Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 20

Raptors thump Pistons | Barnes AND Siakam show up in the same game | Lavine rumours heating up

Scottie Barnes and Cade Cunningham are taking different paths to stardom – The Athletic

“It is good, but at the same time it’s a problem because he has so many traits, so many things that he can do on a higher level,” Rajaković said. “I always say, if you’re really good at one thing in the NBA, you’re gonna find your contract, you’re gonna survive in this league. If you’re really good at two things, you’re a really good player, potentially (a) starter. If you’re really good at three things, you’re (an) All-Star. If you think you’re really good at four things, probably you’re out of the league and playing in Europe.”

The point: A Swiss Army knife is only useful if all of the tools are well crafted.

“You cannot be extremely good at everything,” Rajaković continued. “And that’s a problem that I’m having with Scottie because he’s good at multiple things. We gotta find those two or three things that he’s gonna really take to take the jump to the next level and become an All-Star player, which I believe he is.

“I feel like when I’m out there, I’m myself,” Barnes said. “Me having the ball, playing pick-and-rolls, playing off the ball, no matter what it is, I’m comfortable doing it, everywhere out there on the floor.”

Cunningham is the more polished player with the ball, but he has been operating as a lead handler for longer than Barnes. His baseline drive drawing help, which freed up a dump-off pass to James Wiseman, was pure superstar gravitational pull. Though Barnes is still working on how to get a defender on to his back and keeping when in a pick-and-roll, Cunningham is approaching mastery. His handle in the heart of the crowded defences he so often sees is much tighter, allowing him to get to the rim more often. If and when Cunningham is at the centre of a good team, it’s pretty easy to envision what type of player he will be.

For now, Cunningham is not in a position to succeed, especially when so many of the proven contributors the Pistons have brought in are injured. Cunningham is being asked to do way too much, which is a problem in itself.

However, if the Pistons can get past this hump, Cunningham will have soaked up a bunch of possessions going up against the league’s best defenders, such as Toronto’s OG Anunoby.

Though Cunningham came into the league with more guard skills and Barnes has more obvious defensive potential, the two players are more similar than not offensively. Eventually, both teams should be built around the two players more effectively. Stay tuned.

Raptors' ceiling still unclear despite record-beating win over Pistons – Sportsnet

For once, both Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes played well in the same game. Siakam finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists while Barnes was an all-court dynamo, especially in the first half, and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Dennis Schroder had 17 points and seven assists.

The Raptors were at full strength with OG Anunoby back at work after missing three games with five stitches in the index finger of his shooting hand and – excusing the opposition – gave an indication as to why they believe they can be a handful when they are playing at the level they need to play at on both ends.

They don’t have a huge margin for error, but when they play a tidy, complete game, they can be a problem – their talent guarantees that. Really bad teams don’t have two-time all-NBA selection Siakam as an option or the blossoming Barnes as a fulcrum or an all-league defender in Anunoby to anchor their defence. The Raptors’ bigger issue is fit – do their pieces add up to a greater whole? Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t, but it’s too early to say you won’t.

“But we’ve got to understand that every possession matters,” said Darko Rajakovic. “We’ve got to understand how much talent, how good a team we are when we do certain things. So for us, it’s a very simple recipe. When we play great defence, when we get our stops and steals and deflections, that opens up opportunities for us and to be better [on the] offensive end. Just continue to trust each other and play the right way. When we do that, when you just focus on winning, we’re a really good team.”

They looked the part on Sunday. The Raptors made six of their first seven shots with four assists to jump out to a quick lead. Perhaps the pivotal moment of the game came in the early moments of the second quarter when Barnes – who was excellent, finishing with 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in 25 minutes – scored or assisted on 15 of the Raptors’ first 16 points as they pushed a 12-point lead after the first quarter to 18 in the space of five minutes. The Raptors’ lead expanded to 26 before halftime and the Pistons never threatened after that.

Toronto shot 53.9 per cent from the floor and 14-of-36 from the three-point line while holding Detroit to 47 per cent shooting while forcing 17 turnovers. They were 9-of-26 from three and led by Cade Cunningham, who finished with 18 points and five assists.

Detroit Pistons Basketball – Detroit Free Press

Cade Cunningham paused while considering if last year’s finish has had any impact on the team’s rough start. Cunningham wasn’t around for it, as he was rehabbing a shin stress fracture that cost him all but 12 games of his rookie season. His return was supposed to signal a new era for the Pistons, ready to turn the page on the bleakest stage of the ongoing rebuild.

