Raptors rely on defence to win season opener

Make it 19 straight losses for the Timberwolves in Toronto.

If you’re including preseason, Toronto improves to 5-0 in the Darko Rajakovic era. Last night’s game was his first official win and the coach was more than ready to celebrate it in style.

The offence will be a work in progress, even though the Raptors made 14 threes and dished out 27 assists. Toronto held Anthony Edwards to 5-22 shooting in the final three quarters (8-27 overall), while also limiting Karl-Anthony Towns to an 8-25 night. Minnesota shot 34 percent (34-100) as a team. Let’s highlight three major keys to last night’s win.

1. Scottie protecting the rim

Scottie had some issues defensively on the perimeter, but was a nightmare to score on in the paint.

Barnes tied a career-high with five blocks and also added two steals. We’ve seen plenty of situations in the past where Scottie does his best work on defence as a big, including the preseason when Jakob Poeltl was out. Whether it was a spectacular weakside block or making it hell for his man one-on-one, Scottie was there.

2. Schroder shines in debut

Dennis had team-highs of 22 points and seven assists and he did it in a variety of ways. Schroder made plays in transition, had blow by layups and knocked down four threes. More importantly, Schroder was key down the stretch. Pascal Siakam found him for a clutch three when the game was tied at 84. Dennis then returned the favour, spotting Siakam twice for treys to give the Raptors some breathing room. Toronto 11-25 (44%!!) on above the break threes in this game.

Schroder’s 22 points were the most by a Raptor in their debut since Kawhi Leonard. Don’t tell him that though.

3. O.G. Anunoby on both ends

Lets start with the defence, where O.G. was his typical all-defensive self. Three blocks, two steals (including one to close out the game) and holding Anthony Edwards to 1-10 shooting as the primary defender. Great start for another season where Anunoby will be in the conversation of best defenders in the league.

Offensively, O.G. added 20 points, also joining Schroder and Siakam hitting threes above the break. Anunoby talked postgame about using screens to get a couple of those shots off, instead of simply being featured as a catch and shoot threat. The rest of Anunoby’s points came in transition.

Other Quick Notes

  • Chris Boucher surprised many with a DNP-CD. This was definitely matchup related, as Jalen McDaniels played 16 minutes instead but missed all three of his three-point attempts. Rajakovic called him a true professional after the game. The Bulls are next on the schedule and aren’t as big as Minnesota. Boucher will probably get some run in that game.
  • Precious Achiuwa got the offence going after a sluggish start with three dunks; two coming in transition and one on a roll lob from Barnes. Overall, the Raptors had 34 (!!) fast break points.
  • Outside of Precious, not the greatest game from the bench. Gary Trent Jr. is making strides as a playmaker, even running some pick and roll in the preseason. Gotta extend that vision to fast break situations when there is a teammate ahead though. Trent passed late in a couple of those possessions, ruining the advantage.
  • 62-47 rebounding edge for the T-Wolves, including three guys in double digits and 16 offensive boards. 34 percent shooting leads to a lot of those opportunities, but that still needs to be cleaned up.
  • Scotiabank Arena security: STOP throwing out harmless Gradey Dick signs. He didn’t score in two minutes of court time.

Up next: At the Bulls on Friday. Chicago was blown out by 20 in its season opener at home to OKC.