With both the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets playing their rotation guys extended minutes last night, you could almost believe the game actually counted for something! It didn’t, but those extended first-team minutes should put aside any pre-season doubts about Toronto’s ability to compete this season.
On to the thoughts:
As noted, the Raptors played their top seven guys (eight, possibly, with Terence Davis II?) extended minutes last night, and they were very impressive. And, frankly, it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s a group of veterans that has been through postseason heartbreak and triumph; multiple players who’ve gone from unheralded low pick-status (or undrafted!) to transform themselves into winners (“get it out the mud,” as Fred VanVleet might say.)
And that means they should be hella fun to watch this season.
(Also: How freakin’ great was it to see NBA Champion Kyle Lowry in action?)
OG, Letting the Game Come to Him
I wrote about this the other day, and seeing the Raps at nearly full strength, I’m feeling it even more strongly: When OG Anunoby runs the show, he struggles. When he’s playing with others who can do the heavy lifting — Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam — he shines.
He was found time after time by his teammates at the three point line last night, and took full advantage, finishing 4-of-8 from downtown and scoring 18 points. I’ve been a little down on Anunoby so far this preseason, but when the full rotation is playing, I think we’ll see that OG is a perfect complement to the strengths of the other Raptors starters.
Let it Rip, Marc
The first time Marc Gasol touched the ball last night, he launched a three-pointer. It missed, but I loved it. I wrote about this a few weeks back, but I really hope we see a more aggressive Gasol now that he’s comfortable and familiar with his teammates and the Toronto system — and now that they need a more evenly distributed offense. He only finished with eight shots — I’d like him to be in the double digits every night — but his full range of passing and solid screens were on full display.
His presence certainly helped make this play happen:
This right here, this is beautiful. pic.twitter.com/kTB6RoBHfL— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) October 18, 2019
And hey, speaking of Marc...
Let’s go Big
We saw an extended run of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka together in the first half last night, and as Nick Nurse has hinted, we’ll see more of that this year than last year.
Which only makes sense; the team as constructed right now probably just needs to play its best players as often as possible, regardless of position. And it’s not like the two of them can’t share minutes with another big; Gasol did it for years with Zach Randolph, and Ibaka did it here in Toronto with Jonas Valanciunas.
And if they’re gonna hit back-to-back triples like they did in the second quarter? Gravy.
Washed-Out Court, Poppin’ Jerseys
That gray Brooklyn court is weird; it makes everything seem drab — with one exception: The Raptors. The red jerseys popped nicely against the court, making the Raptors stand out. Which is hilarious; since the Nets colors are black and white, that means every visiting team is gonna look rad, and the Nets will be bland and monotonous.
Which, I guess, describes the Nets franchise perfectly well.
(I do dig the NY subway-inspired baselines though!)
That’s it for the preseason! The real show starts on Tuesday night. Regardless of whether this team looks as good all year as they did last night, I hope we can all enjoy the well-deserved championship victory lap that is coming our way.