Dalano Banton tonight:
27 PTS (career high)
3 STL (career high)
Just his 2nd NBA start. pic.twitter.com/e5gk1jNTNd
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 15, 2022
thad young doing his best marc gasol impersonation pic.twitter.com/fvqa7mfD7l
— William Lou (@william_lou) November 15, 2022
Boucher last 3 games off the bench:
20 PTS | 4 REB
19 PTS | 7 REB
20 PTS | 12 REB
Leading the Raptors in scoring in that stretch. pic.twitter.com/Bwa7MAlwK5
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 15, 2022
THAT JUST HAPPENED 🤯 pic.twitter.com/4joqXZyFnt
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 15, 2022
Three — Banton had the best game of his career by some measure, finishing with 27 points while also adding in three steals and two blocks. Banton’s aggression was notable from the start, as his first basket was a fast break layup where he ripped down the rebound and beat three Pistons defenders in a race to the basket. He scored in a variety of ways, knocking down three triples off catch-and-shoot chances, wheeling away in transition, and by cutting behind the defence.
He built up enough confidence that in the fourth quarter, Banton was able to beat his man off the dribble for a floater, hustle back to poke away a steal that led to him finishing a layup, and then a lead timely drive where he was able to draw the second defender which freed up Scottie Barnes for the dunk. This is hardly a surprise to anyone who has seen Banton at the G-League level, but his aggression is always neutered when he is called up to play. The only way Banton becomes a consistent contributor is if he is aggressive, and his skillset is good enough to warrant more chances.
As much as the NBA, and the Raptors specifically, are bending toward so-called positionless basketball, we still get caught up in the old world. Two words fascinate us more than any other: point guard.
That’s part of the appeal of Scottie Barnes. For a player with that size to pass so well is a huge advantage because he can see over the defence in virtually every position. Even in a crowded pick-and-roll scenario, multiple passing lanes should be available to him.
The same goes for Dalano Banton, the lanky curiosity the Raptors took in the second round last year. The Raptors were clear that they saw him as a guy who could have his share of the ball rather than just operating as a defender on the wing. Much of Banton’s rookie year was devoted to making him a more traditional lead guard, especially when he was in the G League.
It might be time to back off the project. Coach Nick Nurse said he wants to get Banton off the ball more often, and you can see the wisdom in that. Banton has often been at his best this year with a more typical point guard playing beside him, as he was in scoring a career-high 27 points in Monday’s win.
In that sense, the development of his jumper has been crucial. Banton came into the game shooting just 33.3 percent from 3, but he has now connected on five over his last two games. You have to be a weapon when you don’t have the ball.
In one of the biggest possessions of the game, O.G. Anunoby, who had bullied his way to the bucket a few times, drove into the paint and drew help to close off the lane. Banton was the recipient of that attention and stepped into the shot. His motion looks a lot more streamlined than it did last year, and the playing time has obviously given him the confidence to take it.
Banton did make a few key plays as the ball-handler in half-court situations, including a sneaky leaner in the fourth quarter. However, Banton is at his best when he is hounding the ball on defence and getting out and running on offence. In transition, his handle and passing show much better than they do against a set defence.
Still, even the most transition-heavy teams in the league are going to play half-court situations about four out of every five possessions. The more ways a player can make himself useful, the better. Banton was already figuring it out as a cutter and offensive rebounder. A reliable shot would dramatically help him and the Raptors.
With his options limited, Nurse started Banton, Otto Porter Jr. and Thad Young alongside regular starters Scottie Barnes and Anunoby, a lineup that has never played meaningful minutes together, if any. It was that way all night, as little-used pieces like Juancho Hernangomez, Banton and Malachi Flynn got big run, with the likes of two-way call-up Jeff Dowtin Jr. getting his first non-garbage time minutes.
The early returns were positive. Barnes, who has been in a shooting slump lately, came out with some pop, converting a dunk on his first touch off a nice feed from Anunoby and then outracing the Pistons on a one-man fastbreak off a rebound for another quick hoop. Later in the first half he muscled his way into the paint and finished with a soft jump hook that has been rolling out more than in recently.
Unfortunately those were most of his best moments. The second-year slump extended to seven games as he finished with nine points on 4-of-9 shooting with five rebounds, four assists and three turnovers. It would help with the Raptors short bodies to have Barnes step up, but for now, no one is worried, even if he hasn’t shot better than 50 per cent from the field in seven straight games and has yet to have a 20-point night this year.
“I think it’s just a bad segment that’s he in,” said Chris Boucher, who provided 20 points off the bench. “I had that before, so I know how he feels. I don’t think his energy is down or anything. I think that people are going to focus so much on what he’s doing with Pascal out. But he’s going to get out of it. He wasn’t the rookie of the year for no reason. He’s going to get to a level and understand what he needs to do.”
