Almost there folks! Only one more pre-season game to go! But first, a few thoughts on the one that one down last night:
Hot Damn, That Third Quarter
So, that was something, wasn’t it?
The Raps adjusted their lineup coming out of halftime; I don’t know if this was because of something the coaching staff saw or they were just distributing the minutes, but Jonas Valanciunas and Pascal Siakam joined Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
And they were... everywhere? The defense went up a level, JV nailed a three, Lowry got tossed, Green was on fire...
Wait, Lowry got tossed? From a pre-season game??
The Raptors actually got better sans Lowry. Delon Wright had a second straight solid game in relief, OG Anunoby joined the defensive lockdown and when all was said and done the Raps turned a three-point halftime deficit into a 21-point lead heading into the fourth.
Apply your usual preseason caveats, but that was f--king fun, right?
The Raptors Twitter Account is Savage
I’ve offered this team my compliments in the past, but this might be their best work yet:
They weren’t done!
It’s only the pre-season and these guys are cooking already.
Speaking of Cooking, Meet Danny Green
Danny Green was on fire from downtown last night. Sure, there were a lot of turnovers and general ugliness along the way, but this is the kinda thing that swings games:
I know Green’s shooting his trended down the last couple of years; Mitch Orsatti covered it nicely in his Danny Green player preview. But let’s not forget: Green shot 36-69 from downtown across two NBA Finals series. When he gets hot, he gets HOT.
Serge Ibaka, Centre of the Future
Everyone else is writing their “Serge Ibaka Is A Centre Now” pieces this week, so may as well add mine to the mix! I think Ibaka at the 5 absolutely worth a shot. The Raps are deep and flexible at every other position except “traditional big” (I don’t even know if separating the traditional 4 and traditional 5 positions really matters at this point). So why not platoon Ibaka and Valanciunas? The big man duo proved they could play together last year, so you know that if you need them together (should an opposing team go big, if such a team exists) you can rock that look. Meanwhile you know Serge has had difficulty guarding “stretch 4s” which, again, I feel like is not even a thing anymore—almost all 4s fit that description these days. So it makes sense to give him a majority of the minutes at the 5.
Last night he was... shaky. (Yes, that includes his dream shake.) But I think the Raptors can afford a bit of a leash with him until he figures it out.
Whether or not he should start is another story, and our man Daniel Hackett covered it perfectly in this Twitter thread from last night: Valanciunas should be the starter. And if Ibaka doesn’t like the bench, or ends up having a significantly reduced role? He’ll have to deal. The Raps can’t concern themselves with Serge’s ego or what his contract status “merits”, because this is an all-in year, and if starting JV and reducing Serge’s overall role gives you the better chance to win, that’s what you do.
Chris Boucher in the House
I had hoped Chris Boucher—who grew up in Montreal—might get the start, much the same way Kyle Collinsworth did last week against Utah. Alas, it was more important to get OG Anunoby some work, so Boucher didn’t get in until garbage time—but he got a fantastic ovation when he did. And then he delivered! He nailed two roof-raising three-point bombs and had a nice block in his seven minutes.
Toronto’s preseason wraps up tonight in New Orleans against the Pelicans, and then—on to the real games!