Five thoughts on Game 5: Raptors 101, Lakers 92

Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers Oct 27

Five thoughts on the Raptors squeaking out their first road win of the season:

  1. Pascal Siakam started for the second straight game; he earned it with his excellent play in the Warriors game, and he played just as well tonight. All told he’s 17-22 with 38 points in his two starts! He’s only grabbed 7 total rebounds, which isn’t ideal for a starting SF, but he’s also only turned the ball over once, which is impressive for a second-year player. Much like fellow sophomore Jakob Poeltl, I’m really impressed with his hands and his touch; big men and rookies often have a hard time catching tough passes, and getting the ball up on the rim or backboard quickly. Both of these guys have quick hands, are able to grab passes even when they aren’t on the money, and don’t need a lot of time to gather themselves and shoot.
  2. Speaking of Poeltl, he and the Raptors bench finally came back down to earth after four solid games. They pretty much crapped the bed at the end of the first quarter and into the second, giving up a 17-6 run and looking completely listless on both ends of the floor. Poeltl seemed outmathced by Julius Randle, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright couldn’t get anything going outside or going to the rim, and OG Anonuby, while playing with good energy once again, shot 2-8. The Lakers bench definitely seemed like the better second unit!
  3. Thankfully, the Raptors starters finally delivered a decent all-around game. Kyle Lowry continues to shoot poorly, but he did earn a triple-double, and hit the game-sealing three with a minute left (after a wonderful, Steve Nash-ian zig-zag dribble right under the hoop, back out through the paint to the three-point line). DeMar DeRozan carried the Raps in the fourth with his usual array of midrange shots. Serge Ibaka and Siakam combined for 16-20 shooting. (You won’t believe this, but Ibaka finished with 0 assists.) Norm Powell is still struggling big-time on offense, but managed to finish with a +17, so he must be doing something right out there. Overall the five Raps starters were all positive in plus/minus, and the five bench players all negative. The Lakers? Exact opposite.
  4. Lonzo Ball is gonna be a good pro, no doubt about it. Everything everyone says about his court vision, awareness and timing is spot-on. He sees the floor extremely well; and not just when he has the ball, he just seems to be in the right place at the right time, even on defense, which is impressive for a rookie (even though his actual 1-1 defense isn’t strong yet). But that jump shot… I can’t believe the Lakers aren’t trying to correct that. His accuracy is terrible, so defenders are letting him shoot. But the mechanics are so poor—he shoots, basically, from the side of his chest—that, if he ever does get his accuracy up, defenders will stick to him and he won’t be able to get that shot off. So strange.
  5. As for the rest of the Lakers, it’s a weird team, man. Everyone’s heard the rumors that the team’s in a holding pattern, waiting for LeBron James to sign there next summer… and looking at the roster, you can’t help but think, “yep, they didn’t give a crap about this season.” I mean, they’re long and athletic,  they have nice young players in Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Randle… but no one on this team can shoot! And they can’t defend for anything. If they Raptors could shoot, and if their bench didn’t look like they spent all night partying in Hollywood, I think the Raptors blow the doors of this team. But if they have indeed preserved enough flexibility to acquire LeBron James and another star and team them with Ball, then I guess they’re the winners in the long run!

The road trip is half-over! Up next, it’s the Trail Blazers in Portland.

Five thoughts on Game 4: Warriors 117, Raptors 112

Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Oct 25

Five thoughts on the Raptors’ tough loss to the reigning NBA champs:

  1. Kyle Lowry continues to struggle for the Raptors, and I’m starting to worry. This team isn’t going anywhere if its best player continues to average 13 points on 38% shooting, 28% from three, and a PER of 12. I hope it’s rust, and that he shakes it off soon. The rest of the starters seem to be settling in; DeMar DeRozan is shooting 50%, Serge Ibaka is shooting 40% from deep (although my God Serge, pass the ball sometimes, man), and Norman Powell—while still not scoring much—is making positive plays in limited minutes. But Lowry is the weak link right now, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
  2. Jakob Poeltl watch: Came in in the first quarter, immediately got two offensive rebounds, a steal and two buckets off of great passes from CJ Miles. And did you see that play in the fourth where he set the screen on a Lowry PNR, Lowry missed a three, and Poeltl got the board and putback? Also: I just realized I’ve been spelling his last name wrong all along.
  3. Bebe watch: Injured. As Blake Murphy pointed out on Twitter, this was—unbelievably—the longest Lucas Nugueira had made it into a season without getting hurt. Three games! I was a bit surprised Poeltl didn’t get the start, to be honest. I generally like Casey’s “keep the bench unit together” approach, but thought that Poeltl earned those minutes following his play the last two games. But, can’t argue with the results; the start went to Paskal Siakam, who did not disappoint—a career high in points, dunking and hitting threes, running the floor like a champ, sticking to guys on some solid defensive possessions. And Poeltl was—again—a stud off the bench.
  4. As for the final minutes… You can pin the loss on the Raptors falling back in to old habits at the end of games—it was Lowry and DeRozan iso-ball on the final few possessions, abandoning the ball movement that had given them the lead just moments before. I didn’t mind the shots themselves—a couple 15-footers from DeMar and a floater from Kyle—but there was no movement to get those shots, the defense was completely set, rebounders were firmly entrenched. But old habits die hard, and the progress overall through four games is promising. The play in the final two minutes that just killed me was Kevin Durant’s three. Shame on Serge Ibaka for backpedaling way too far when everyone and their brother knew that, down three with the ball in his hands coming off a stop, Durant wanted to take the pull-up 3. Ibaka gave him the space. Durant took it. And nailed it. And that was it.
  5. The Warriors are the champs, and they’ve won a billion games the past three years. We should be used to their greatness by now… but man, they are something else. The length, the speed, and the shooting… that 9-0 run in the second quarter happened so fast, and they make it look so easy. And then the run to close the game… mistakes against this team, or any failure to capitalize on a stop or offensive rebound, will kill you. They are so deadly. They’re a joy to watch… against any team but your own, of course.

Let’s see how the Raps do Friday night against the new-look Lakers!