It’s been an eye-opening week for the Toronto Raptors, who are in the midst of a four-game road trip. For this post, we’ll be including the Celtics overtime loss, the blowout win in Chicago and the Danny Green heroics in Orlando that gave the Raptors a two-point win.
I’ve said this before and I still stand by it: We need to see more of a sample size to completely understand who the 2018-19 Raptors are and what are they capable of this season. So far we’ve a mix of high quality ball and bad Raptors habits that still exist. The Chicago rout was proof that the Raptors can keep the foot on the accelerator for four quarters. But against the Magic, the Raptors blew an 18-point lead. Good teams don’t blow 18-point leads. The good news: the season is still relatively young. The Raptors are 14-4. And they’re playing better than they have before for the most part.
Let’s have a look at who’s hot and who’s cold for this week.
At 14-4 life is good for the Raptors. In 18 matches they’ve shown defensive discipline, they’ve put away weak teams and have matched playoff hopefuls like the Celtics. Guys like Pascal Siakam and Danny Green are delivering beyond expectations. Ibaka is having his best season as a Raptor. And Kawhi Leonard, when not resting, is producing in all the areas we expected of him — he’ll be better at the buzzer beaters, if we give him more time. Nick Nurse is proving to be the right choice by Masai Ujiri and has shown he will mix the roster up to suit his game plan and if things are working he’ll fix it. I’ve come this far without even mentioning Kyle Lowry or Jonas Valanciunas. Life is good when you are winning.
Danny Green, Part I
Danny Green is a match-winner. I didn’t think we’d be saying that when he arrived. I’m not sure if I’m high on Green fumes after his buzzer beater, but is he having a career year right now? Yes, Green makes mistakes. No, he’s not Kawhi. But over the past three games we’ve seen a different Danny Green than what he was at the Spurs — attacking, more responsibility, more confident. Credit to Nick Nurse who believes in all of his players to get the job done. Even if they’re having an awful night.
Danny Green, Part II
His game against the Bulls is worth noting: he scored 17 points and was perfect behind the arc (3-for-3) and perfect from the field overall (7-for-7). His stat line of 15-5-3 is becoming the norm now and that is, I would argue, more than anyone ever expected from Green who had a bad run with injury, and often limited playing time. It seems he has embraced his Raptors role and looks capable of being more than he is now.
Three Ball Gone Bad
The Raptors are ranked 24th in the league for threes at 33.6 percent. Lowry has been one of the biggest culprits going 6-from-22 three in the past three games. In total the Raptors have a 31-98 three-point record in this stretch, and will need to clean that part of their game up if they want to compete with the Warriors (first in the NBA at 39%).
Bad Raptors Habits
Part of what needs to change with the Raptors game play is their ability to stop teams running all over them. Against the Celtics they owned a 10-point lead at one stage. And against the Magic, they were up 18 (Raps were also up 19 against Pistons and lost). It’s a trait they are yet to develop a system to break their opponents’ momentum. While they have been able to demonstrate that they can score quick this year, finding a solution to stop runs is almost their greatest challenge in 2018-19. It could be their Achilles heel.
Fred VanVleet‘s Woes Continue
Blame the rise of the three-ball for VanVleet’s decline. At least, that’s the way I see it. Everyone is shooting threes these days — or at least trying to shoot threes. Aside from the Bulls game where he went 4-for-7 from outside the arc, he was 0-for-1 against the Magic and 0-for-6 against the Celtics. Guys like Green, JV and Serge Ibaka are taking more threes which has indirectly placed more pressure on VanVleet to be super effective when he’s on court for his 15-odd minutes. We need to wait this out and hope he turns a corner soon.