Lucas Nogueira spent most of the 2017-18 season as the Raptors’ wild card — put him in the game and he immediately makes noise, one way or the other. Bebe’s had some big moments in the season and playoffs, but we’ve just as often witnessed how big of a risk/reward player he is in the form of potent doses of inefficacy.
So, when Casey opted to sub Nogueira in with 2:44 left in the second quarter of a seven point game — moments earlier a four point game — fans were right in not knowing what to expect. I once described Nogueira as “the dynamite to blow up a building or the fog to suffocate fans into oblivion.” Last night, we all scratched and clawed for breath in his foggy two minutes of floor time.
Over the last two games of the series (garbage-time notwithstanding), Coach Casey had refused to let Jakob Poeltl see the floor for reasons I’m not aware of, so it was up to Nogueira to play a few minutes after Serge Ibaka got the wind knocked out of him while picking up his third foul. Most of the chatter in the moment was about Casey’s decision not to go to Jonas Valanciunas who, up to that point in Game 4, had been dominating Kevin Love on offense in their match-up.
Casey would soon have no choice but to opt for Valanciunas, after Nogueira was whistled for a shooting foul, messed up on defense and then seconds later threw the ball away—all in his first three possessions on the floor. The Cavs would go on a brisk 9-0 run immediately after he checked in.
So... not good.
Following halftime, the Raptors looked like they have all series — uninterested and unfocused, as if someone told them the game was already over. They proceeded to get outscored by 12 in the third quarter and the game was over by the start of the fourth.
Whatever the explanation is for going with Nogueira over Valanciunas in that situation is moot. What we do know is that Bebe was wildly unprepared as far as we can tell.
Still, I can’t even say with certainty it would’ve made a difference anyway.