The Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets sure gave the Tokyo crowd plenty of exciting basketball over the past three days, didn’t they? After a thrilling (for the preseason) 17-point Raptors comeback on Tuesday, it was the Rockets who came back in the fourth this morning, with Ben McLemore sealing the 118-111 win with a late three-pointer.
Let’s get to the thoughts!
OG Anunoby, Still a Long Ways to Go
The first half last night gave us a good look at the 2019 OG Anunoby Experience... and it looked a lot like the 2018 OG Anunoby experience: A wild ride with way too many peaks and valleys.
To start off, Anunoby had a nice floater that come off a beautiful motion set. He then provided solid defence on Russell Westbrook the other way, who tried to take Anunoby off the dribble; OG wasn’t having it and stopped him cold. And after Westbrook dumped the ball off to Clint Capela, Anunoby knocked it away, forcing a turnover.
But he also bricked a three from the corner, and lost the ball in the open court off a turnover, ending up on his keister. He took a charge in the second quarter, but had a soft drive rejected by Old Man Tyson Chandler.
It seems like anytime OG doesn’t have to think too much — guard your man, get the ball in the flow of the offense and go up with it — he finds success. But he still seems to be struggling with decision-making.
Welcome Back, Marc Gasol
It was great to see All-World Parade Celebration Master Marc Gasol back in action. He didn’t play extended minutes or put up numbers, but there’s something comforting about seeing him anchor the D. And on offense? Seeing Gasol, with the ball over his head in two hands, making eye contact and using that little head jerk to direct guys? Championship memories! Just a treat to watch.
Even when he anchored a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Matt Thomas, Patrick McCaw and Stanley Johnson lineup in the second half, it was... fine? Would’ve have been even worse without Marc bringing his dad energy, that’s for sure.
Let’s Hear Some Defensive Chatter
This early in the preseason — and against this particular opponent — you don’t want to get too concerned about the defense. But Toronto’s rotations were pretty awful last night; the team collapsed too rapidly on Houston’s penetrations, leaving too many openings at the rim, and were far to slow getting back out to shooters, especially in the corners. When that penetration is led by James Harden and Russell Westbrook, well, as you can imagine, that’s the proverbial recipe for disaster.
There’s no easy answer on D against a team featuring those two guys, but at the very least, the Raptors have some communication issues to be worked out.
Terence Davis is Not Afraid
Terence Davis III had another solid game at the backup PG spot, but he had a nice play in the fourth quarter that showed the fearlessness that I think is going to help him succeed in the NBA. He grabbed the ball off a long rebound in the backcourt, sprinted up court with it, and took it right into the heart of the defense — with only Russell Westbrook to beat. Davis didn’t hesitate, took it right to the rim — and Westbrook. He laid it in for the and-1.
The best part about it? It got Westbrook so pissed off, he tried to get it back at the other end, drawing a foul on Davis — and then mouthed off about it, and picked up a technical foul for his trouble. Come on Russ, you gonna let an undrafted rookie get under your skin like that?
Is it Ever Gonna Happen for ? Malcolm Miller ?
I’ve been a fan of Malcolm Miller’s jump shot since he joined the Raptors, so it was great to see him knock down a couple of triples last night; such a smooth stroke. I would love to see Miller emerge from the glut of Raptors wings and secure a spot in the rotation this year. He’s been around the team long enough, and appears to possess all of the tools. Thing is, he’s just not doing anything to stand out. He’s only taken eight shots in the 27 minutes he’s played across these two games, and hasn’t made any notable defensive plays or hustle plays.
At the very least, given that the team is lacking in pure shooters and Miller does posses that sweet stroke, he’s going to have to be make himself a bigger part of the offense if he wants to stick around.
A 1-1 split seems like a pretty successful preseason international trip to me! Let’s see what the team looks like when they return home Sunday to face the Bulls.