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Raptors notch first summer league victory, down Nuggets 85-77 in Las Vegas

Anunoby, Boucher spark big fourth quarter comeback for Toronto

David Dow/Getty Images

Not gonna lie, shortly after volunteering to recap tonight’s Toronto Raptors matchup with the Denver Nuggets for RaptorsHQ I started to question my own sanity. Summer league, at 10:00 p.m. Eastern? And me with an 8:30 a.m. meeting? I must be losing it.

But then I tuned in and heard Doris Burke and Mark Jones on the broadcast and I knew I’d made a good decision!

(My sanity is, perhaps, still in question…)

There’s no such thing as a must-win summer league game, but, at 0-3, you know the Raptors really wanted this one. And they started out well enough, as Shevon Thompson opened the scoring with a smooth-looking baby hook. But some poor decision-making from the backcourt, resulting in bad shots and unforced turnovers, let the Nuggets start running the floor, and they had the speedsters to do it.

Malik Beasley soared in for a nice breakaway dunk after a steal, and then scored on a short J; his backcourt mate Monte Morris had a couple sweet drives as well, including an and-1 that put the Nuggets up 11-4.

OG Anunoby was unfortunately cold again early, missing his first 4 shots. Rawle Alkins also had a rough start, with a couple of turnovers and a slow-footed drive that got swallowed up by Denver’s Tyler Lydon; he started 0-5.

The Raptors turned things around at the end of the quarter, thanks to the deep ball; Malachi Richardson and his 905 teammate Alfonzo McKinnie each nailed 3-pointers, and then Giddy Potts nailed back-to-back triples of his own to tie it at 19 after 1.

It was the Nuggets’ turn to heat up from downtown in the second, as they started out on a quick 6-0 run after bombs from DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell and Vlatko Cancar, prompting a Nick Nurse timeout. OG finally got on the board with a nice baseline drive and spin, and followed it up with another drive from the right wing. Akoon-Purcell had an active quarter for the Nuggets; he was aggressive, probably a little too aggressive at times, but he and Beasley combined to go 5-7 in the frame and helped the Nuggets take a 44-38 halftime lead.

Things got a little ugly in the third quarter, as the two teams went cold and only combined for a mere 21 points through 8 minutes. The scoring picked up a little bit in the last two minutes, with the Raptors drawing fouls and hitting 6 straight from the line, but the misses (22 combined) and turnovers (nine combined) were starting to make me once again question my decision to recap this game. Finally a Chris Boucher three-pointer with five seconds left cut the Nuggets’ lead to two heading into the fourth quarter, and my hopes were high for an exciting finish.

And it was, for the Raptors!

The Nuggets started the final frame off with three straight turnovers and two straight shooting fouls, all of which combined to turn that 2-point deficit into a one-point Raptors lead with 8:30 remaining. A Boucher lay-in off a sweet dish from Codi Miller-Macintyre pushed it to 3, and another Potts 3-pointer forced a Nuggets timeout with just under 7 minutes to play.

That timeout didn’t slow the Raptors down one iota, though. In between two Beasley misses, a Thomas Welsh technical foul and a Monte Morris turnover, Boucher scored on a breakaway dunk off a feed from Miller-McIntyre and hit another triple; Anunoby also got into the action, slamming home an alley-oop from Miller-Macintyre. After 14 straight Raptors points, Denver finally stopped the bleeding on a Tyler Lydon 3-pointer, but Potts hit a deep two and Anunoby a corner three to put the Raps up 7 and all but seal it with 4 minutes to go.

Toronto would go on to win 85-77 and pick up their first 2018 summer league win, and will live to play again another day.

A few additional thoughts:

Y’all Really Only Care About OG, Right?

Other than a handful of plays where OG took control of the ball at the wing or at the top of the key (which, trust me, looks as weird as you think—how often did we see him there in the regular season?), Anunoby didn’t play much of a facilitator role on this night; he was put to use as a scorer, and after that slow start, he absolutely delivered.

One second-quarter drive left me particularly impressed, where he put his shoulder down, got through the defender, and protected the ball on his hip and laid it up and in. He also had a wonderful finish on a drive as he drew a foul and still managed to muscle the ball in.

But mostly what we saw was more of what you’d expect from OG on the Raptors senior team—shooting corner threes, running the floor, driving baseline, getting into the passing lanes with that long wingspan.

And he played that role extremely well. He finished with a game-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting with four rebounds. He didn’t notch an assist, but again, playmaker didn’t seem to be his responsibility tonight.

It was also fun keeping an eye on OG off the ball. Anunoby is, even at this early point in his career, gaining a rep for the strong-silent type, but he was clearly playing the role of senior leader on the team, calling out directions and instructing his teammates. When you see things like that, and think about the stoic facade and his solid play last year, it’s easy to forget how young he is. And it’s pretty awesome to think that he’s all of these things at age 20 and still has a lot of development to do; it’s going to be so much fun to watch him grow as a player.

Shevon Thompson & Chris Boucher: Bigs of the Future?

Should the Raptors decide to trade either Jonas Valanciunas or Serge Ibaka this season, that’ll mean bigger minutes for Jakob Poeltl, and the need for a new big to back up Jak. It looks like one of Shevon Thompson or Chris Boucher might fit the bill.

Thompson is more of a traditional big man, and the Raptors went to him early; he was aggressive and was consistently getting good, deep position. He scored five points and grabbed four rebounds in the first quarter; he didn’t score again but finished with 8 boards in 16 minutes.

Boucher, meanwhile showed himself to be perhaps more of a more modern big man, with a wide wingspan and a decent outside stroke. He finished with six blocks—many of which fuelled Raptors fast breaks in the second half—and 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-of-3 from downtown, and six rebounds as well. He’s skinny—like early Raptors Chris Bosh skinny—but there’s clearly potential there.

As for backcourt players, Jordan Lloyd, Codi Miller-Mcintyre and Giddy Potts all had solid games, but it was Potts’ shooting (4-of-7 from downtown) that really made a difference for the Raptors on this night. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s the front-runner for a two-way contract this season.

Malik Beasley and Monte Miller Shone Brightly for Denver

Former Raptors 905er Kennedy Meeks is on the Nuggets’ summer league roster, and I was looking forward to seeing what he could do against his old franchise, but alas, Meeks barely got in the game. Instead, Denver rode Beasley and Miller for big minutes, and they mostly delivered, combining for 40 points on 16-of-35 shooting.

Beasley in particular looked at time like he was paying a different league than most of his teammates, much like OG for the Raptors. He was all over Toronto’s passing lanes, using his quickness to generate steals and get back when he gambled and missed. He had five dunks in two-and-a-half quarters! But he pressed a bit in the fourth, trying a little too hard to keep his team in it, resulting in a few rushed shots that led to easy Raptors transition buckets. I suspect he’s got an NBA future, though.

The Raptors will now move on to play the Charlotte Hornets in the next round, which will tip off from Vegas on Saturday afternoon.