Because they are so dependably good, the Raptors are kind of a boring team to follow over the course of a full season. Extended swoons are rare, inter-team drama appears to be nearly non-existent, and 126-113 wins against lowly opponents like the Suns just sort of happen without much resistance or tension.
Tuesday night’s game against the NBA’s worst defensive team on a back-to-back was littered with the kind of complacency you might expect from a team in the Raptors’ position. Toronto coasted through this one like a gifted student in year one of university — they screwed around and didn’t really apply themselves but got their shit together just enough when it mattered to make it out with ease.
Defense wasn’t exactly top of mind for the Raptors because, well, it’s the Suns. Their lackadaisical approach allowed Phoenix to maintain the illusion of being within striking distance for most of the night. The Suns to ripped the nets to the tune of 48.6 percent from the field, and the Raptors hacked and knocked them to the the line 38 times for 30 points. After going down 18 by the end of the third, Phoenix brought it close enough at least get reporters to contemplate drafting a re-write.
Toronto wasn’t the only team that said no to defending on Tuesday. In a stunning development, a Jay Triano-coached team came into the game as the league’s worst defense on a per-possession basis. Boy, did they ever pad those stats tonight.
In yet another instance of Toronto embracing its new egalitarian approach to offense, seven Raptors hit double figures for the second-straight game. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan led the way, as they do, with 20 each. Lowry’s first quarter was particularly delightful as he reveled in the pronounced height advantage he had over Suns starter Tyler Ulis, roasting the teeny tiny man boy for 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the opening 12 minutes.
With 15 threes on 36 attempts and 30 assists, and a 115.6 offensive rating, the Raptors are well past surprising anyone with their revamped offensive system. It’s become predictable in the best way possible.
What might not have been expected about Tuesday’s game was Serge Ibaka’s performance. Serge this year has been ... let’s say ... selectively attentive. His activity rises and falls, typically in line with the height of leverage in a given game. So naturally, he played his heart out against the daunting front court matchup of Marquese Chriss and Greg Monroe.
With Dikembe Mutombo in attendance for Giants of Africa Night at the ACC, Ibaka paid the four-time Defensive Player of the Year plenty of tribute, racking up three blocks, one of which inspired this Mutombo shout out.
Ibaka also flashed a shooting range Mutombo never did achieve, hitting 2-of-5 threes and 8-of-13 shots from the field for 19 points. After spending the first quarter of the year locked in a bit of funk, Ibaka appears to be rounding into form over the last couple games.
Oh good, another thing going swimmingly for the Raptors.
It’s easy to fall into a malaise of your own as a fan when your team performs like a metronome night after night. Toronto’s wins haven’t been particularly heart-pounding, and most of their losses have been easily sloughed off. Sometimes a little adversity sounds alright — not like, Thunder-level strife, but some early-season Cavs uncertainty? That would certainly spice up a season that everyone knows won’t be evaluated until a few months from now.
That said, Tuesday’s opponent should help remind fans of how good the Raptors have it, even if things have gotten a little dull. A team that employs Triano, a guy named Mike James and Dragan “literally Andrea Bargnani” Bender churned up some dark memories of a time in Raptors history where the franchise would give anything for a season of low-excitement goodness.