With a new starting lineup, many die-hard fans watching in the middle of July were hoping for a fresh performance from the Raptors. It started competitive — a chippy atmosphere that would remain throughout the game despite the disparaging score.
Opening up with fast-paced action and a flurry of baskets was refreshing enough, considering the duds Toronto put up in the first two games. Once the game slowed down, however, the Raptors’ offense cratered.
Toronto would stay with the now familiar three-wing lineup, and Coach Nurse even went so far as to give OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller and Malachi Richardson ball-handling duties to see what they could do with the ball in their hands. Rawle Alkins was also given an opportunity for a few brief moments, but he wasn’t able to produce much in his 13 first-half minutes, going 0-for-3 from the floor with two assists.
This is seemingly one emerging trend in the 2018 LVSL — the staff has decided to feature its four lengthy wings as primary creators: Anunoby, Miller (who exited the game late in the second half with a wrist injury), Richardson and occasionally Alkins (who isn’t as long, but still fits the bill) have had a green light to create whatever and where ever they’re able to do so.
But today, after a crap-tonne of missed threes (the Raptors shot 30 percent from distance in the first half and 16-for-48 — 33 percent — for the game), the game plan quickly spiraled out of control and the Thunder lead ballooned to double-digits within minutes of the game being tied midway through the first quarter.
The Thunder held onto that double-digit lead for the rest of the half, mostly thanks to an incredible first-half scoring performance from Thunder point guard P.J. Dozier, who found ways to score from everywhere on the floor.
With the lead hovering around 16 and not shrinking, the Raptors would finally start to connect on their shots. Richardson and Anunoby knocked down back-to-back three pointers, cutting the lead to 10 before a Thunder timeout. The length of Richardson and Anunoby can look really good at times on defense, but today it ultimately did not keep the Thunder from scoring buckets.
The aforementioned Dozier was able to get to the rim at will throughout the first half, scoring 15 first half points with an incredibly soft touch, ultimately finishing with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting including two three-pointers. The young feisty Raptors wouldn’t go down without a fight though, and in a quick and exciting exchange were able to put the Thunder on their heels right before the break.
Business decision by the defender. pic.twitter.com/kQI84iEm1x— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 9, 2018
With under a minute remaining, Rawle Alkins stole a Thunder inbound pass and quickly found a streaking OG Anunoby, who threw down a monstrous dunk. This was followed by another steal by Cody Miller-McIntyre on the inbound pass, who unfortunately was unable to knock down the last second three point attempt. The Raptors would enter halftime down 11 after trailing by as many as 18 points in the first half.
For as clunky as the offense looked, Anunoby and Richardson had respectable stat lines heading into the break. Anunoby led the team with 15 points on 50 percent shooting and 3-for-7 from long range. Richardson chipped in 11 points on 43 percent from the floor and 2-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Miss me with that pic.twitter.com/XA3bOhxOYR— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 9, 2018
Beyond those two, the team got almost no production, and that was the story of the game. Only six players in total scored in a first half mired in miscommunication and bad offensive sets. In order for the Raptors to get a win against the Thunder, they’d have to tighten up on both ends of the floor — and hopefully get some help in the post.
Unfortunately, the Raptors got more of the same from their starting centre out of the break. Thompson quickly piled up personal fouls and reached six total within three minutes out of the locker room — he would eventually sit the rest of the way with eight fouls total. It was a supremely disappointing performance from Thompson, who was everywhere on the floor but failed to corral that energy into anything positive.
After losing Malcolm Miller to a pretty nasty wrist injury, the Raptors showed signs of life — going on a 13-2 run in the middle of the fourth quarter — before succumbing to the Thunder. A few individual Raptors had great games, including Anunoby and Richardson, and Giddy Potts provided an incredible burst of energy off the bench. Potts would finish with 15 points and two assists in just 15 minutes.
Overall, the offensive game plan looked shaky, but without a primary ball-handler on the roster, Nick Nurse is forced to experiment with giving his wing players a lot of responsibilities with the ball in their hands for long stretches of the game.
So far, it’s resulted in some wild moments of Summer League action, both good and bad.
A few notes:
There’s a lot of defensive potential in the Richardson-Anunoby duo. Richardson’s length can be very effective at times, and for a lot of Raptor fans, the Summer League is their first extended look at him as a player. He definitely has a quick trigger, and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball either.
On defense though, he’s shown an ability to jump passing lanes with some success. Next to Anunoby in the fourth quarter, the Raptors were able to make that 13-2 run thanks to their numerous deflections.
Giddy Potts is a tiny centre. He’s out there blocking shots, skying high for rebounds and being a bulldozer on the court. He also shot 4-for-8 from deep.
Giddy Potts with the rejection!#NBASummer pic.twitter.com/XAvvMgRote— NBA (@NBA) July 9, 2018
Malcolm Miller was probably expected to be the third option on offense, but after his wrist injury that role might have to go to either Giddy Potts or Cody Miller-McIntyre.
Miller-McIntyre plays with a tonne of energy on defense — he piled up five steals today; ten total in three games — and has been one of the better players on this Summer League roster.