So far, the season has picked up where last season left off. It’s been a test for both patience and endurance. Since Feb. 10, the Pistons have four wins and 35 losses.
“It’s possible for habits to come from that, for sure,” Cunningham said. “You can’t allow yourself to play the victim, I think that’s the main thing. Can’t go out there and just try to see what teams are going to try to do to us. We have to bring our own fight to the game. It’s been games where we’ve done that. Tonight we didn’t do that. Tomorrow we gotta come out with the fight and some fire in us, and be pissed off about how the season’s went, and try to take home court. That’s the main thing. The fight level, we’ve gotta do that.”

The Pistons were without six players on Sunday, and have been without several core players — Bojan Bogdanovic, Monte Morris and Isaiah Livers — since training camp. Joe Harris has missed two weeks, and Jalen Duren has missed a week with ankle soreness. Killian Hayes joined the injury report for the first time this season Sunday, with a left shoulder sprain.

They’ve been reluctant to point to injuries as a factor in their slide. But their depleted depth has made the margin for error that much smaller. The Pistons have been undone by turnovers and excessive fouling — correctable mistakes. But they also dealt with shooting slumps during their two-game road swing against the Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers, putting even more pressure on them to play flawless basketball.

But it wasn’t just the mistakes on Sunday — it was their lack of competitiveness.

“I think it does get to you when you lose a lot of games, especially as many as we’ve lost in a row,” Williams said. “Yeah for sure, it gets to you. But at the end of the day, what else are you going to do? This is not a rescue business. This is a man’s business, and you have to play and gain like a man and you gotta compete like NBA players do. We will get out of it. I have no doubt, because we have a connected group. We just have to handle adversity a lot better than we did tonight. “

Raptors vs Pistons Final Score: 142-113 Raptors dominate Pistons – Raptors HQ

Dennis Schroder led the Raptors in scoring in the first with 11 points and three assists, Precious Achiuwa scored a three and a slam dunk to score five off the bench. The Raptors were scoring 51.9% from the field and only 25% from three, but when you’re playing a Pistons team shooting 16.7% from three, you can take your time getting hot.

The Raptors held their lead through the second quarter, allowing Darko to go into his bench more. Gradey Dick headed out, a good chance for him to get some playing time against some other younger players on the court. He would get a lot more of that in the fourth quarter. Precious Achiuwa continued to be impactful on offence, scoring another three pointer and bringing himself to 4-5 from the field. The Raptors were on a 26-8 run at his point.

The Raptors maintained a steady 20 point advantage through the rest of the half, with Scottie Barnes shooting a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. By the end of the first half Scottie was already up to 15 points, five assists and three rebounds. It seems like every game these days is a Scottie masterclass.

The lead extended to as much as 39 points in the third quarter. Barnes, Siakam, Trent Jr., Achiuwa, Schroder, and Poeltl were all in double digit scoring, with Poeltl recording a double double in the third. The highest scoring Raptor by the end of three quarters was Siakam with 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists.

By the end of three, the Raptors were up 104-72 over the Pistons.

The fourth quarter had the Raptors beat their previous season high in assists in a game with 44 — a new franchise record as well, and a few more Raptors joined the double digit scoring club. The Pistons were not stopping anyone on this team at all, and the Raptors were getting everything they wanted. It was an incredibly cohesive effort from the Raptors.

The second half of the fourth was for the end of the bench guys to get some runs in. Gradey Dick got on the board, Malachi Flynn was being crafty, and Ron Harper Jr even got to come out for a bit.

The Raptors came out with the big win — 142-113 over the Detroit Pistons.

Raptors blow out Pistons in battle of old coaching pals – Toronto Star

And Rajakovic? He’s got an all-star (Pascal Siakam), the 2021-22 rookie of the year (Scottie Barnes), an NBA all-defence wing (OG Anunoby) and two seasoned veterans (Dennis Schröder and Jakob Poeltl) in his starting lineup, and a team with exponentially more potential than the Pistons.

Not surprisingly, there was little doubt about Sunday’s outcome from the opening minutes as the Raptors dominated from start to finish.

“At halftime we had 23 assists, I believe. And when you play the way we played in the first half, it’s such a natural thing to do in the second half, to stop moving the ball and stop playing together,” Rajakovic said. “I told the guys: Let’s not talk after the game that we only had seven assists in the second half.

“They did a really good job over the course of the whole game.”