Banton made the most of his second career start — his first was when the Raptors had eight players available on Boxing Day in Cleveland last year — as he sparked Toronto with nine quick points including a high-speed sprint past the entire Pistons team to turn a defensive rebound into a fastbreak lay-up. The result was a 27-23 first-quarter lead, something that has been elusive when the Raptors regular starters have been available given Toronto’s minus-6.1 net rating in the first 12 minutes of games this season is 22nd in the NBA. It was the Raptors’ first time leading after 12 minutes in six games, and a testament to Banton’s continued growth since making the team as a second-round pick last season.
“Just going through the summer going through the reps I had, and you know, live games playing for Team Canada and summer league and stuff like that. Just going through the training with the Raptors development team and just trusting in the process and the tweaks and things they want to make to my shot,” said Banton. “Like just trying to get it off faster game-like shots and stuff like that, but it’s definitely a lot of reps, you know, putting in a lot of reps and master your craft, doing what you can on your own time working to try to produce in the games.”
Believe it or not, Detroit entered Monday’s game as the league leader in free-throw attempts per game. The Pistons. No way, right?
Well, in the four-point loss to Toronto, Detroit once again set up shop at the line, taking 43 attempts. The Pistons, though, missed 12 free throws, and four of those misses came from Bogdanović, a career 86 percent free-throw shooter.
Despite getting to the line so much, Detroit isn’t truly capitalizing on this newfound whistle. The Pistons rank 16th in the NBA in free-throw efficiency.
This rebuilding team can’t afford to leave as many free points on the board as it has in recent games. The Pistons’ margin of error is too slim. It’s not every day a team this young and without that many imposing paint scorers gets this favorable of a whistle. Detroit must start taking advantage of this gift.
Trailing by 14 midway through the third, Jaden Ivey shook off a slow start to will the Pistons back into the game in the fourth. Ivey started slow against the Raptors lengthy defense, but came alive late and scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter.
Ivey, who also had 8 assists and 4 rebounds, had a chance to cut the lead to one in the final minute, but was blocked on an ill-advised drive that all but sealed the Pistons’ fate.
He wasn’t perfect, but he gave the Pistons a much-needed jolt when they needed it. If you want to place blame, point to the 19 turnovers and/or 12 missed free throws.
Bojan Bogdanovic was particularly bad, shooting just 6 of 10 from the line and 2 for 8 from downtown. An offensive star early in the season, the increased defensive attention he’s seeing without Cunningham is catching up to him.
Bogey did hit a huge triple out of a timeout to make it 111-108 in the final minute of the game, but otherwise struggled mightily.
As for the general weirdness of the night, let’s start with the starters. The Pistons finally debuted the BIG lineup against the large-across-the-board Raptors with Marvin Bagley III replacing Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes subbing in for an injured Cade.
Frankly, it wasn’t that bad early.
Bagley and Isaiah Stewart each hit early triples and the Pistons out-rebounded Toronto 24-19 in the first half. Stewart, in particular, looked very comfortable at the four. He got to his spots and hit the pick-and-pop jumpers and his defense held up against Barnes:
The bad news is Stewart left late in the first half with a foot sprain and did not return. I say this with full confidence: if Isaiah Stewart misses extended time, the Pistons could give up 130 points per game. It would be b-a-d.
The Pistons really missed Stew’s rebounding in the second half as well.
Detroit’s turnover issues were no fault of Killian Hayes, who played a quaint but controlled game. He wasn’t overly aggressive nor did he feel passive. He played within the flow of a very disjointed starting lineup, finishing with a modest 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Funny thing is, he wasn’t even the best Pistons point guard. Alec Burks is still finding his way after offseason foot surgery, but flashed a tight handle and some nifty moves around the basket as he buried a pair of threes in the second quarter and finished with 15 points.
Bey off the bench was… Bey? He was quiet, but played 30 minutes and got 10 shots up. He finished with 9. I think coming off the bench can, and will, work for him. But it’s going to take some time and Cade coming back to regulate the rotation.
If this big lineup sticks when he returns, I think the bench could take a big step forward with Bey and Burks leading the way.
Tonight’s comeback was great fun, but in the end, this was a bad loss.
With Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa all sitting out, and Otto Porter Jr. missing the second half with left foot soreness, Nick Nurse got all 11 available players into the action. Unexpectedly, it was the Raptors bench who picked up serious offensive slack. Chris Boucher started 5-for-5 from the field on his way to 20 points in 31 minutes, while Malachi Flynn was steady for 12 points, four assists and three rebounds. Toronto’s bench outscored Detroit’s 55-41, a huge win for a team coming in with their skeleton crew.
