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Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 30

WOW...Raptors win a banger against the Suns | Barnes is that dog | Dick getting good reps in the 905

Even after rough Raptors 905 start, Gradey Dick still shooting with confidence – Sportsnet

There is other relevant information coming out of Mississauga, Ont., but let’s start with the shooting.

Dick is, after all, expected to become a shooting specialist (and more) in time. The Raptors selected him 13th overall in June based on a strong freshman season at Kansas, where he shot 40.3 per cent on threes, with a mix of shot types and locations that suggested his game should translate well to the NBA three-point line. At six-foot-six, Dick also has the requisite size to theoretically translate his off-ball verve — he is very good at reading the game and moving without the ball — as that length buys him additional fractions against the length and speed of NBA defenders.

He is 10-of-41 on three-point attempts in 221 NBA minutes, after shooting 15-of-42 across Summer League and the pre-season. Although it is absolutely true that a shooter has to hit his shots to warrant playing time — especially one who, at this stage in his development, is mostly a spacer — fewer than 100 three-point attempts is a tiny sample, given what we know about when shooting percentages stabilize.

There are other indicators we can look at, like free-throw shooting as a proxy for shooting ability (he’s an excellent 31-for-32 across the four levels), touch and mid-range shooting (a discouraging 29-for-80 inside the arc), and what’s happening outside of game scenarios. Those non-game samples have a lower fidelity than NBA and even G League reps, but they represent information.

All of that information represents a mixed bag.

“The minutes felt great. The shots? I couldn’t throw anything in the ocean. But I think that’s gonna come with it,” Dick said after his 1-for-12 905 debut. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t frustrating, but at the same time, I’m not gonna let that show for everyone to see, because not only does that effect my next shot, it’s gonna effect my mental state.”

Dick told Sportsnet after Monday’s game that his performance in practice and shootaround situations remains strong. The sample he is working off to evaluate himself and maintain his confidence goes beyond what we can see; his jump shot has been more or less the same since he designed it with his mother in middle school, and the results have been tremendous ever since, save for the first few weeks of his pro career.

As with Devin Booker, the Raptors’ Scottie Barnes will need to work to climb – The Athletic

Barnes has made a notable jump on his 3-point shooting this year, although 19 games are far too few to assume he is now a 38 percent shooter for good. For now, it’s an important step Barnes seems intent on taking, which is good.

Elsewhere, efficiency remains an issue. He entered the game shooting just 40.3 percent from in between 3 and 10 feet after shooting 44 percent there last year. Against the Suns, he showed nice touch from just outside the restricted area, helping to prop up the Raptors’ much-maligned bench-heavy units. Last year, 28.1 percent of Barnes’ field goal attempts occurred at the rim. That has fallen to 23.3 percent this year. Either he has to get better in that floater range or he has to get right to the rim more often. It’s clear what his coach would like.

“When you see how teams are guarding him, they’re kind of like inviting him to shoot the 3s,” Rajaković said. “He needs to be able to take those and make those, and he’s doing a much better job this year. The next layer to it is when he’s attacking, the defence can do two things against a player like that. … (He can) be in a completely square stance or (he) can open up his feet. (Barnes) needs to be able to recognize those situations and to have counter moves.

“When I think about Giannis (Antetokounmpo), the defence is guarding him that way, but that’s not preventing him from getting all the way to the rim. Because over the years, he found his Euro step, he found his spin move, he found ways to get all the way to the rim. He improved his left-hand finishing, and that’s something that we’re slowly working and trying to implement and talk to him.”

Rajaković said Barnes is going to need to focus on his finishing package one summer to get the requisite reps in his game to get to that stage. That is fair: Booker, who entered the NBA after just one year in college like Barnes, averaged more turnovers in his third season, when he averaged 4.7 assists, than he is averaging now. In Antetokounmpo’s third year, he shot 68.4 percent from the rim; that number was at 78.9 percent last year.

Improvement is coming. How much? Well, if Barnes can channel Booker’s love for the craft, an awful lot. It depends on him.

