There are preseason games. And then there are preseason games. When the Raptors announced prior to tip-off vs. the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night that they would be resting [deep breath] Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Marc Gasol, it was immediately apparent which game we were about to see. And hoo boy did it deliver.
The Raptors took the floor against the Bulls for their only home preseason game with a starting lineup led by OG Anunoby, along with Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw, Chris Boucher, and Malcolm Miller. After a few strong minutes of defense, the more NBA-ready rotation of Chicago started to exert a modicum of their talent and the game was quickly out of control for Toronto. A 23-point first quarter for Toronto gave way to a 15-point second quarter, which amounted to a 15-point half-time deficit, and not much more to play for. But play they did — for a whole second half.
After the Bulls bombed in nine threes in the quarter, getting the lead up to as much as 36 points, it was clear all involved were just going to run out the clock — and ideally make it out in one piece. (Which didn’t quite happen for Toronto: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson missed some game time after a shot to the mouth from Lauri Markkanen, though he did return; Patrick McCaw twisted his left knee and was not seen again.) Even the Raptors social media team was stuck on how to sell this one to fans. This is peak preseason basketball:
36 minutes of this preseason game have been played. pic.twitter.com/ynFp2pWL4X— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 13, 2019
The final score — 105-91 for the Bulls — makes it seem closer than it was. The Raptors never had any chance in this game, they were just trying to see what they could see, and learn what they could learn about the players they had at hand. So then what did we see? And what did we learn?
To answer those questions, it’s time for a post-preseason game lightning round, which is truly the only thing this game deserves. Ready? Let’s go!
- OG Anunoby did indeed lead Toronto with 15 points (on 5-for-9 shooting), some of which were produced by dynamite drives to the rim. Anunoby also put in a 3, and completed a few nifty passes — both in the interior and out to open shooters. Coach Nick Nurse said he was “decent,” which suggests even more room to grow. Here’s hoping!
- In just 20 minutes, Chris Boucher showed off the full experience of his play. He put in 11 points, went 1-of-2 from deep, got to the line six times (but only made two FTs), and completed four blocks, including one on Zach LaVine (who led all scorers with 26 points) that could be described as sick, wicked, and nasty;
- We are definitely getting too excited about Terence Davis, but he continues to show that he’s got some NBA-ready skills. He had four assists against three turnovers tonight, went 3-of-9 from the floor (with no 3s), but he also split a double team, completed a few nifty lay-ups, and generally continues to look fearless out there;
- Matt Thomas did Matt Thomas things and then some: he went 5-of-10 from the floor (including 2-of-5 from deep), worked his game even when chased off the 3-point line, and completed a few crisp assists. This is the way we end up seeing more Thomas on the floor for the Raptors;
- Ditto for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who mucked it up for six points and six rebounds despite missing a chunk of the game. He’s the new JYD, and all the good and bad that implies;
- Sagaba Konate got a dunk and was very turned up about it! That’s it! Wooooo!!!
- In that spirit, shoutout to the Toronto fans who hung with this game to the end. Yes, the noise in the fourth quarter was mostly being generated by directed chants, but they were still out there doing them. Respect.
- After the game Nurse said he wasn’t too concered about McCaw’s injury. It sounds like he just banged his knee and tweaked it. Still, it’s been all bad news for McCaw this preseason. In 20 minutes tonight: two points, one assist, one rebound. What’s he doing out there?
- We don’t have to get to mad about Cameron Payne because we probably won’t see him again by next week, but he really is just all over the place isn’t he? A 1-for-7 shooting line paints the picture pretty clearly, and this is before we get to some of his, uh, questionable decision making;
- Dewan Hernandez did pull in 11 rebounds, so it’s not all bad. But obviously we need to slow down on his immediate utility to the Raptors. (Nurse called him a January-February player, suggesting that they’ll get him down to the 905 immediately to get him some reps and then see where he’s at for Toronto’s stretch drive.) Right now Hernandez just lacks on the offensive end — he had seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. There’s no obvious move for him to make, and the size and speed advantages he’s had previously in his career are gone now. It’s all hard work and he’s definitely a 59th pick;
- Something to consider: Is Stanley Johnson bad because he’s playing with poor teammates, or, and stay with me here, is he just bad? We unfortunately need to ask the question.
The Raptors head to Brooklyn on Friday to take on the Nets, which should prove to be a better show for a couple of reasons. One, the Raps will have likely overcome their Japan jetlag by then. Two, presumably some of their actual rotation players will be available to play. And three, maybe we’ll see Kyle Lowry on the court? It’s possible!