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Raptors down Hornets 87-84 in OT thriller, live to fight another day

You cannot stop Rawle Alkins, you can only hope to contain him

David Dow/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors summer league squad played their fifth game on Saturday night, a back-and-forth affair with the Charlotte Hornets that saw 11 ties and 12 lead changes. The Raptors prevailed 87-84 in overtime thanks in large part to undrafted rookie free agent pick-up Rawle Alkins, who poured in 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

OG Anunoby sat this one out, and I’m not going to lie, that initially sucked a lot of the interest out of the game for me (and probably for a lot of Raptors fans as well). But it actually turned out to be a good thing, as it gave me chance to look more closely at other players, instead of just focusing on “so how’s OG look?”.

It was clearly a good thing for Alkins as well; as the game wore on he took on more and more of the scoring and ball handling responsibility and he scored both of the Raptors OT field goals (and pulled in two boards in the OT period as well).

The first quarter was memorable mainly for the scoreboard malfunction that caused a 10-minute stop in play (and gave me a few minutes to finish my dinner, so I appreciated that). Before the unexpected break it was mainly Charlotte’s game (11-5), but the Raps showed a little more energy in the back half of the quarter. They got it within one, 18-17, on a Giddy Potts three-pointer, but then both teams went into a bit of a funk for the remaining 1:52; the only scoring the rest of the way was an Arnoldas Kulboka FT and a BJ Johnson midrange J, and the Hornets led by four heading into the second.

The Raps scored the first nine of the second before a Gabe Devoe dunk stopped the bleeding. Jordan Loyd had seven points on 3-of-3 shooting in the frame (although he left at halftime with back spasms), and Marquis Teague chipped in nine as the Raptors stayed in control for most of the period. But the Hornets finally managed to string together a few solid possessions in the final two minutes, and tied the game back up at 35 on a Miles Bridges dunk. A sweet Bridges pass to a cutting J.P. Macura gave the Hornets s brief two-point lead, but a Teague driving layup tied it back up at 37 and that’s how the teams went into the half.

The third saw more back and forth action, both teams trading buckets and shooting a little better than the first half. Shevon Thompson and Alkins led the way for the Raps, the former establishing good position and scoring on offensive rebounds, the latter going 3-for-3 from downtown.

Dwayne Bacon and Joe Chealey paced the Hornets with some hot outside shooting (each drained two midrange Js, and Bacon had an and-1 layup as well). Bridges, who had a cold shooting night from outside the paint, finally nailed a 3-pointer, but Giddy Potts matched it a few seconds later, then added a drive that, along with two Teague FTs, gave the Raptors a four-point lead, 65-61, heading into the fourth.

The fourth was low-scoring in comparison to the third, with the two teams managing only 11 points combined through the first five minutes. Malachi Richardson and Alfonzo McKinnie were both ice-cold to start the frame, and the Hornets started pull ahead with about four minutes left, taking advantage of a handful of Raptors turnovers to go on a 8-0 run and take a 76-71 lead. Bacon was on fire down the stretch, going 5-for-7 in the period, but Alkins hit two timely layups and Chris Boucher chipped in on the boards to keep it close.

With the scored tied at 80 with less than a minutes left, it was… well, it was summer league. Bridges missed a wild layup attempt, and Teague couldn’t connect with Alkins on the ensuing Raptors possession, turning it back over to Charlotte.

That left Bacon with the ball all alone on the wing with 25 seconds to go. He moved around a Bridges screen, and when Richardson and Mckinnie both followed Bacon (seriously, guys?), he found Bridges wide open for a three-pointer, but Bridges couldn’t knock it down.

After Charlotte used their foul to give, the Raptors had the ball with four seconds to play… and they inexplicably inbounded from the sideline into the backcourt. In other words, Marquis Teague had 75 feet between him and the hoop and only four seconds to do something with the ball. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t get a shot off.