Despite unclear path, Raptors serve notice in remarkable win over Suns – Sportsnet

And no, the Raptors have not chosen a path. Every regular season game is life or death as they try to squeeze into the play-in tournament, or at least until the trade deadline when they might pivot hard to rebuilding making everything at the moment meaningless.

The Raptors — coming off two very iffy road performances in a pair of losses – couldn’t win, could they?

“It’s the beauty of the league. It’s the challenge that’s ahead of us. We cannot control what we cannot control,” said Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic. “We came in late last night. Hopefully, we had enough time to get quality sleep and get ready here. We’ve got to put our minds and hearts wherever they need to be. And that’s to play great basketball and to bounce back.”

The Raptors showed their intentions early. Setting the tone was Anunoby who is building his all-defence resume one superstar shutdown at a time. Anunoby smothered Booker from the jump. Booker missed all four of his shot attempts in the first quarter and then three more in the second. Anunoby didn’t cover him as much as he swallowed up the gifted Suns guard. The Raptors star held Booker to 1-of-8 shooting and recorded two steals and a block in his 18 first-half minutes. He effectively erased one of the Suns’ superstars.

Durant’s problems were more self-imposed. He looked rusty playing for the first time in eight days. He was 4-of-10 from the floor – and while some credit should go to Scottie Barnes who was active on Durant defensively, it seemed more like Durant was missing shots he’d otherwise normally make.

“I don’t feel like I’m ever out of rhythm,” he said later. “I just missed shots. I just think the lid was on the basket tonight. I feel like we got good looks, we just didn’t finish.”

Meanwhile, the Raptors were firing on all cylinders. After Toronto shot just 40.5 per cent from the floor in losses to Cleveland and Brooklyn, the Raptors put up 60 points in the first half as they enjoyed a seven-point lead heading into the third quarter.

“It was important [to have a good start]” said Siakam. “… There’s just no excuse. We got here, we got some sleep. You come into the game, I thought we just wanted to have a good start. I thought we did.”

Siakam had nine points in the first quarter, scoring on a variety of tough finishes at the rim as the Raptors led 27-20 after 12 minutes. For the first half, Toronto counted 16 assists on 23 field goals, nine of the helpers from Schroder, who either had the Raptors organized in transition with his vision and speed, or found connections with the Raptors bigs, most memorably on a gorgeous alley-oop pass to Precious Achiuwa early in the second quarter.

It was one of a number of highlights: An Anunoby block on Booker, leading to a perfectly executed Schroder fastbreak and Siakam finish comes to mind; a hustle sequence in the third quarter that featured two separate loose ball battles on the floor that ended up with a Barnes lay-up when the Raptors were trying to survive impwith their bench unit in the third quarter was also indicative.

The Raptors may not have a path or a clear direction, but they keep pushing forward, and every once in a while surprise even themselves.

Suns vs. Raptors Final Score: Phoenix winning streak tripped up as Booker injuries ankle in 112-105 loss – Bright Side Of The Sun

Booker came down on his right ankle in an awkward position early in the third quarter, landing on a Raptors’ foot, and it was clear he was in pain and upset about the injury.

He exited and went to the locker room.

The Suns responded with a 7-0 run, narrowing the Raptors’ lead to one point, and as Devin Booker gingerly limped to the scorer’s table to check back in, Phoenix took the lead.

The Raptors kept hustling and playing with tenacious energy, and their willingness to be active kept them in the game and in the lead. In one sequence the Suns were out-hustled on the boards, giving up numerous offensive rebounds.

Defense leads to offense, and Toronto embodied this all night.

Durant, much akin to Booker, struggled from the field. Through three quarters they combined for 8-of-30 from the field.

After three, Raptors up 86-80.

By the start of the fourth quarter, Toronto had five players in double figures. It was a personification of the team style basketball that they were playing, utilizing movement, cutting, and energy to outhustle Phoenix.

Their lead ballooned to 11 points early in the fourth after Precious Achiuwa, a 23.8 3PT% shooter, knocked down a three.

KD responded with a personal 7-0 run.

Devin Booker served primarily as a decoy in the fourth quarter as he was clearly hampered by the ankle that he twisted earlier in the game. Durant was forced to be the offense for the majority of the quarter.

