The home cooking has been good to the Toronto Raptors this year, and that trend continued last night against the Orlando Magic. Taking advantage of a depleted Magic team in the second half, the Raptors rolled to a 113-97 win to remain undefeated at Scotiabank Arena.
Keying in on the Siakam Spin
It seems pretty clear that the Magic weren’t going to let Pascal Siakam beat them last night. Orlando has Jonathan Isaac, of course, an excellent defender who can give Pascal problems one-on-one. But they were aggressive in sending a help defender as well, particularly behind Siakam to swipe at the ball during his spin moves. It had definite shades of the 2007 Warriors erasing Dirk Nowitzki’s spin move!
If I have any complaint for Nick Nurse this season, it’s that he hasn’t done quite enough to help Siakam get loose when defenses key in on him. Using him as a screener, with Fred VanVleet or Norman Powell or even Terence Davis as the ball-handler, should have been an effective way to free Siakam up for better looks; the Raptors waited until the second half to do this, and then, only deployed it on a couple of possessions.
Siakam finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, so I can’t complain too much! But I think the Raptors could make things a bit easier for him.
I wish I had Chris Boucher’s Energy
Chris Boucher was just all over the place last night; it seemed every minute he was on the floor, he was in the right place for a block, a dunk, or to corral a loose rebound.
Certainly the highlight was the second quarter sequence that saw Boucher block an Al-Farouq Aminu layup attempt, sprint down the floor, recover an offensive rebound off a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson miss and cram it home.
But I was particularly impressed with his hands last night. In the fourth quarter, three times Boucher got his hands on offensive rebounds, tipped them away from the defense, and used his length to snatch them out of the air before they went out of bounds.
Get a Rebound!
Outside of Boucher, though, the Raptors were once again thoroughly outplayed on the defensive glass.
Orlando has rebounded 40% of their own misses in this first half.— Anthony Doyle (@Anthonysmdoyle) November 21, 2019
Raptors need to clean that up.
The Magic pulled in 11 offensive rebounds in the first half, and the Raptors were lucky that Orlando only shot 2-for-10 on second chance opportunities. And while yes, you have to credit Toronto’s defense for that poor percentage on those opportunities... they shouldn’t exist in the first place! Getting stops is important, but actually taking possession of the basketball at the end of defensive possessions is kinda important too, ya know?
Obviously size and mobility are part of the problem here. Without Serge Ibaka — who’s not even that great a rebounder! — the Raptors are small and thin (Hollis-Jefferson and Boucher), and not particularly athletic (ahem, Marc Gasol) on the front line, and small at the guard spots as well.
But as RHJ said the other day, rebounding is effort and technique. You gotta want the ball, and everybody has to box out effectively... and that’s not something the Raptors are doing right now.
Does Patrick McCaw Have a Role When he Comes Back?
There’s currently no real timetable on Patrick McCaw’s return, but with the way Terence Davis is playing, McCaw might not have a spot in the rotation when he does return.
Which might be for the best? Nick Nurse is clearly a fan of McCaw, but McCaw’s offensive game seems very limited, and even his defense consists of a lot of gambling and scrambling. Davis’ all-around game seems better suited to the Raptors at this point (with the caveat that he’s a rookie, of course, and his excellent play may not continue throughout the season).
On the other hand it’s always unfortunate when a player gets hurt and loses his spot. But if Davis can keep this up — and he toppled his career high again last night, and is now shooting 54% from downtown over his past six games — I don’t think Nurse has a choice but to stick McCaw at the end of the bench.
Chaos Energy Everywhere
Speaking of McCaw, we all likened him to “chaos energy” at times last year when he came in and started flying around and disrupting things. Which is also how you could describe what Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher are doing.
A large part of what's so entertaining/potent about this Raptors bench unit is that they just try so much harder than other teams. They never take possessions off. Constant energy, movement.— Joshua Howe (@Howevolution) November 21, 2019
Maybe that’s McCaw’s destiny on this team, to join those two in an ultimate break-glass-in-case-of-emergency, self-destruct chaos group. Imagine a Siakam+bench unit that features McCaw, RHJ, Boucher, and, say, Matt Thomas out there. McCaw, RHJ and Boucher running around and disrupting everything, Pascal running the show, improvising on offense, with defenses scrambling and leaving Thomas open...
... I’m putting this on my Christmas wish list.
Even with their rebounding woes, it’s a good time to be a Raptors fan. The team is winning, we’re getting good looks at new players, the development system is getting (rightfully) praised... and the team is (hopefully!) getting Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry back soon. And oh yeah — they’re the defending champs too! Yep, life is good.