Are the now-healthy Raptors figuring things out or simply taking advantage of the Charlotte Hornets?
Toronto took both legs of a two game set for the first time this season and have now won a season-high three straight games. A 10-man rotation has been solidified recently, Precious Achiuwa continues to make strides since returning (career-high five steals), and the Raptors led wire to wire. Charlotte cut a once 18 point lead to five with a minute remaining but Fred VanVleet’s corner three proved to be the dagger.
More Ball Movement
The Raptors hit the 30 assist mark for the second straight game, with six players scoring in double figures (including every starter). There wasn’t a drop off from starting to bench units, as Nick Nurse has been staggering Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr’s minutes to lead the second unit when guys like Pascal Siakam and VanVleet are resting. Scottie in particular was a catalyst in finding early offence.
Scottie the Initiator
In most Barnes postgame podiums, he will at some point talk about the ball moving side to side. A lot of that happened in this game, featuring Barnes in the middle of the court near the three point line. From there, he picked the Hornets apart finding cutters or shooters for a game high nine assists. It’s a role that’s reminiscent of Marc Gasol in some ways, just not in the high post.
The Fred-Scottie roll game
As for his 21 points, Barnes feasted as the roller with VanVleet. This led to some wide open lanes for dunks in the first half, visibly frustrating Mason Plumlee on one of them. As the Hornets adjusted with someone waiting in the lanes for Scottie in the second half, this opened up lob opportunities and what should have been a floater that missed and turned into a pretty sweet dunk. Fred finished with eight assists and only eight shot attempts in a facilitating role.
Barnes was asked about how he’s been featured recently postgame. Scottie has only made two threes this month and didn’t attempt any on Thursday. It simply wasn’t necessary to take.
Nurse also credited Scottie for setting the tone offensively, both in transition and the half court.
Siakam then mentioned how Scottie is recognizing how to develop at his own pace.
“I see the confidence and he’s just not forcing anything. He’s just playing basketball the way that he knows how to and it’s showing. I think that sometimes we get so caught up in the numbers and people expecting this from him or not, but you just have to go out there and play. I think he’s starting to understand that. Just hoop. At the end of the day, it’s basketball. Your natural talent is just going to come out.”Pascal Siakam
43 Making 35 Look Effortless
There probably won’t be many nights that Pascal takes the fourth most shots on the team. His 35 points came on extreme efficency:
- 18 points in the first half (5-5 FG, 3-3 3pt, 5-6 FT)
- 25 points on nine shots (8-9)
- Finished game with 35 points on 13 attempts, 11-13 FG and 10-12 FT
Siakam is always stressing the importance of evolving his game and being a threat in all areas on the court. Here’s a few examples of the variety on Pascal’s buckets.
Siakam has become increasingly comfortable in the midrange area since he’s become the number one option, but he’s taken a major jump this season in getting to the line. His free throw attempts have jumped from 5.6 last season to 8.6, good for sixth in the NBA. In previous games, Siakam kept the Raptors from hitting one of those offensive droughts by drawing fouls, particularly in the second half.
He was asked about improving in that aspect.
Up Next: Atlanta comes to town to wrap up the six game homestand on Saturday. Only a half game separates the Hawks, Bulls and Raptors for seeds 9-11.