Every time the Suns would force a miss, however, it felt as if the Raptors would gain an offensive rebound and score. If the Suns would get the game to within two points, the Raptors would hit a three-pointer.

Phoenix had a chance to tie late, down 108-105, but a missed three-ball from Devin Booker sealed Phoenix’s fate.

Toronto Raptors vs Phoenix Suns Score: 112-105 Raptors end Suns streak – Raptors HQ

The Raptors were still winning the field goal percentage battle with 48.9% over the Suns 40.9%, and surprisingly (for this team) were ALSO winning the three-point battle. Toronto was 6-17 (35.3%) for three at half time where was the Suns shot 3-12 (25%) in the first half.

The Raptors led 60-53 going into halftime.

Unfortunately Devin Booker came out of the game early in the third quarter and seemed to be limping. He has been held to six points in the first half and already took a trip to the locker room as well.

The Raptors were slow offensively to start the second half, allowing the Suns to slowly creep back and make it a one possession game, but the Raptors didn’t let it get too out of hand.

The third quarter highlight was this Dennis assist below:

The Raptors still had the lead 86-80 going into the final quarter.

Which coincidentally was the time Devin Booker decided to come alive — everyone loves crunch time, ya know. Yet, it was a Scottie and the bench lineup that was able to hold Booker off and go on a run to get ahead ten points. Both Gary Trent Jr and Precious Achiuwa were in double figures for the bench already.

That wasn’t gonna stop Kevin Durant though, and he already had 24 points, six assists and three rebounds by the seven minute mark in the quarter. But who was there to stop him? None other than Scottie Barnes, who cam into the game and immediately got back to blocking, assisting, rebounding, making shots and basically everything else you can think of to impact this game.

With 2:30 left in the game the Raptors were up 105-101, and the Suns were quickly gaining on them. Both teams brought back in their starters and it was a close one. Which is fun when you think about the Raptors getting blown out but not cute when you think about the likelihood of the Raptors losing after being up.

Yet, Dennis Schroder kept the Raptors up by 5, 110-105 with 24.4 seconds to go, Raptors ball. The Suns resort to fouling the Raptors, and Scottie Barnes heads to the free throw line. Luckily (and this wasn’t certain based on previous games), he gets both.

Raptors win 112-105 over the Phoenix Suns.

Scottie Barnes and the Raptors bring Suns back to earth

It was another delightful game that was in doubt all night.

The Raptors got 14 points off the bench from Precious Achiuwa and 13 from Gary Trent Jr., while Malachi Flynn was solid in his backup role.

“Precious, a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in 18 minutes, this is what we expect from Precious — this kind of energy, this kind of focus. He did a really good job.”

And all five starters were effective, the exact recipe the Raptors need.

Pascal Siakam had 22 points, Jakob Poeltl made his first six shots and finished with 17, and Schröder piled up a season-high 12 assists.

If there is one undeniable truth about the Raptors so far this season, it’s that they are not going to win many games if there are passengers on the roster. They can always use a 30-point explosion from one player, but they can consistently compete only when everyone is contributing.

“We’re trying to find consistency and to find more weapons off the bench,” Rajakovic said. “(Tuesday) night we had a couple of bench guys that came in and contributed, but at the same time we did not have starters that played necessarily great games …

“We need literally every player that steps on the floor to contribute for us, offensively and defensively. And that’s our constant message with the team: that we’ve got to find a way to be motivated, mentally ready, physically ready to get on the court and help the team win.”

The Raptors did get solid production from just about everyone who played — at least, enough of them to give Toronto a chance to win.

The Suns not only had the luxury of extended rest, they also got Durant back after he missed two games with a bruised right foot. He and Devin Booker have seamlessly fit together this season, giving the Suns one of the best one-two punches in the league.

“They both command double teams and have the other guy on the back side is the first thing that comes to mind,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said. “And with Devin running the point and Kevin off the ball they can run off a lot of screens, give it up and get it back. And obviously when they play pick-and-roll together, playing off each other, it’s pretty good.”

But the Raptors held the dynamic twosome in check on the strength of the defence of Anunoby and Barnes, who split time on Durant.