Toronto had 44 assists in all, a franchise record, while the 142 points were the third-most in team history and a season best. Six players scored in double figures, led by Siakam’s 23 points, and eight players hit at least one three-pointer.

The Pistons were missing some key players, but their presence wouldn’t have made a difference given how well the Raptors played.

“Today was just one of those games where the ball was on a string for us,” said Poeltl, who had 16 points, 10 rebounds and four of the assists. “We saw it in the numbers as well. The assists numbers were pretty high, and it’s not just one person with 20 assists. Throughout the whole team, everybody was sharing the ball, everybody was moving the ball.

“You create a lot of easy shots that way.”

And for Williams, who is charged with turning kids into NBA players, Sunday’s signals were bad.

“We have to do a much better job of handling adversity in-game,” he said. “Lately, I haven’t seen that from us. Tonight when the adversity hit, I thought we just went down in our spirit, and we can’t afford that.

“I think a few of our guys are dealing with how hard the league is. When you’re dealing with it, the one thing you can control is your competition level. I didn’t see that across the board tonight. This is not a rescue business. This is a man’s business, and you have to play the game like a man. You’ve got to compete like NBA players do.”

That’s probably not what he and Rajakovic talked about on those strolls through the streets of Phoenix.

Raptors See Pistons Misery in Blowout Victory – Sports Illustrated

For the Raptors, it was a step in the right direction when it comes to first-half focus and energy. Take a Pistons blowout with a large helping of salt, but still, Toronto came into Sunday with the third-worst first-half net rating in the NBA and a 26-point first-half lead will certainly help that. The 69 points Toronto scored in the first half was the most the team had scored in a first half all season.

“We’re playing in NBA, like you succeed in the NBA if you’re an everyday guy,” Raptors coach Darko Rajaković said. “Sunday at 4 pm, you got to be ready to go. You’re got to find a way to motivate yourself and get yourself in a right mindset to go out there and to do the best for the team.”

Even with all that tanking from the Pistons, it’s still not clear that Cunningham is some future superstar or, frankly, even better than Barnes. He was good, sure, and maybe the context of Detroit’s team is holding him back, but he wasn’t some dominant force. He had 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting, held in check most of the night by Anunoby whose defense didn’t look like it had missed a beat.

The biggest development for Toronto came in the fact that both Barnes and Pascal Siakam played well at the same time. Again, the Pistons aren’t exactly some defensive juggernaut, but still, it’s important to see that the two forwards with such overlapping skill sets can coexist at times.

Siakam scored almost exclusively in the paint, getting into his bag of tricks to beat the Pistons with floaters and post moves. He snapped an 0-for-17 shooting slump from three-point range, nailing one second-half three-pointer, and finished the night with 23 points in 28 minutes. Barnes, meanwhile, had 17 points in a near-triple double effort with nine assists and seven rebounds in 25 minutes.

“Both of them are same side players, both are very capable to drive the ball, to post up, to shoot, to do multiple things to be effective in pick and rolls,” Rajaković said pre-game of Siakam and Barnes being successful simultaneously. “For us, I think it’s chemistry.”

As a team, Toronto’s offense looked dominant, recording assists on 44 of 55 field goals, a franchise record for assists in a game.  It was as complete an effort as anyone could have asked for, and finally up 34 in the fourth, the Raptors opted to call it a night, going with the second unit for the final eight minutes of the game.

Raptors soar with OG Anunoby's lockdown defence back on full display | Toronto Sun

A team focused on sharing the ball celebrated a franchise-record afternoon in that regard, surpassing the old franchise mark for assists in a game with 44 on 55 made field goals.

And with Anunoby back after a three-game absence and with the offence clicking, the defence looked a lot more like itself, too.

Anunoby put the clamps down on 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham, holding him to just 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting.

The Raptors’ lockdown defender was forced out of action for three games by a laceration on his right index finger that required five stitches. Anunoby did not want to get into the particulars of how that injury occurred other than to admit that, yes, it was gushing blood when it happened and that it is feeling better every day.
Anunoby admitted he felt the injury at times in the game, but watching him deny lanes and opportunities for Cunningham all afternoon, it did not feel like it kept him from playing up to his normal standard of excellence.

Toronto’s offence, meanwhile, made mincemeat of Detroit’s defence with seven different players scoring in double digits, led by the 23 from Pascal Siakam.

Anunoby, who predictably struggled with his shot following the layoff, was the lone starter not to make it into double digits with those nine points on 2-for-11 shooting.

All of the starters were out of the game with eight minutes to go and a 34-point lead.