Five thoughts on the Raptors’ first road game, and first loss, of the season:
- There are two obvious answers to why the Raps dropped this one, after keeping it close for most of the night: Shooting and rebounding. Two kinda important things! But the Raps shot 10-37 from three (34-80 overall) and were out-rebounded 55-34. Perhaps the Spurs would’ve blown the doors of them if they themselves hadn’t shot so poorly from distance (5-20) and the free throw line (16-23). I won’t read too much into the shooting this early into the season but the rebounding is a concern. The Spurs are big, yes, and the Raptors were missing their starting centre, but one has to wonder if this team as constructed has enough size? Norman Powell is small for a starting SF, and CJ Miles is small for a backup SF. Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet are a small backup backcourt (and Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan aren’t huge either). Yes, the Raptors seem to have a glut of centers but Lucas Nogueira is unreliable, Jakob Poetl is still foul-prone and Serge Ibaka, who can slide in there, isn’t a huge rebounding presence. Again, it’s game three so not something to panic about—but something to watch.
- Speaking of centers, Poetl was undeniably impressive off the bench yesterday. He was the Raptors’ only rebound presence (he had 12; Nogueira had 6; no one else had more than 4). He showed his quick hands and soft touch again, getting the ball off the glass and up on the rim quickly. He blocked shots, got his hands on loose balls and ran the floor well; he ran a great pick and roll with Miles. It’s only three games, but three excellent games, and he showed enough promise last year that I’m starting to think they may have really struck gold with this guy.
- Bebe, on the other hand, was a disappointment. This is a big year for Bebe, his fourth in the league; it’s the time that he really needs to show whether he belongs and if he’s worth a second contract beyond his rookie deal. And, getting the start for Jonas Valanciunas, this was a great opportunity. But he looked lost out there. He looked good against the Sixers, and I know the Spurs, with their incredible execution, make a lot of players look bad, but he had a serious quickness advantage over Gasol and Aldridge but didn’t bring anything to the table. He executes the pick and roll as well as anyone on the team—he sets great screens and finds the seams beautifully. And he plays with energy. But I’m not sure there’s much else to his game.
- The starting lineup was overall a disappointment again. I still managed to observe a few highlights, not the least of which was Kyle Lowry getting all ornery with Dejounte Murray and one of the officials, getting a foul call, then a bucket, then getting called for a foul. I love ornery Kyle. (And speaking of ornery… Ibaka does seem to have a way of getting under people’s skin, doesn’t he? He and Aldridge went at it in the fourth!) Norm’s game didn’t show up in the stat sheet, and his shooting was off again, but he made a number of nice plays (including a steal and bucket at the end of the first half that should have counted). Overall though, the Raps need more from their starting five than 59 points on 40% shooting and 16 (!) rebounds.
- The Spurs remain the Spurs—good, and ageless. It’s amazing that guys like Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili (and Tony Parker though he’s hurt at the moment) contribute so much so late in their careers. And the young guys they find… I mean, Patty Mills and Danny Green are known quantities now. But Kyle Anderson? And Murray! I’m super impressed by Murray. He’s aggressive, shoots the ball well. Their scouting department is top notch.
Let’s see if the team can get more balanced production between the starting unit and the bench Wednesday night against the champs.