Raptors Show Hard Working Culture in Shocking Upset of Suns – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors News, Analysis and More

It’s not going to happen overnight, but the goal is to be building to something in the future, something, ideally, centered around Scottie Barnes and whoever else is around to join him.

On Wednesday, Toronto showed hints at what the future might look like, knocking off the Suns in a shocking 112-105 upset victory at Scotiabank Arena.

It was Barnes who carried Toronto late. He led the bench unit when the Raptors needed to buy time and kept the Suns at bay with 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. When crunch time rolled around, it was Barnes who iced the game at the free-throw line after a layup from Dennis Schröder put the Raptors out of reach for the Suns.

“When the game is on the line, you have players, and Scottie is one of those guys, you just see in his eyes that he’s like ultra-focused and ready,” Rajaković said. “He loves the moment. He’s embracing the moment and he’s ready to go out there and do whatever it takes.”

Nobody would have faulted the Raptors had they come out sluggish against Phoenix. The team landed in Toronto at 4 am on the heels of a hard-fought game against the Brooklyn Nets. Considering the talent of the Suns who came into Toronto riding a seven-game winning streak, a blowout loss would have been entirely reasonable.

But not to the Raptors.

“It’s the challenge that’s ahead of us. We cannot control what we cannot control,” Rajaković said pre-game. “We’ve got to put our minds and hearts wherever they need to be. And that’s to play great basketball and to bounce back.”

That’s what Toronto did.

ON THE RECORD: What was said after Raptors outplayed the excellent Phoenix Suns | Toronto Sun

Barnes entered the night in the throes of a shooting funk in which he went a combined 15-of-44 from the field in his past three games.

His first half against the Suns was pretty understated to the point of pedestrian.

Fortunately for the Raptors, they didn’t need Barnes to be at his best.

Mind you, even an average Barnes is acceptable when players around him are playing well.

Three Toronto starters not named Barnes reached double digits in scoring in the opening 24 minutes, an opening half that would see the home side holding a 60-53 advantage.

For a change, the Raptors made their free throws and had only four turnovers, including just one in the game’s opening quarter.

Toronto began the night by recording eight assists on 11 made baskets.

By the break, the Raptors produced a 4:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which underscored the level of Toronto’s efficiency.

Leading the way at halftime was Dennis Schroder, who recorded nine assists, while not turning the ball over a single time.

Barnes didn’t commit a single turnover, and on both trips to the line, Barnes converted. He would record a block, but Barnes took only four shots. His one and only make came on a driving dunk.

No starter, including Barnes, was on the floor in excess of 18 minutes as 10 players were used in the back end of a back-to-back.

Every starter had a positive plus-minus rating.

For a team that suffered tough losses in Cleveland and Brooklyn and then was forced to deal with a travel issue, credit the Raptors for summoning some of their best basketball against a quality team such as the Suns.

How does the rest of the NBA In-Season Tournament work? Schedule, prize money, how to watch – The Athletic

Celtics-Pacers

Upstart Indiana went unbeaten in a tough Group A but the Pacers now draw the mighty Celtics for their troubles. Boston embarrassed Indiana 155-104 in their only meeting thus far on Nov. 1; however, unlike that game, this contest will be played in Indiana. The Celtics have the league’s best record, while the Pacers lead the league in both points scored and points allowed.

Pelicans-Kings

Houston’s loss to Dallas opened the door for New Orleans to win Group B as the only team to win more than half its games. The Pelicans will play the Kings; they swept Sacramento in a two-game series in New Orleans last week but were hammered 130-102 by Golden State in late October.

Suns–Lakers

Lakers versus Suns, meanwhile, should be the marquee game of the quarterfinals, featuring a head-to-head matchup of LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The Lakers narrowly won both earlier meetings between the two teams, with L.A.’s 122-119 win in Phoenix on Nov. 10 being the difference in the two teams’ placement in the In-Season Tournament standings.

Knicks-Bucks

Milwaukee and New York will be a rematch of the tournament game won by the Bucks, 110-105, on Nov. 3. The two teams will now play each other three times in December, as the two were already slated to meet on Dec. 23 and on Christmas. Milwaukee will be favored on its home court.