Would you believe some pre-season predictions had the Bulls in the playoffs, and the Raptors on the outside looking in? Three games into the 2019-20 season isn’t enough of a sample size to definitively declare that prediction off the mark. But the Raptors sure made it look pretty ridiculous last night, easily dispatching the Bulls in Chicago’s home opener.
A few quick thoughts:
The Return of Pull-Away Speed
One of the most fun things about last year’s Raptors, especially in the first half of the season, was how they’d let opponents hang around for a bit, and then step on the gas, score a ton of points in a hurry and zoom away.
It’s not something I’d expect to see much of this year, since the team doesn’t have the same offensive punch, so it was great to see that burst over the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third. The score went from a five-point Bulls lead to a seven-point Raptors lead in four minutes of the second quarter, then from a seven-point lead to a 16-point lead in about two minutes of the third.
Maybe it was too soon to give up on pull-away speed? Let’s hope!
Stanley Johnson Doghouse Residency: Extended
Ah, poor Stanley Johnson. Things started off so well! Shortly after checking in to the game, Johnson made a heads-up play off of an offensive rebound, quickly turning and shooting with the shot clock winding down. He moved his feet well on D the next play, and forced a turnover, then hauled in a defensive rebound a play later.
But then, the second quarter started, and on three consecutive possessions Johnson committed an offensive foul on an out-of-control drive, stepped out of bounds, and traveled. He was yanked and never returned.
I hope he’s getting comfortable in that doghouse.
Never Change, Jack Armstrong
What was your favourite Jack Armstrong moment last night?
- His continuing bit about the Wahlbergs?
- His and Matt’s discussion of conference call etiquette?
- His asking if Zach LaVine, then 2-for-10, gets paid by the shot?
Actually the Jack moment of the night probably belongs to OG Anunoby, who, gave Jack a bit of the side-eye when Jack delivered a “get that garbage outta here” in their postgame interview and, when asked by Jack about his four blocks, simply said, with typical OG aplomb, “yeah yeah, it was cool.”
Jack’s over-the-top zealousness with OG as his straight man, what a perfect match.
Serge Ibaka Canceled Luke Kornet
The game was out of reach in the fourth, but Luke Kornet was still playing hard — and Serge Ibaka was having none of it. When Kornet pulled in an offensive rebound and went up to stuff it, Ibaka sent him away with force:
And when Kornet challenged Ibaka a couple of plays later, well, this happened:
See ya, Luke Kornet. Wouldn’t wanna be ya.
Marc Gasol Frustration Level: 3.6/10
Marc Gasol still isn’t scoring (1-for-2? Come on man) but he looked a lot more comfortable last night. Even though he wan’t shooting, he was decisive passing the ball, and looked better on D, using his chest (as Jack likes to say) to body up Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. and frustrate them around the rim.
And his screen game remains elite. In the third last night, he had solid, if somewhat moving, screen to free Pascal Siakam for a jumper, then another the next trip down to give Fred VanVleet room to drive — and Fred found Norman Powell for a dunk.
He also more than doubled his rebounding totals on the year, hauling in 10.
It wasn’t his finest performance as a Raptor, but it was his best of the season thus far.
A solid all-around performance from a veteran team, dispatching a younger team, is exactly what you’d expect from the defending NBA champion (had to get that in there!) Raptors at this point of the season. It might not be the most exciting thing in the world, that steady professionalism, but when you can spice it up with four OG Anunoby blocks, it works for me.