If you’d told me before last night’s game that Joel Embiid would score 10 points and have seven turnovers, and that Josh Richardson wasn’t playing, and that Kyle Lowry would score 26 points on 14 shots... I would’ve told you, the Toronto Raptors would beat the Philadelphia 76ers easily.
Alas, another off night from Pascal Siakam, some poor ball control, and another sub-par three-point shooting performance let Philly run up a lead, and the Raptors ran out of time in their late comeback bid.
Let’s get right to the thoughts:
Well, It Was a Fun Finish At Least
I was pretty miserable throughout most of last night’s game, but hey, at least the Raptors reminded us of how they're capable of playing in that final run. Sure, they waited waaay too long to make their final push, and I don’t think the outcome was ever really in doubt, but, that doesn’t mean the final five minutes weren’t a lot of fun.
At the very least, the Raptors reminded Philly what they can do when they really ramp up the defense. Philly had seven turnovers in the final five minutes! I’m sure they were a little complacent with the big lead, but still — that has to be cause for concern for Bret Brown.
At the most, Nick Nurse sent his starters a message by putting them back in with eight minutes to go and leaving them out there, and that message was received. The Raptors hopefully reminded themselves of who they are on defense, and hopefully that same energy will carry over to tonight’s game in Chicago — and into the Kawhi Bowl on Wednesday.
Is Pascal Siakam Tired, or Hurt? Or...
Pascal has been sub-par in Toronto’s past three games, and four of the past five. And the game he did play well, against the Utah Jazz, was such a laugher that it may have disguised any issues.
So what’s the deal? He looks less explosive, he’s definitely less aggressive, his shot isn’t falling and he seems to be making rookie mistakes on defense — including leaving Al Horford in the corner to bite on a Joel Embiid three-point attempt (naturally Horford nailed it, but at least his foot was on the line).
Is the wear-and-tear of being “the guy” getting to him? Is his supporting cast not doing enough to reduce the pressure? Does Nick Nurse need to adjust his role in the offense?
My best guess is that it’s a combination of mental fatigue, and opposing teams sending multiple defenders at him, and he hasn’t figured out how to work within these new parameters. I’m confident he will, though.
By the way, my wife thinks that Pascal Siakam is has fallen in love (perhaps with a certain tennis player...?) and that this relationship has, in turn, worn him out and thrown him off his game. I mean, I think it’s more likely that he’s carrying a large load on offense, and good defenses are adjusting to his speed, but you know... could go either way, really.
(Given this line of thought, I can only imagine how awful my wife must have been at her job when she was falling in love with me...! I kid, I kid.)
Take Care of the Basketball
Among the Raptors’ many problems in the first three quarters, unforced turnovers were the most glaring. In one three-minute stretch in the second quarter, Marc Gasol bobbled one ball off his hands, Fred VanVleet dribbled a ball off his foot and Kyle Lowry tossed a lazy pass to Pascal Siakam that was picked off. The Raptors turned the ball over nine times before halftime, leading to 10 Philly points.
In addition to their usual poor rebounding and a spate of dumb fouls, these turnovers killed the Raptors. Against good teams, your margin of error is thin, and if you don’t value possessions, well, you’re digging yourself a pretty big hole — like, say, a 15-point deficit at halftime.
Kyle, Please Stop Grifting (At Least a Little Bit)
Kyle Lowry is the GROAT, and the amount of slander he receives on Twitter is insane — even when he plays well, like he did last night! But the grifting... man, it drives me crazy. On two separate occasions last night, Lowry had the defense on its heels, and twice, attempted to initiate contact and draw a foul, and twice ended up throwing the ball away.
I’ll complain about this all day when James Harden does it, so I’ll complain about it when Lowry does it. If you’re going to attempt to draw a foul that’s one thing, but to demonstrably throw your arms in the air so that you can’t even generate a quality shot? That’s just poor basketball.
Of course, Kyle will get some of those calls, but look what happens when there’s contact and Kyle just plays it straight up?
Bucket and book it pic.twitter.com/izHWSPZ4t0— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 9, 2019
A little bump from Simmons, and Kyle just shrugs it off and pops in the triple.
Yep, That’s a Flagrant 1
Terence Davis was called for a flagrant-1 foul on a Mike Scott three-point attempt in the first quarter, and I think it was the right call. Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong disagreed, saying there was “nothing egregious” on the play, but you have to allow the offense player to come down cleanly after a jump shot. That’s the old Bruce Bowen rule — Bowen was notorious for deliberately stepping under opposing shooters, so that they’d land on his feet and turn their ankles.
It pains me, truly, to be on the side of “the man” here, but it’s the right call:
Replay Review (Game Crew): if the foul committed by Davis met the criteria for a flagrant foul in Q1 of #TORatPHI. Ruling: Flagrant foul 1 assessed to Davis after not allowing Scott space to land on his jump shot. pic.twitter.com/2pDk58NabG— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) December 9, 2019
Clearly Terence Davis didn’t do that intentionally, but the league made that a flagrant-1 to prevent that kind of play from happening. Good call.
(And let’s not forget — Zaza Pachulia stepping under Kawhi Leonard eventually led to Kawhi becoming a Raptor, and the Raptors winning the NBA title!)
All right, the three-game losing streak does have me a bit... perturbed. Siakam’s play, the lack of consistent defensive effort, and the poor shooting are all areas of concern. But it’s all fixable, and I expect that fixing to begin tonight!