It was an historic moment for the Toronto Raptors when the championship banner was unveiled on Tuesday night, but things quickly came back to earth after their 112-106 loss against the Celtics last night.
A couple of takeaways from the first two games:
- First, Pascal Siakam is, as crazy as this sounds, exceeding expectations as a first option, averaging 33.5 points per game. Yes, it’s a very small sample size, and yes (as Daryl Morey once implied about Toronto), there will be a regression to the mean. Nonetheless, I’ve really enjoyed watching him play in the first two outings; and
- Second, Marc Gasol is gassed. He was instrumental in Toronto’s championship last season and in leading Spain to a FIBA gold over the summer. He’s looked out of sorts in the first two games, including going 0-for-8 from the field against the weak frontcourt of the Celtics. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Gasol take a game off in October, maybe even for tonight’s matchup.
Everything can change however, especially when the season is still so young. Tonight’s game against the Bulls is a perfect example. On paper, this should be an easy win for Toronto who currently hold a 9-game winstreak against Chicago. However, early in the season every team aspires for playoffs and teams play hard. With talent on the roster like Zach Lavine (I love his game), Lauri Markkanen, and notable Raptor killer Otto Porter Jr, all they need to do is play hard and they can easily snap the losing streak and hand Toronto their second loss of the season.
I’m expecting a tough contest. Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Chicago – Tomas Satoransky, Zach Lavine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.
Toronto – Patrick McCaw (knee – questionable), Rondae Hollis Jefferson (groin – questionable)
Chicago – Wendell Carter Jr. (thumb – probable), Shaquille Harrison (hamstring – probable), Chandler Hutchinson (hamstring – OUT)
The Battle for SG
Fred VanVleet has won it and it doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Entering training camp, coach Nick Nurse had mentioned it could be a fluid situation with VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Patrick McCaw all having a shot at the position. It looks like VanVleet’s play alongside Lowry has made this an easy pick for the 2-spot.
What does this mean for Powell? Ever since Danny Green’s departure and a few clips from the Rico Hines runs over the summer, a lot was expected of Powell to finally take the next step. His first two games were all right by his standards and he was even tasked with taking the last shot in regulation during the season opener. With Terrence Davis playing his way into the rotation, Powell once again must look over his shoulder if things turn sour. As of now, he isn’t losing minutes, but he isn’t also gaining minutes either.
Coby “Kobe” White
Rookie Coby White has been spectacular for Chicago. The North Carolina product has come into the squad and been an immediate contributor. After a strong preseason, White posted 17 points and seven assist in his regular season debut. He only got better with his performance in a follow up contest against the Grizzlies, in which he finished with 25 points, including a clutch basket against the number two overall pick, Ja Morant.
When discussing the deepest position in the league, the discussion starts and ends at the point guard position. In an era of switch-ability and positionless basketball, lead guards have surpassed every other spot. Regarding Coby White, he follows a long list of exceptional and explosive guards to enter the league, and I’m very excited to see him progress. We’ll see how the Raptors handle him tonight.
Nick No Longer Nursing
The first two games have seen only eight and nine players hit the floor and this time its by design. TSN’s Josh Lewenberg reported that Coach Nick Nurse was invited by the Patriots to spend a day and watch Bill Belichick conduct his training camp.
Nick Nurse spent time with Bill Belichick at Patriots camp over the summer. What did he learn from watching 1 of the greatest teams in pro sports prepare to defend its title? "Get your butt back to work."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) October 23, 2019
Relevant as the Raptors get set to turn the page: https://t.co/nvYozC2Tby pic.twitter.com/DHpUJGWDFK
It’s been a different approach this year for Nurse, particularly being more vocal to the media and calling out players he believes are not playing up to standards. But a different standard means a different approach. It’s clear that this squad is missing the top three player they had last season so they must find other ways to compensate. If that means running a tight ship like Belichick, then so be it.