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