Last game, I mentioned something you see a lot of in pre-season NBA games: Free throws. Another thing you see a lot of, that was most certainly true last night: Turnovers. The Raptors and Jazz combined for 28 in the first half, which led to an up-and-down, back and forth first 24 minutes.
The teams cleaned up the TOs in the second half, but the Raptors—playing mostly bench guys—went into the tank, getting outscored by 24 points.
I’m gonna focus mostly on the second half here, but you know what my first thought is...
Kawhi Leonard, Looking Better and Better
Lest you get a bit down looking at the final score, please allow the (very good) Toronto Raptors Twitter account to catch you up on Kawhi Leonard’s first half:
I need a cigarette.
The Nurse Experiments Continue
Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright and Norman Powell started the second half for Toronto; that’s the same “Bench Mob lite” unit that played last game, with Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas swapped. That unit played well against Portland, but was dominated in this one, giving up a 25-5 run to the Jazz (who played their five starters).
We then saw Danny Green, C.J. Miles and Valanciunas come in to play with VanVleet and Siakam; those two were in turn replaced by Powell and Wright.
It’s hard to say if Nick Nurse was looking for anything particular with those groups—or if he just wanted to stop the bleeding. But Nurse has spoken extensively about his desire to experiment with different lineups. I’m very curious to see if that continues in the regular season, or if he sticks with regular groups more. It’s easy to say you want to experiment, but NBA players are creatures of habit who like to know their roles. It’s definitely one of the more intriguing things about this Raptors season.
What Happened the Bench Mob’s Defensive Energy?
The group that started the third had a rough time navigating the Jazz pick-and-rolls. Rody Gobert is obviously a fantastic screener, but Powell and VanVleet both found themselves hung up on screens multiple times, and that led to the rest of the D scrambling—and either wide open three-pointers or foul shots for the Jazz.
And in transition? Man, this Raptors group just did not seem interested in stopping the three-ball. Rubio and Ingles feasted on lazy Raptors defenders, both of them scoring twice on wide-open triples that no Raptor was within six feet of. It was maddening...
...maybe let’s just blame the altitude and let it go? For now.
I’ve Tried to Stick it Out With Norman Powell...
...but I’m about at the end of my rope. I want it to happen for Norm this year, and you’d think this pre-season, especially with OG Anunoby out, would be his chance to get things back on track.
It did not look good last night.
On his first possession he turned it over on a lazy pass, which led to a two-on-one for Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert the other way (Rubio drained a three). Two plays later, Joe Ingles put Norm in the spin cycle and found Gobert for an and-1 dunk. Joe Ingles is a good player, but he should not be putting Norm Powell (or anyone) on their heels like that.
Norm ended up a game-worst -20, with four points, no assists, no rebounds, a steal, a turnover and three fouls. In 16 minutes.
Let the Hometown Kids Bask in the Glow
Nick Nurse decided to start Kyle Collinsworth last night, in what we can assume was a bit of hometown touch as Collinsworth went to nearby BYU. I like it. Collinsworth may not have much of an NBA future (he didn’t show much last night) and these games don’t really matter, so why not let the kid have a little moment to get announced before a friendly crowd?
Hopefully the trend continues in Montreal next week, hometown of Chris Boucher.
This is two straight pre-season game recaps in which I haven’t mentioned Jonas Valanciunas until the postscript. He followed up his 17-and-7 performance against Portland with an 18-and-9 in this one; what’s the guy got to do to get a shout-out?? Let’s see if he can bring it again on Friday as the Raptors finally play a home game at the newly-christened Scotiabank Arena.