And that, fine folks, was a decidedly ugly week.
With losses to the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers under their belt, the Raptors managed to go 1-2 since our last column and could very easily be staring at a four game losing streak if it weren’t for the Chicago Bulls being the Chicago Bulls. Blissfully, we don’t have to speak on the game against the Heat, but there is still plenty to lament about as well as highlight from the three-game slate.
Before we get into it, there might be a big event happening tonight. I’m not sure, maybe you heard?
Fun Guy in town. pic.twitter.com/RdAwMTuZES— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 11, 2019
OG Anunoby, Always Everywhere
Let’s take quick stock of our sweet, sweet prince, OG Anunoby. Through a quarter of the season, OG has improved in the following areas per Basketball Reference:
FG%, 3PT% (drastically), eFG%, TRB, AST, STL, BLK and PTS
Regular ol’ counting stats not doing it for you? How about these advanced statistical improvements for ya:
ORTG, DRTG (both drastically), WS/48, OBPM and DBPM
OG has made all of these improvements while attempting less field goals and posting a lower usage rating overall. More impressive still is how OG has been making these improvements on the court. Take a look at this NBA UK highlight reel from the past week or so and try to convince yourself you’re not impressed.
Watch the best plays from OG Anunoby over the past week pic.twitter.com/9D7EfwuWhx— NBA UK (@NBAUK) December 2, 2019
While he may not have the sexiest game out there, OG is finishing better through contact, firing from beyond the arc with confidence, cutting and making the right reads in transition if his own shot isn’t available. More impressive still is that his defensive game far surpasses his newly enhanced offensive game.
OG Anunoby letting off some steam with the swat pic.twitter.com/kOHdSRYzDG— Lior Kozai (@LiorKozai) December 10, 2019
The fast twitch reaction time on that block from Anunoby is startlingly quick and offensive players must hate seeing him as their primary defender. Blocks like that and countless passing lane and on-ball steals have seen OG’s DRTG rise from 109 to 102 and has seen his DBPM skyrocket from 0.8 to 3.0 (!!!). Kawhi who?
Marc Gasol, Statement Defender
It’s finally happened — I full-on couldn’t care less if Marc Gasol never makes another shot in a Raptors uniform so long as he continues to play defense like he has this past week. And you know what, to his credit, he even managed to make a couple of really nice baskets against the Bulls. Some were even in the paint! Unfortunately, he also tossed up a goose egg against Embiid in Philadelphia (the irony), but kept Embiid in check for 10 points after holding him to a zero of his own in the previous meeting.
The crown jewel of Marc’s week?
.@MarcGasol = Clutch pic.twitter.com/xjkG0S4fcR— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 10, 2019
Gasol and Anunoby shared a team-high +9 in the narrow victory against the Bulls but it’s near impossible to properly outline how important Marc Gasol is on the defensive end for the Raptors especially considering the fact that he’s essentially ground-bound at this point in his career. Big Spain’s DRTG is the lowest it’s been since his two year span in Memphis that saw take home a Defensive Player of the Year award and his assist ratio is the highest of his career all while averaging a career low in USG%. Could we be looking at a repeat?
Nick Nurse, Galaxy Brain
Has the Kawhi Leonard mentality seeped into Nick Nurse’s big beautiful brain? 82 practices seems to be the line of thinking for some of Nurse’s tactical decisions this week as the Raptors threw some funky looks out against their opposition.
Against the Rockets, Nurse decided to basically double team Harden every time he touched ball after half-court. Did it work? Well, they lost, but Harden was limited to 23 points (on 11 shots, sheesh) and Russell Westbrook had a triple double (while shooting 26 percent from the field and 0 percent from 3), so yes? If Ben McLemore doesn’t have a career performance, the Raptors win that game. Nurse had this to say in his post-game scrum:
Nurse: "It was an interesting experiment. If the result was the other way around we'd probably be saying it was a great experiment but you've gotta look at it more closely. I've never run that scheme before. There's probably a lot of polish we can put on it to make it better"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 6, 2019
Not weird enough for you? How about playing a unit of point guard Norman Powell (yikes) and shooting guard OG Anunoby (uh oh) with Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher and Gasol to round out the forward spots. Amazingly, the stretch of basketball with this lineup on the floor against the Bulls did not go very well. But did it provide Nick with some very valuable data? You bet!
Seemingly, Nick Nurse doesn’t care one solitary lick. The Raptors have a great record and are trying to rediscover their form while reintegrating key members into their lineup, so why not see what works and what doesn’t? It’s just practice after all.
Three Point Shooters, Brick City
Here’s how good the Raptors were shooting from the land beyond before their three game losing streak that was very close to being four. Prior to those four games, the Raptors lead the NBA in 3PT% at 41 percent. After shooting 25, 30, 33 and 25 percent in the past four games, they are still somehow in 3rd at 38.1 percent.
Do the Raptors miss Matt Thomas? Sure, why not, but there are more than a handful of
capable excellent three point shooters on this team that are hopefully just stuck in a collective rut. Norm will almost certainly continue to run hot and cold, but it’s probably fair to assume that Lowry doesn’t have many 1-for-8s left in him as he works his way back from injury. Pascals’ mini-drought is sure to end and Serge will almost certainly round into form. Don’t even worry! Hey, speaking of Serge...
Serge Ibaka, Yips
I am (was?) a card carrying member of the JV Hive before he was rightfully sacrificed for our championship dreams. You know what my biggest gripe was with JV? The bunnies. JV missed so many shots right at the rim that I’m actually afraid to go searching out the stats so as to keep alive the pure, angelic vision of Jonas in my mind and heart.
But JV is gone, so why bring all of this up? Heyyyyyy, look who decided to take up Valanciunas’ mantle as The King of the Yips. It’s Serge Ibaka! Over the four game stretch of suspect play, Ibaka is shooting a woeful 18 percent in the paint on non-restricted area shots. Worse yet, he’s averaging a team high 3.2 shots in that area. Can I use more exclamation marks? Please!?!?
Like the data above for the Raptors three point shooters (Serge included), this might amount to some static that will shake out over time, but the ghost of JV lingers every time Serge misses a bunny and it scares the hell out of me.
Booing, A Bad Take
Chauncey is wrong. No way Kawhi doesn’t get booed in Toronto— Clipperholics (@ClipperholicsFS) December 10, 2019