There's a moment in most Summer League games when, as a spectator, you say to yourself: Wow, this really doesn't resemble basketball. Actually, last night there were plenty of those moments.
The Raptors Summer League participation came to a merciful close as they fell 93-77 to the Houston Rockets. The Raps were up 56-30 at half-time thanks to some impressive play from Bruno Caboclo and an equally impressive performance/furious attempt to not get waived next Monday by Dwight Buycks. Buycks top-scored for the Raps with 24 points, while Caboclo had 12 -- all in the first-half.
In that first-half the Raps shot 75% from the field, while 75% of the Rockets' shots appeared to clank off the front of the rim -- equally impressive in its own masochistic way. Things went downhill fast for the Raps in the second-half, however, as the team scored just 5 points in the third quarter, an all-time Summer League low, and just 21 points in the entire second half.
After looking like a rec' league team doing a fun impersonation of the Spurs in the first-half (the ball movement was actually quite good), the Raps went back to playing like the team that was blown-out against the Nuggets and Mavericks -- only a little worse.
The Rockets were positively awful in the first half, but in the second they got to the free-throw line whenever they wanted (they attempted 46 free-throws in total last night) and started moving the ball; during which time it became the Raps' turn to look like a bunch of semi-talented individuals, out-of-sync, and desperately forcing things.
Other than the Brazilian Kevin Durant (that nickname is getting old already, right?), and the aforementioned Buycks, there really wasn't anything else to get excited about from an individual performance perspective. Lucas Nogueira had a couple of nice bounces passes -- one to a baseline-cutting DeAndre Daniels -- and a big block on Luke Hancock, but not much else. The rest of the team were either quiet or plain awful.
Ultimately the Rockets' superior talent paid dividends in this game...that, and their ability to do things like inbound the basketball and not turn it over on every offensive possession. Donatas Motiejunas and Isaiah Canaan both scored 18 points; and Nick Johnson, the team's second-round pick, looked very decent, putting up 12.
And here's the thing: Caboclo isn't afraid to shoot the ball. While his percentages haven't been great in Vegas, his form looks good and sometimes just fighting through the hesitation to let it go is half the battle with young players.
We also got a little glimpse into something resembling an off-the-dribble game from Caboclo -- in the second quarter he beat his man off the bounce and scored with a floater, getting fouled in the process. Don't expect to see too much of that in the coming season, but it was encouraging.
Caboclo has shown enough in the last four games to justify Masai Ujiri's gamble on him with the 20th pick. I shall now look forward to watching him play in games that don't make me want to gouge my eyes out with a blunt object.