferred way too much to VanVleet to start games since Siakam’s injury. It’s telling that his best recent performance was in the game when Siakam got hurt. VanVleet was still absent because of his back injury, and Barnes had no choice but to take control of the team in the fourth quarter against Dallas. After three bad frames, he ended with a triple-double.
Maybe the answer is involving Barnes in two-man actions with VanVleet, in both possible ballhandler/screener combinations. Regardless, with Siakam out, Barnes has to identify this moment for what it is. The Raptors need four quarters of Barnes’ aggressiveness.
Oklahoma City used a 41-point second quarter to put the Raptors into a double-digit hole, one they simply couldn’t climb out of. Though the Raptors had some moments on offense in the third, they couldn’t get any stops — and OKC used a 13-4 run partway through the fourth to put the game away for good.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 20 for the Thunder, and his Team Canada partner Lu Dort added 13 points and 7 boards. But two-way player Eugene Omoruyi stole the show, scoring 22 points on 8-for-10 shooting.
How bad was Toronto’s D? Eight Thunder players scored in double-figures, and the team shot 56% from the floor and 41% from downtown. Remember, this is a team that is deliberately designed to lose games. And the Raptors looked like chumps against them,
Chris Boucher led the Raptors with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Fred VanVleet scored 15 for the Raptors before leaving the game with a non-COVID illness; Scottie Barnes had 15 as well, and O.G. Anunoby had 13 points and 2 steals.
The Raptors didn’t look great in the first quarter, but forced enough turnovers to keep the score within five. But the Thunder settled in in the second frame, and the Raptors pretty much checked out. Five of OKC’s first seven buckets in the second quarter came on dunks and layups (and the other two were threes) as they raced out to a 47-36 lead. They didn’t let up, either, eventually taking a 15-point lead — and they did it all with their reserves! SGA and Dort sat out the first eight minutes of the frame as Mark Daigneault let his bench have their way with the Raptors. The lead ballooned to 59-42 before an exasperated Nick Nurse finally called timeout.
The Raptors gave up 70 points in the first half; only three Gary Trent Jr. free throws right before the halftime buzzer kept the deficit a respectable 14.
The Raptors really missed Pascal Siakam on both ends tonight. He’s an anchor on defense, a fleet-footed trapping big who helps Anunoby and VanVleet cause headaches on the perimeter; without him, and with Barnes struggling defensively, guys like SGA can get wherever they want to go.
And offensively? Forget it. With only Fred left as a comfortable creator — again, Barnes only has it in spurts right now — when he’s locked down by an opposing guard like Lu Dort, the Raptors resort to even more dribbling and isolation ball, with no movement. Long jumpers deep into the clock ensue — low percentage looks that the Raptors aren’t built for.
The defence rests
It was a wire-to-wire beatdown and Toronto’s worst defensive effort this season. The Raptors didn’t match Oklahoma City’s physicality, were slow to get out to guard corner threes after failing to stop dribble-penetration, and just didn’t play to their identity or capabilities.
The Thunder shot 65 per cent from the floor in the first half — and that included a 41-point second quarter — as the Raptors offered little more than token resistance.
Toronto fell to 7-6 on the season, and this was just the opener of a three-games-in-four-nights road trip that continues Saturday in Indianapolis.
They need more from many
Down an all-star in Pascal Siakam and missing a key bench piece in Precious Achiuwa, the Raptors can’t afford lacklustre performances from their key pieces.
But Scottie Barnes, with the exception of a brief flurry to start the second half, had no impact when the game was in doubt, and Gary Trent Jr. had a so-so game.
Barnes finished with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting and Trent had 12 points on only 10 shots.
Thunder forward Eugene Omoruyi goes up against Raptors forward Chris Boucher in the second half Friday in Oklahoma City. Omoruyi had a career-high 22 points off the bench.
First quarters have been troubling of late for the Raptors and that trend continued Friday. They allowed 29 first-quarter points on nearly 70 per cent shooting from the field by the Thunder and trailed by five points after 12 minutes.
It was the first time in six games that the Raptors hadn’t given up 30 in a first quarter but it didn’t really matter because Toronto was playing from behind from the start, as they have in each of their last five games.
If the plan had been to impress Gilgeous-Alexander, Friday’s 132-113 loss to the Thunder did exactly the opposite.
The Raptors have developed a bad habit over the past couple of seasons of playing down to their opponents’ supposed talent level. Last season, for example, Toronto split two games with the Thunder, dropped a game to the Orlando Magic, and lost three straight to the lowly Detroit Pistons. Friday was no different.
Toronto came out completely flat in the first half. Scottie Barnes looked out of sorts, taking bad pull-up jumpers and awkward fallaway post-ups while looking lost on the defensive end. The Thunder, meanwhile, shredded Toronto’s lackadaisical defense, scoring 42 points in the paint as they jumped ahead by as many as 19 points in the second quarter.
Barnes looked a little better in the second half, finally getting into the paint and converting a trio of free throws. But it didn’t get much better than that.
Gilgeous-Alexander continued to light up the scoreboard with 20 points in just 28 minutes despite Toronto giving him the superstar defensive treatment. He opened the game with the first bucket of the evening, picking off a no-look pass from Barnes and taking it the other way for a layup. Later, he beat O.G. Anunoby with his hesitation move in the second quarter, zig-zagging his way through the Raptors’ defense before nailing a floater off the backboard.
Fellow Canadians Luguentz Dort and Eugene Omoruyi didn’t disappoint either as Dort nailed a trio of three-pointers for 13 points while Omoruyi had a career-high 22 points in his third year out of Oregon.
The Thunder, coming off a tough-to-swallow double overtime loss Wednesday to Milwaukee, which they seemed to have locked down in the win column, were flat out hungrier on this night and showed it in a 132-113 thumping of the visiting Raptors.
“We didn’t put up much resistance at the point of guarding the ball out front and then obviously at the end of it,” head coach Nick Nurse said. “I think they got 70 points in the paint … We weren’t worth a darn on defence most of the night.”
Following a sloppy first-quarter when the two teams combined for 15 turnovers, nine by the hosts, the Thunder took control in the second quarter with a 41-point outburst.
The Thunder were getting to the rim with ease and once there, finding little to no push back. When they did meet resistance, they kicked it back out to open shooters as Luguentz Dort and Eugene Omoruyi bombed away.
The Thunder were shooting a robust 65% from the field for that first half and wound up with a 70-56 lead through two quarters because of it.
All five Thunder starters were in double digits in scoring by the end of the third quarter.
With another game on the docket Saturday night in Indianapolis, Nurse didn’t both playing any of his regular starters at all in the final frame. Rookie Christian Koloko who has been starting in place of the injured Pascal Siakam, was the lone exception.
He didn’t have much choice with point guard Fred VanVleet, who was taken out late in the third and did not return due to a non-COVID illness.
“We were just very disconnected and un-energetic tonight,” Nurse said.
Nurse admitted post-game that VanVleet might not have been the only Raptor feeling the effects of a bug, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse. The game set a new mark for points allowed in a game by the Raptors this season, easily breaking the old mark of 119 against Philadelphia and came within one of their worst halves when Miami scored 71 against them.