Leading the Pistons, meanwhile, was Jaden Ivey. Thanks to a sensational fourth quarter, the flashy fifth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft finished with 21 points, eight assists and four rebounds — ably leading the team with Cade Cunningham sidelined. Bojan Bogdanovic chipped in 18, while Marvin Bagley had 16 and five rebounds.
Despite alluding pre-game to either Christian Koloko or a now-healthy Khem Birch being the starting centre, Nick Nurse decided to go with Banton in Gary Trent Jr.’s usual spot. The result was an all Vision 6-9 starting unit (6-8 to be precise), with Banton joining Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Otto Porter Jr., and Thad Young.
Those five set the tone of the game with a frenetic defensive opening. Two steals in the first two Detroit possessions went the other way for Raptors baskets, and that was swiftly followed by a whole lot of Banton — who had his hands on the basketball a lot for being the last addition to the starting unit.
It wasn’t all great, as the Rexdale native also had two turnovers in the quarter, but his combination of cutting and pushing — even earning a 1-on-3 basket to cut into an early Pistons lead — kept an anemic shooting lineup racking up points. A Dalano three midway through the first gave Toronto a 15-14 lead, which they followed up with an 8-0 run late in the frame to head into the second up 27-23. The Raps would shoot 50% in the frame, and Banton had nine of his game total 27 points.
With the bench trickling in, it was Chris Boucher who made the next statement. As a rare midrange step back illustrated, Boucher was given some freedom with his offensive game and thankfully capitalized. A three-pointer from Chris made it 41-32, but it was finally time for Detroit to muster a response.
A 10-4 Pistons run midway through the quarter came as the result of strong rebounding. Against a frontline of Birch, Boucher and Juancho Hernangomez, burly bodies like Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren started to feast on put backs. Detroit would get back within four, but Nurse subbed Birch out (he played just four minutes) and the Raptors bounced back.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Raptors, who were without three starters and, when Otto Porter Jr. left the game, two key backups.
Banton scored a career-best 27 points, Chris Boucher added a season-high 20 and OG Anunoby dropped 19, and the Raptors got a huge blocked shot by Jeff Dowtin Jr. with less than 20 seconds to go to preserve the win.
Banton’s only other start came last Boxing Day when he was thrust into a starting role after a COVID outbreak ravaged the Toronto roster, leaving them with just eight players — half of them emergency additions — for a game the Raptors would ultimately lose by 45 points in Cleveland.
The circumstances were different Monday, with the Raptors missing backcourt starters Fred VanVleet (non-COVID illness) and Gary Trent Jr. (right hip soreness) to get Banton into the starting lineup. He and Malachi Flynn gave Toronto all it needed from the backcourt.
“I think they’re creating enough for themselves but that position needs us to have those guys create for other people a little bit, too,” coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “That’s what I would like to see out of both of them a little more.”
Banton, Flynn and Jeff Dowtin Jr. combined for 10 assists and only four turnovers.
The Raptors had dropped 3-of-4 to fall to .500 after losing winnable games in Oklahoma City and Indianapolis, but did what was necessary to salvage the trip and a brutal six games in nine night stretch. Not that Detroit would go away, despite trailing by 11 entering the fourth quarter.
The Pistons came within a point twice in the final quarter, and within two with under 10 seconds remaining,
Toronto had yet another new look starting lineup, with Banton making his second career start. And it was a memorable one, with the Rexdale product going off.
“He’s shooting the ball really well this year, when he’s catching and faced up, you’re expecting him to make them now which is a huge step forward for him,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said.
Banton credited his summer work with the Raptors, Team Canada and in gyms on his own for his progress. Three of his top scoring NBA games have now come this week, including highs in consecutive games.
“Just trusting in the process and the tweaks and things they want to make to my shot. Like just trying to get it off faster. game like shots and stuff like that,” Banton explained.
“Definitely a lot of reps, and master your craft, doing what you can on your own time working to try to produce in the games … just trusting in the work that you put in, you know, they always tell me that and they’re always there for me to keep feeding me open shots whether miss or make. I’m just glad I have the teammates that keep putting the ball in my hands when I’m open to shoot,” Banton said.
Meanwhile, Dowtin had only played eight minutes in two games all season, before playing 15 in this one. He had four points, four rebounds, two assists and a block.
“It definitely felt good … hat coach trusted me down the line,” Dowtin said. “I was able to get a defensive stop for the team. Just felt good. Gave me a lot of confidence in myself and let’s try to keep this going.”