Last night’s tilt between the Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors ended up going from “blah, this is kinda boring” to “OK, the Raptors are trying now, it’s over” to “oh crap, the Hawks aren’t going away” pretty quickly in the second half. The Raptors hung on for the 119-116 win, but it sure wasn’t pretty.
Let’s get to the thoughts:
NBA Players: They Are Human Beings!
As bloggers and sportswriters, we talk about the idea of good teams taking poor teams lightly all the time. But I’ll admit I was a bit surprised to hear Pascal Siakam actually admit that’s what the Raptors did against the Hawks on last night’s broadcast.
”I think when you look at people’s record, you come in a little [shrugging motion], but we just had to pick ourselves up a little bit, and we did a better job in the second half,” he told Jack Armstrong after the game.
It certainly seemed that the Raptors didn’t take the Hawks too seriously, as they floated through large parts of the game — including the final two minutes, which saw the Hawks nearly come all the way back.
As fans we can only hope that isn’t something that becomes a habit.
When he first came in the league, Fred VanVleet often struggled to finish in the paint. It’s something he’s consistently gotten better at, though... which makes last night’s shot chart kind of shocking:
It’s hard to tell but that’s a 5-for-12 night in the paint. VanVleet didn’t seem to have any trouble penetrating, but his layups and finger-rolls just seemed a bit off when he got to the hoop.
Again, we have to hope this is just a blip and not a trend.
The Raptors had 17 turnovers last night, although it felt like they had at least 30 — probably because so many of those turnovers were unforced. The Raptors coughed up the rock five times in the first two minutes of the second quarter last night — including four straight possessions — as the Hawks went on a 10-3 run.
The Raptors are currently averaging 16.1 turnovers per game, up from 14.0 a season ago. Kyle Lowry’s absence (and the the lack of a true third point guard) are definitely contributing to that... but again, too many of these are simple errors (like Chris Boucher’s double dribble!) that the Raptors need to clean up.
Boucher Putting it On the Floor
Speaking of Chris Boucher, let’s highlight Chris’ first bucket last night — a nice and-1 floater off of a dish from VanVleet.
I kinda like seeing Boucher put the ball on the floor in this spot. He’s got room to operate and those long strides get him to the lane in a hurry. But this sequence also demonstrates why he needs to add a bit of muscle — just one little bump from Alex Len (the initial bump out on the wing, not the actual foul on the attempt) throws Boucher’s trajectory off. If Boucher could’ve absorbed that bump, he probably would have had a dunk instead of a floater; instead, that bump allowed Len to stay in front of him (and if Len were actually a decent defender instead of, you know, Alex Len, Boucher probably would have had his shot blocked).
All in all though, Boucher had another solid night, finishing with 13 points and eight boards in 15 minutes.
Standings Watch: Way Too Early Edition
November 24 isn’t any kind of time to start monitoring the standings, but I find the cluster at the top of the East pretty astounding.
Five teams at 11-5 or better!
For the Raptors to keep pace, the next two weeks are critical. Sandwiched in between two games against Philadelphia (Nov. 25 and Dec. 8), the Raptors face Miami, Houston, and Utah — all very good teams — as well as the Knicks and Magic. We should have a pretty good idea by December 9 if that 11-4 record is real, or an early-season mirage.
Speaking of Monday’s game against Philly... it’s the first time these two teams have met since this happened:
My view of the final shot. I can’t even believe this happened. pic.twitter.com/9fdZjfBekH— Josh Kern (@joshuakern) May 13, 2019