The Toronto Raptors entered the preseason with two major points of emphasis on the offensive end — three-point shooting and ball movement.
With such a small sample of games, it’d be farfetched to say mission accomplished.
But progress has certainly been made from their stagnated, iso-heavy offence and the team has shown that it’s at least open to a shift in offensive philosophy.
After teasing fans with a barrage of outside shooting and unselfish play last Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons, the Raptors gave them another dose in their 125-104 win over the Chicago Bulls in the preseason finale.
From the opening tip-off, the Raptors pushed the tempo looking to get out and run whenever they could.
Pascal Siakam, who got the start in place of Serge Ibaka (rest), was the beneficiary of a few easy baskets early on as the Raptors’ floor general rewarded the big man for running the floor.
Siakam wasn’t the only recipient as Norman Powell also took advantage of outlet passes from Lowry to capitalize in transition.
When the Raptors weren’t on the fast break, both DeMar DeRozan and Lowry were creating off the bounce, finding the open man — usually in the corner — on multiple occasions once drawing the double team in the paint.
Siakam, who’s been working on his shooting from the pocket corner, missed all three of his attempts from long distance.
The Raptors shot 56 percent from the field and 4-for-11 from downtown in the opening quarter but only led 35-31.
A pair of poor closeouts on three-point attempts from Siakam and Powell led to free throws, including a four-point play from Bulls guard Justin Holliday.
The second quarter saw CJ Miles deliver some instant offence in a variety of ways. The Raptors’ prized free agent acquisition connected from downtown on three occasions, flashing the outside stroke that made him so coveted by the front office while showing nice touch in the paint with the use of a floater.
The ex-Pacers’ performance gives Casey some reassurance knowing that Miles is capable of producing whether he starts or not. Miles led all scorers with 16 points at the half while Lowry added 14 to give the Raptors a 63-56 lead.
The Raptors continued to keep their foot on the gas, pushing their lead to 13 midway through the third quarter. The team continued to share their rock assisting on seven-of-eight field goals made and shooting 50 percent from the field overall in the quarter.
But the Bulls battled back on the strength of their effort on the glass turning a minus-four deficit in rebounds into a plus-five advantage at the end of the quarter.
Leading the way for the home team was Holliday — who had a team-high 17 points — as he and teammates Bobby Portis and rookie Lauri Markkanen began to find their three-point stroke to tie things up at 87 heading into the fourth quarter.
It RAINED 3s in the 3rd Q pic.twitter.com/m7w1PIAiB4— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) October 14, 2017
The Raptors returned to their formula of crisp ball movement and three-point shooting and rode the heels of an unlikely hot hand to pull away from the Bulls.
It had been an uneventful night for rookie OG Anunoby until the game’s final 12 minutes when the ex-Hoosier caught fire hitting three treys and adding a dunk off a steal to give the Raptors a 111-99 lead with 4:35 remaining. On two occasions, Fred VanVleet penetrated into the paint only to find a wide open Anunoby shot-ready awaiting a pass. The point guard made a bid for some extra playing time scoring 10 points while dishing out a team-high six assists.
Not to be outdone was Delon Wright, who had seven points, four rebounds, and four assists as he looks in line to secure the backup job behind Lowry.
Anunoby finished with 12 points and three rebounds on three-of-seven shooting from beyond the arc, but struggled at the charity stripe hitting just one-of-four.
The game’s final minutes saw Lucas Noguiera showcase a little bit of everything including a thunderous block and a summer three.
KJ McDaniels had a dunk in his cameo appearance but appears to be on the outside looking in as Alfonzo McKinnie received the bulk of the reserve minutes in the second and fourth quarter hitting a three while grabbing a pair of boards.
Toronto converted 19-of-48 attempts (40 percent) from long distance with 31 assists on 46 field goals made.
The Raptors will open their season next Thursday at home against the Bulls.