Scottie Barnes this season:
Leading the Raptors in points, rebounds and blocks. https://t.co/IgJfa335MS
— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 31, 2023
Turns out teams really need a starting point guard. The Cavs missing Darius Garland. The Grizzlies missing Ja Morant. The Raptors. 😬
— J.E. Skeets (@jeskeets) November 1, 2023
This Week: 25
Last Week: 24
It has been all downhill for Toronto since its opening-night win over Minnesota, including disappointing losses to Chicago and Portland. Things aren’t about to get any easier, either, with a back-to-back this week against Milwaukee and Philadelphia. — Bontemps
This Week: 24
Last Week: 21
First impression: Terrible start to the season for the Raptors. They get three of their first four at home, start off by shutting down Minnesota, then drop a horrendous finish to the Bulls. Losing to Portland at home is unacceptable too. Once again, this team can’t seem to make shots, and they can’t keep hoping to grab offensive rebounds to counteract those misses.
First overreaction: On a positive note, I do love how Scottie Barnes looks. I think he’s clearly the best player on the team, and there can’t be much debate about him or Pascal Siakam. His growth so far makes it easier for Masai Ujiri to move Siakam if he thinks it’s time to get a change. But I love the comfort Barnes is showing as the main guy. I’d like to see him force fed even more.
This Week: 24
Last Week: 23
Toronto started off the season with a gritty win over the Wolves, then lost a wild overtime affair in Chicago before falling to the 76ers on Saturday. Offense has been a major problem, but the defense looks good under new coach Darko Rajaković. Scottie Barnes has taken on more of the playmaking duties after Fred VanVleet’s departure, and the third-year forward has put up 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists per game so far. Dennis Schröder is averaging 16 points and nine assists on 53% 3-point shooting in his first season as a Raptor.
Two of the Raptors three losses have been games they let slip away. Toronto was up 17 with 4:58 left in the fourth quarter before falling to Chicago 104-103 in overtime last Friday. On Monday night, the Raptors were on the wrong end of a late 11-4 run, losing 99-91 to previously winless Portland.
Siakam said the team needs to stick together in fixing its issues.
“I think obviously a couple of games there where I felt like we played well, we played well enough to win but we didn’t rebound well enough,” he said. “Possessions out there where we played good defence and just didn’t finish the possession and gave them second chance opportunities, sometimes even third.
“So it’s kind of tough to win that way, and then obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well from three (on Monday). In this league, if you don’t shoot well it’s going to be hard to win, and then if you don’t rebound with that it’s even harder. So I think that we’ve got to fix those things.”
Toronto’s more glaring issues have been its halfcourt offence and defensive rebounding.
Head coach Darko Rajakovic said his team needs better pace in getting plays started and in motion in the halfcourt.
The Raptors are dead last in the NBA in scoring, averaging just 99.5 points per game, the only team in the league below 101. On the other hand, Toronto is fourth in points allowed at 102.8.
“Defence been good but also like with our offensive struggles, you know, we need our defence to be even better,” Rajakovic said. “It’s early in the year, we’re watching a lot of film as well and in the practice today we worked on both offence and defence.”
The Raptors have given up 13-plus offensive rebounds in three of their four games, which is far from ideal. They gave up nine in last Saturday’s loss to Philadelphia.
“When I look at it, I see half glass full,” Rajakovic said of his team’s overall play. “I look on the positives and I look at what we can be and what we need to do and what’s in our control.
“We allowed those guys (Portland) last night to have 13 offensive rebounds and that’s a recurring problem for us, defensive rebounding. We’re really good in open court and in transition, but those are 13 wasted opportunities that we didn’t have a chance to to go and run and then score easy.”
The former focal point of the Raptors offence, Siakam has willingly signed on with the move-the-ball mantra and the .5 second basketball which Rajakovic has brought to Toronto.
It has come at a cost to a lot of what he previously did for this team but Siakam has not said a single word against it.
He wasn’t about to start Tuesday either, even coming off a miserable three-game stretch — all of them losses — that included flushing two winnable games down the toilet.
Those were the losses Friday to Chicago and Monday to Portland.
But it was the game in-between, a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers that was perhaps most eye opening from a Siakam standpoint.
In that game, Siakam attempted just eight shots, which even for this season, is extremely low for him.
It opened the door to asking how best Siakam could be used, with even the suggestion that he was being wasted.
In the game that followed, Siakam once again asserted himself getting up 21 shots and finishing with a team-best tying 20 points along with Scottie Barnes in a tough shooting night for most Raptors and an abysmal rebounding night for the team as a whole.
Siakam has been asked about his pending unrestricted free agency and the lack of extension talk for the only all-star on the team. He has continually refused to open that can of worms, suggesting only that he has an agent that he pays very well to handle those things.
Asked yesterday about his uncharacteristic quiet night on Saturday against the Sixers, followed by a more Siakam-looking line on Monday, the two-time all-star and two-time all-NBA player suggested his road was no different than anyone else on the team.