Five thoughts on Game 14: Raptors 125, Pelicans 116

New Orleans Pelicans at Toronto Raptors Nov 15

A few thoughts on the Toronto Raptors’ Wednesday night victory over the New Orleans Pelicans:

For eight minutes, it looked like it was gonna be a long night for the Raptors

The Raptors got off to an atrocious start in this one, and it looked like we were gonna have to chock this one up to the Raptors playing their first back-to-back of the season, on the road. At one point they had four straight turnovers, mostly due to lazy passes; and they were just as lazy gating back in transition, as the Pelicans scored 9 points off turnovers in those first eight minutes. They were getting beat on the glass, beat on cuts… it was just sad. Thankfully the bench came in and saved them, which is becoming a habit.

CJ Miles is beasting

A key part of that comeback was CJ Miles. He’s shooting without conscience, which is exactly what the Raptors need. I’ve said it before, he’s a threat and even his misses are good for the offense. He finished 5-9 from three, and contributed in other ways as well: a nasty one-handed jam off a Delon Wright offensive rebound, a lovely pass that led to a Jakob Poeltl dunk, and my favorite moment, a completely dismissive stare down of a riled up DeMarcus Cousins in the fourth quarter. He averaged 15.3 ppg on 57% 3-pt shooting on the road trip.

Does DeMarcus Cousins hate basketball?

I feel like Cousins is the most joyless player in the league. Maybe even in league history. He looks like he absolutely hates playing basketball. He seems to have nothing but disdain for the whole affair. I mean no one wants him (or anyone) to be Dwight Howard, goofing around from the tip, but come on man. Show that you like or are at least interested in your job! I’ll tell you this, from a fan perspective, he’s just awful to watch—and it’s sad because he’s so freaking good.

I am so bummed about Delon Wright’s injury

Wright injured his shoulder in the second quarter battling for a rebound; the Raptors are reevaluating him today, but it’s the same (right) shoulder he’s had issues with in the past. I would hate to see him miss time, not only because the Raptors need him but because he’s been playing so well, and so much more consistently, lately. The second-unit defense just won’t be the same without him. And his injury means more time for Fred VanVleet, which isn’t ideal—though I’ll be the first to admit FVV tends to step up when you least expect it! Like in the Wizards game when Lowry got tossed, or against the Celtics when he took the elbow that got the Raptors one final shot. Even tonight, he hit the three that gave the Raptors the lead at the end of the first half.

For the love of God, please stop reviewing fouls for flagrants

I blame Draymond Green for this, for that whole deal with the leg kicks and “unnatural acts.” But this has gotten ridiculous. Cousins runs into Kyle Lowry, and gets his knee up and is called for the offensive foul. Then they have to review it for a flagrant? What? In the fourth, Anthony Davis and Lowry battled for a loose ball, and in the melee Davis whacked Kyle in the face. Loose ball foul. Then they have to review it for a flagrant? What!?!? Give me a break, guys. Neither of them ended up being whistled flagrant; these are basketball plays. Bodies are crashing. People are gonna get whacked! (I sure do wish it wasn’t Kyle every damn time. The guy leads the league with 10 charges taken!)

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That’s a 2-1 mini-road trip for the Raptors, which is an excellent result. Now it’s home for two (before another 3-game road trip); first up it’s the new-look Knicks and Kristaps Porzingis on Friday, who currently sit one game behind the Raps in the east standings.

Five thoughts on Game 11: Raptors 122, Pelicans 118

Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans Nov 9

Five thoughts on the Toronto Raptors entertaining victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night:

This Pelicans team reminds me of… the Raptors

They’ve got great players who at times look like throwbacks in today’s NBA. And they’re trying to be a ball-movement-oriented, three-point shooting team. When it works, it looks great! DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are good passers, when they want to be, and can handle the ball, and have range. And overall the Pelicans probably have more shooting than the Raptors do. But when the two bigs combine with starting PG Jrue Holiday to shoot 5-19 from behind the arc, that’s trouble.

The Raptors shot threes in volume

42 three pointers! They only hit 16, although there were some timely ones, especially from Kyle Lowry. But more importantly, I think, was the willingness to let fly. Even if the shots aren’t falling, for the offense to work you have to keep shooting! Within that 42, there are some good signs: Kyle Lowry and CJ Miles, the teams’ two best shooters, shot 18 of them. Over time, they’ll hit more than 6. DeMar DeRozan took 6! The two he made were from the corner, which is a spot I’d like to see him shoot more from. (One he missed was a hilariously all-advised turnaround fadeaway, which had zero chance of hitting). Norman Powell shot 5, which is a good sign his confidence is coming back.

The Raptors big men played as well as they could…

Facing Cousins and Davis is no easy task. Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl were better than most! They held the Pelicans’ twin towers to 38 points on 38 shots, and the Raptors outrebounded the Pelicans 48-38.

… but Jrue Holiday exposed their weaknesses

Ibaka and Valanciunas are not great at guarding in space, and when smaller players drive off a pick-and-roll, they’re often left behind the play, flat footed. Holiday scored 34 on 20 shots, most of those coming at the rim after leaving a Raptors’ big in his wake. Still, if you have to pick your poison, I’ll live with taking away the opponent’s two best weapons and asking their third-best player to beat us.

I think OG Anunoby has solidified his case for more minutes

Dwane Casey played 12 guys again, which is insane to me. (The Pelicans played 8; granted, they have a couple injuries, but still.) OG’s stat line—3-4 from the floor, 1-2 from deep, 8 points, 2 rebounds in 14 minutes—is solid enough. But his defense on Holiday in the fourth quarter was splendid. After torching the Raps for 32 through three quarters, he scored only 2 points on 1-4 shooting in the fourth, and the credit goes to OG for hounding him on the perimeter, forcing pick and rolls to start farther out, using his size and strength to keep Holiday out of the paint. (Fred Van Vleet, by the way, was 1-7 in 14 minutes. I think it’s time, Dwane.)

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The Raptors head out on the road now for a tough three game trip: At Boston, at Houston, and then on to New Orleans for a rematch with the Pelicans.