Yesterday was quite a day, one that saw a third of the Toronto Raptors roster shipped out and left the Raptors with only nine players available for their game against Atlanta. After an emotionally draining day you could almost forgive them for phoning this one in, but they didn’t — after a lackadaisical first half that saw the Hawks shoot the lights out, the Raptors locked in, the Hawks came back down to Earth and Toronto ran away with it.
After a long day covering the deadline, I too am drained, so we’ll keep the thoughts short and sweet:
Pretty Blah Start on the Defensive End
With only nine guys available, it was important for the Raptors starters to get off to a good start; the Raptors starters were going to need to play big minutes, and the bench was thin, so falling behind early and playing catchup would seem to be problematic.
The Raptors did the exact opposite, quickly going down 19-15 when Norman Powell and OG Anunoby came in, and scuffling through to a 17-point deficit in the second quarter.
The defense was mainly to blame; the Hawks were whizzing the ball around the perimeter, and driving and kicking, and the Raptors were a step slow at every turn. With that deficit, with the low energy, with the short bench, I thought the game was over.
Shows what I know. Toronto gave up 68 in the first half, and only 33 in the second. Guess they were just conserving their energy for the second half?
Trae Young is Gonna Be Just Fine
Heading into last year’s NBA draft, there was already a lot of talk about whether or not Trae Young’s game would translate to the NBA; he was an undersized gunner and those players don’t often pan out, Stephen Curry notwithstanding. The Hawks only exacerbated the pressure on Young by dealing away Luka Doncic, who looks like a once-in-a-generation talent.
None of this is Young’s fault, of course, but it still puts pressure on him, and he’s handled it extremely well. He’s been rookie of month twice, is averaging almost 17 points a night, and although his raw shooting numbers aren’t there yet, some of the shots and plays he makes are already very impressive. At one point in the third last night, he missed a free throw, grabbed his own rebound, took one dribble left, faked a spin and hit a fadeaway. It was, I daresay, very Curry-eqsue.
He’s no Doncic, and never will be, but the Hawks still got a good one.
OG Could’ve Used a Start in This One
It’s hard to say a game is a throwaway, but, in Atlanta on deadline day after you’ve traded half your team away? I think that’s as good a time as any to mix up the lineup and see if you can get a guy going a little bit.
And with the Raptors’ lineup last night missing Kawhi Leonard and a backup point guard, I thought OG Anunoby might’ve gotten the start; he can slide in at the three for Leonard, while VanVleet — although he’s played well in his starts — would be free to anchor any second units.
Alas, I am not the coach, so that didn’t happen; what did happen was another so-so OG Anunoby game, that started with a a turnover and a terrible offensive foul in his first three minutes of play. To be fair, Anunoby did hit 2-of-4 from downtown and collected eight rebounds, adn finished a +24 on the night. So maybe I’m being too hard on him.
But the team just shortened its roster and the Raptors need him step up down the stretch.
Kevin Huerter has the Reddest Hair I’ve Ever Seen on an NBA Player
Seriously, it is so red. I saw him in the red Hawks warmups and I thought he was wearing a damn hood. During the fourth quarter they put him in a closeup after a turnover and I thought his head was on fire.
Speaking of on fire, the Hawks were simply unbelievable from downtown early. They were 10-for-13 at one point! They finished 16-for-35, so the regression came on in full force (as did the Raptors D) but I can’t remember the last time I saw a shooting performance like that.
I also can’t remember many red-headed NBA players; they’re few and far between. Matt Bonner is the only red-haired Raptor I can think of. You’ve got Brian Scalabrine. Bill Walton had red hair, but, nowhere near as red as Huerter. He’s an outlier.
Why do They Even Play Games on Deadline Day?
It’s an honest question. None of the players traded yesterday were available to their teams, and 12 teams were in action last night — six of whom, by my count, made trades yesterday.
Why not just make deadline day on an off day? The NBA has them throughout the year. How is it fair to the teams who are making an effort to improve themselves to have to suffer through a shorthanded match? How is it fair to the players traded to have to miss a game, and the players remaining to play extra minutes?
And my word, won’t someone think of bloggers, who have to have their eyes glued to Twitter all day, write trade reports in seconds, and then watch games and write recaps?
That’s win number 40 in the books. An interesting thought: The last time the Raptors didn’t win 40... was in Jonas Valanciunas’ (and Kyle Lowry’s) first season with the team. No Raptors players have ever won as much over a sustained period in Toronto as Lowry and Valanciunas did. That’s pretty special, and it’s damn sad to see JV go.
I hope the Raptors still give him a championship ring.