One view of Toronto’s fifth win paints it as a rosy if sort of underwhelming cruise control victory in which the Raptors found a touch of rotational balance, the best guys on the team popped, and the opponent never really felt like a threat to steal it. If you choose to see it as the type of win that signifies a good and comfortable team, you wouldn’t be wrong.
A pessimist may take umbrage with the Raptors’ inability to simply close the damn door, or the 20 threes canned by Sacramento. If that describes you, you may feel like Nick Nurse did after the game.
“They were hard to get rid of,” said Nurse of the now 2-6 Kings. “I can’t count how many times we got up eight, nine, and they hit a three.”
“I mean they hit 20 threes — that’s a lot — they got up 44. Little bit imbalanced last game in not getting the gaps closed down. Tonight we got the gaps closed down a little better and didn’t spring back out to the shooters. So the defense is a work in progress. We gotta combine those two things a little better.”
On the other side of that coin — the Kings outgunned their season shooting mark from deep by 12 percentage points and still didn’t have the juice to keep up with the Raptors. Toronto’s offense was killer.
Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam did the types of thing you’d expect of them based on how damn good they’ve been early on. Lowry lifted some kooky, reserve-heavy lineups when Nurse dabbled in a slightly deeper bench. As Nurse alluded to before the game, Toronto flirted with a real, 10-man rotation, sacrificing minute-by-minute maximization in the interest of “treading water” with unseasoned bench hands. A play to close the first quarter, on which Terence Davis and Chris Boucher clearly didn’t know the play call and Lowry drove headlong to the rim for the 35th and 36th Toronto points of the frame, highlighted just how much Lowry can raise the floor of even the most piecemeal lineups.
As the Kings nagged and nagged into crunch time, Lowry was entrusted to play the entirety of the fourth quarter, five or so minutes of which stuck on five fouls. When he was on the court, the Raptors’ lead seemed safe. He finished with 24 efficient points and six assists.
Siakam on the other hand served up a chill brand of goodness. Nurse remarked that his top option lacked his usual aggression on both sides of the ball — perhaps a slight over-correction in hopes of curbing his recent fouling issues. The thing about Siakam, though, is that even on relaxed nights he’s liable to pour in 23 points on 13 shots, grab 13 boards (including the game clincher as time expired) and dish five assists.
“Every time he got double-teamed to the post he found us a cutter to the rim or the kick-out for the three,” Nurse said of Siakam’s play making on the night. “We probably should have played through him in the post a lot more because although he wasn’t scoring down there because they were double teaming him it was really opening things up for us.”
Two stars being stars, it’s tough to be angsty about that. Until of course you look at the minutes column of the box score, and come across another reason why this game could be viewed as more disappointment than triumph. Lowry’s 12-minute fourth pushed him into another 40 minutes of high-leverage action. Siakam playing 37 isn’t exactly alarming, but with a tricky five-game road trip and sucky travel schedule awaiting, it probably shouldn’t have been necessary. Seven games is still not enough to be concerned about minutes totals, but that event horizon isn’t far off now. Terence Davis picking up five fouls in seven minutes in his first shot at Patrick McCaw’s spot isn’t super encouraging.
Ah, but there’s yet another glimmer of positivity. In addition to Davis, the crew of back-end rotation guys included Matt Thomas, who in spite of the usual defensive hiccup here or there was damn fun to watch in his 11 minutes. How about a defensive stand leading to a Marc Gasol tummy pass, capped by and OG Anunoby and-1?
This is what you love to see pic.twitter.com/ZjeCm54ZKb— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 7, 2019
Or how about a look at that 99 Effective Field Goal Percentage In Europe stroke?
Thomas’ minutes will likely always fall under that treading water umbrella Nurse mentioned on account of his defensive issues, but damn if Thomas stints aren’t a powerful egg-beater kick to deploy.
Of all the reasons to chalk this game up as a NET good, though, Anunoby’s maniacal 18-point, six-rebound, three-block and career-high five-assist evening stands out against the backdrop. People should probably stop dribbling and/or attempting shots anywhere near OG. Doing so is an invitation to have your lunch stolen or your dignity shredded.
“I just think he’s looking like more of a complete player now,” said Nurse after the game. “There’s some shooting there that looks not hesitant at all ... there’s good cutting, there’s a little bit of driving, there’s usually one a game where he gets in the lane and steals and he’s off the other way. He’s growing and doing a lot of things.”
Of course, if you really want something to get mad at, you could point to the pair of free throws he bricked up four in the last minute, which made the last 10 seconds far more interesting than they had any right to be.
You can break down and analyze this game any way you want to. You can think it was good, or bad, or both if you like — do what you want, I’m not your dad. Or, you could do what is probably warranted when you’re talking about the seventh game of the season against a nothing opponent: forget about it quick. A road trip of legit tests awaits.