Bridges scored first in OT, but from there it was the Alkins show, with some nice support from Boucher, who hauled in a Teague miss, got fouled, and hit two FTs with 8 seconds left to seal it.

Bacon led all scorers with 28, and Bridges, despite shooting 5-for-20, chipped in 18 and had a few eye-opening athletic plays (including a missed oop dunk he tossed to himself off the backboard).

Alkins led the Raptors with 25, shot 10-of-16 and 5-of-7 from downtown. Malachi Richardson added 14 and went 2-for-4 from distance.

With the win, the Raptors move on in the summer league playoff tournament; they’ll face Cleveland Sunday night in the quarter-finals.

A few additional thoughts:

Malachi Richardson Needs Some Help on D

One of the things I wanted to observe closely in this game was what sort of impact Malachi Richardson could make on the defensive end. We know he can score—behind OG, he’s leading the summer league roster in points at 12.8 per game on 44% shooting. But can he be a 2-way player?

If we were to base a judgment on this game, the answer would definitely be no.

Richardson was consistently lost on the defensive end, seeming lost on switches, showing an inability to fight through screens, and regularly wandering away from his man in the corner. On the Hornets second possession, he left J.P. Macura alone in the corner, and he made the Raptors pay with a triple. He got lost twice on screens, leading to two more open 3-pointers (one for Miles Bridges, one for Macura), both of which missed. (The Macura one was particularly bad as Richardson was so lost his back was to Macura).

In this second quarter, he got hung up on a screen and let Dwayne Bacon drive in; thankfully Chris Boucher came to help and altered the shot. A few plays later, Richardson again lost Macura in the corner, and in attempting to recover, let Mathiang open for a dunk (Marquis Teague was forced to foul him).

In the fourth, both he and McKinnie were clearly confused as what to do on the basic pick-and-roll Bacon and Bridges ran, that left Bridges open for the potential game winning 3-pointer.

I don’t mean to pick on Malachi, but, this lack of awareness is definitely concerning. This is a guy with NBA minutes, playing against a lot of guys who never have and never will see an NBA floor. I would expect a little more from him. (He did have a nice defensive stop and steal on Macura in the third, if you’re looking for a positive!)

There’s still time to improve—we don’t judge NBA players on one summer league game, thankfully—and hopefully Richardson will get that chance with Raptors 905 this summer.

Is Chris Boucher For Real?

Another observation point for me was seeing if the Chris Boucher I watched last game was real or just an illusion. Boucher definitely didn’t have as much of an impact in this one, but they also didn’t seem to need him as much. Last game his length and shooting changed he game for Toronto in the fourth, as he got into passing lanes and blocked shots and sparked the Raps’ transition attack.

This one was a much more halfcourt-type affair, and that left Boucher less involved. He did have a couple of nice offensive rebounds, including a tough putback for his first bucket. He finished with eight rebounds and three blocks, and he went 5-of-6 from the free throw line (including the two to seal it), which is great to see—today’s big men definitely need to be able to hit FTs.

So jury is still out on his long term potential, but other than his weight I don’t see a lot of red flags.

Is the backup PG of the future on this roster?

Over the course of the five games this summer season, the Raptors’ point guard play has been uneven. All three of Giddy Potts, Codi Miller-McIntyre and Teague have looked both great, and overmatched.

Teague had what might have been his best game last night; he played under control, didn’t force things, and showed some decent defensive chops as well, almost pressing Charlotte into a backcourt violation in the fourth.

Miller-McIntyre had a team-high five assists, but also a team-high five turnovers, and he didn’t score.

Potts continues to shoot well, hitting 2-of-5 from downtown and 4-of-8 overall, but he didn’t notch a single assist in 17 minutes.

And then there’s Alkins, who doesn’t seem to have the handle or court vision of a PG, but doesn’t have the size (well, not height anyway) of a wing, and despite the sensational finish, definitely had a few out-of-control plays early.

In other words: All four of these guys could make an impact on the 905, and some solid work and continued development there could lead to bigger things down the line.