Fair warning: By Christmas, these morning-after articles might devolve into alternating bullets describing the awesome things Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry are doing.
I certainly could do that today, after the show Leonard and Lowry put on last night against the Charlotte Hornets in a 127-106 Raptors victory.
But I still managed find a few different things to write about! Let’s do it:
The Raptors Chased the Hornets off the Deep Ball All Night
The Hornets came in averaging 39.3 three-point shot attempts per game, fourth-best in the league, but Toronto held them to 28 last night, including just 12 in the second half. The Raptors did a great job closing out on all the Charlotte shooters, including the blazing-hot Kemba Walker, who came in averaging 6.3 makes on 12.7 attempts per game; he finished this one just 2-for-7 from downtown.
I’ll admit I wanted to use this space to give Danny Green heck for jumping out at three-point shooters, something he’s done in each game this year, and something that never works. Except... OG Anunoby blocked a Kemba Walker triple soon after. And then C.J. Miles blocked a Miles Bridges attempt! I just don’t know what’s real anymore.
Leonard and Green Flashed Awesome Chemistry
Speaking of Green, other than his habit of jumping at long range shooters, he’s been everything you could have asked for as a Raptor, and best of all, he’s been a wonderful outlet for several Kawhi Leonard passes. Leonard found him twice last night on impossible angles, including this gem:
spurs connection pic.twitter.com/xbVcWSErZM— William Lou (@william_lou) October 23, 2018
The seven years Leonard and Green played together in San Antonio are clearly serving them well!
Jonas Valanciunas is Busting his Ass Out There
JV has always played hard, but I feel like I’m seeing an extra oomph in his play this season—at least in three of the four games (he was oddly a step slow against Boston). But overall I feel like he’s banging more down low, fighting harder for position, and bullying his way to the rim with a take-no-prisoners attitude. (Though perhaps just to prove me wrong, he did finish a wonderfully graceful layup going left to right around Cody Zeller last night.
It might be by my imagination, or maybe it’s that he knows his minutes aren’t certain so he’s making the most of them. Either way, I dig it; he finished with 17 points, 10 boards, two steals and two blocks in just 19 minutes last night.
Uh, the Norm clearout? Nah. No thanks.
With 8:30 left in the second quarter, and the Raptors bench unit predictably struggling, the shot clock wound down and Norman Powell got the ball on the wing. Perhaps he was feeling himself a bit because he had just done this...
Welcome to the Association pic.twitter.com/NjyHJ56DeR— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 23, 2018
... and so he asked his teammates to clear out so he could go to work.
It did not go well.
If my eyes do not deceive me, there was the crossover, kind of a half-step-back, then another crossover, then a full stepback... then a bricked three pointer.
The Fred VanVleet, Valanciunas, Miles, OG Anunoby and Powell unit doesn’t have a whole lot of one-on-one playmaking, and this is a sure reminder of that. (That unit, by the way, has played 19 minutes this season and has an offensive rating of 77.8. Yikes.)
Powell is athletic—the dunk sure proves that—but he doesn’t have the handles or the size to consistently create his own shot. Let’s not see that again.
By the way, the victim of that Norm dunk? Rookie Miles Bridges, and he took it all in stride:
@npowell2404 thanks for the welcome.— Miles Bridges (@MilesBridges) October 23, 2018
I Miss Those Big Bismack Biyombo Blocks
As much as it hurts to see our son OG Anunoby get done like this:
.@bismackbiyombo flew in for the BIG rejection! #Hornets30 pic.twitter.com/2dhDQ6eGEM— NBA TV (@NBATV) October 23, 2018
I have to admit, seeing Biyombo go up and slam that door brought back some good memories of his single season in Toronto. Although:
Bismack is in. It was a goddamn block.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) October 23, 2018
Damn right it was.
On the one hand I’m thrilled for Bismack that he got paid. On the other hand, that contract is keeping him stuck to bad teams like Orlando and Charlotte; as a player, he’d be such a great fit as a veteran’s minimum on a winning team that only needed him as a energizing shot blocker, like a a Houston or a Golden State—that same role he played for the Raptors three years ago. I hope he finds that role on his next contract.
With the exception of those shaky bench minutes, last night’s victory the best beginning-to-end performance the Raptors have put together this season. It sounds like Delon Wright is coming back on Wednesday, and I can’t wait to see what this team looks like at full strength!