It’s been a week of intriguing observations and revelations for the Raptors. And a week where they went 3-1. Toronto’s wins against the Bucks and Pacers indicate that they have the offensive weapons and defensive mindset to beat good teams. The Bucks win also showed character after languishing behind for a majority of the first half.
Meanwhile, the Spurs’ loss told us that the Raptors weren’t prepared to handle the big time occasion just yet; the Spurs simply executed far better in a playoffs-like build up. But also: Pascal Siakam, once again, exuded more growth in a career 30-point night against the Bucks when the Raptors needed it. And hey, Norman Powell returned and looks to be trending up.
Here’s what else was good and bad this week for the Raptors.
The guard missed 21 games and has had a good run of late: mainly his game-high 23 points over Indiana. His aggression looked to be back and his 2016 self seemed to be back. “I’m going out there and seeing what the defense is giving me, picking my spots and finding the right reads. I’m playing off that.” He's been a bit up and down this week, but still: Has Norm rediscovered his mojo?
Kyle Lowry's Return
The heartbeat of the Raptors returned – finally. We were all starting to think that this back soreness had spiralled into a much larger problem. Thankfully, not. Lowry returned against the Pacers and looked busy without completely dominating with 12 points. His drives to the rim, fouls, assists were back. And the sense of urgency with Toronto was back, which was lacking against the Spurs.
Crowds can be cutting. You only need to look at the boo fest in San Antonio that was targeted at Kawhi Leonard to understand that fans are emotional and can be brutal.
While Toronto crowds are not usually rowdy (let’s not bring Blue Jays-Rangers Game 5 into this), they can get moody. But when Vince Carter waltzed on court this week, he got what we all thought he would get: a vocal standing ovation. It could have gone either way. But a lot of time has passed since he left the city. Well played, Toronto.
I profiled Lorenzo Brown during pre-season as one of the Raptors “to watch” this year. Sadly, with limited run, he’s no longer with the Raptors. He was the 2017-18 G League MVP which indicates he has some talent. But the Raptors are too deep at the moment. It’s hard for a guy like Brown to bust in and breakout in his limited capacity. He played 40 games in two seasons with the Raptors.
The San Antonio Boos
The only problem I have with the reaction to Kawhi by Spurs fans and the constant booing, was that it was unwarranted. What we don’t know yet is what went down between the Spurs and Kawhi. We don’t know the real reasons why Kawhi left San Antonio. We don’t know what issue he had with Gregg Popovich or the organization. So before booing Kawhi, at least find out why he left the ball club first? I think until knowing that, booing him is pointless.
Sluggish Against the Hawks
The Raptors got the win against the Hawks but gee whiz, it took basically the last play of the game for them to seal the win. This season they have made it a habit to make close games out of very winnable games – games they should be winning by large margins. Games against Orlando and Detroit come to mind. That said the Raptors did enough to win against the Hawks and sometimes winning ugly is OK.