It took a couple of weeks and some teams even playing three games already, but the Raptors joined the In-Season tournament vibes that have taken over November basketball. Toronto’s loss drops them to fourth in East Group C, behind Boston, Brooklyn and Orlando. The Raptors will the rest of their group including Chicago over the next 10 days on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Toronto’s gold jerseys were not universally accepted by fans when released but there has been a recent shift in that opinion. Next order of business was the court. We’ve seen some hideous ones (I’m looking at the Bulls) but it’s safe to say the Raptors passed that test with flying colours.
Even the 2-time defending WNBA champ agreed.
Playing on it was a different story. Malachi Flynn probably took the most dangerous fall from a Raptors perspective in the first quarter, even though the play resulted in a basket. Jaylen Brown wasn’t so lucky. He slipped in the final seconds, injuring his groin.
Brown voiced his concerns postgame.
It wasn’t an In-Season tournament game but Pascal Siakam slid at a more severe angle in Dallas last year on a slippery court. It derailed a spectacular start to his season.
Precious Achiuwa has been dealing with groin issues of his own and added to Brown’s point.
But enough with the aesthetics, onto basketball discussion!
The Pascal Siakam factor
After being held to 17 points on 6-17 shooting in Boston last Saturday, Siakam was the best player on the court in this game. The Raptors took an early eight point lead by scoring early in possessions before allowing the Celtics second ranked defence to set up. Three first quarter fouls (two pretty questionable) put Pascal on the bench for the rest of the half. Siakam’s absence was especially felt in the final minutes of the second quarter, where Boston took a 16 point halftime lead thanks to a 15-3 run. Darko Rajakovic could have inserted Pascal back in to ease that bludgeoning but decided not to take the risk of a fourth first half foul.
However when Siakam got back on the court in the third quarter, he stayed out of further foul trouble and brought Toronto back in the game. Pascal was a game-high plus-17.
Siakam has been alternating dominant games with quiet ones lately, but still came in averaging 24.5 points, 9.3 boards and five assists over his last four contests thanks to operating in his normal spots. Whether it was Jrue Holiday, Derrick White or Jaylen Brown (all plus defenders), Pascal had his way with 15 points and five assists in the second half. When his post ups garnered too much attention, it generated offence for others. The Raptors took brief one possession leads on a couple of occasions.
It was anybody’s game until 30 seconds left. Gary Trent Jr. got lost which left White (a 43 percent three point shooter) wide open in the corner for the go-ahead three. Siakam tried to rotate over but it was too late.
Scottie Barnes missed a tying three seconds later on an out of bounds play, which wrapped up the game.
Rajakovic gave his breakdown on the play where White was left alone.
- Gary Trent Jr. returned after missing three games with plantar fasciitis. He was hobbled at one point in the first quarter but had a solid game with 14 points and three made threes. Adds much needed shooting back to the lineup.
- Gradey Dick was also supposed to provide shooting but has struggled to knock down the open looks. He’s 1-10 from deep over his last two games. Overall, Gradey is shooting under 30 percent from both the field and three so far. Dick went scoreless in 10 minutes and added a couple turnovers dribbling into traffic. Rookie mistakes probably won’t prevent Gradey from getting playing time though. Just gotta keep plugging away.
- Drake made his season debut in the usual courtside seat.