We’ve fully entered “dog days of the season” territory. In case you weren’t sure, may I present last night’s contest between the Toronto Raptors, and eight or so dudes wearing New Orleans Pelicans uniforms.
The game was ragged, both teams were running up and down, throwing the ball all over the court — often to each other. Still, give the young Pelicans credit for hanging around for 2.5 quarters before the more experienced, more talented Raptors pulled away.
A few quick thoughts:
So, Why Isn’t Jodie Meeks Still on this Team?
I watched this game with my Dad, who, while he keeps general tabs on the Raptors, doesn’t usually watch full games. With about three minutes left in the first half, he chimed in with a somewhat prescient comment:
"Don't they know how to shoot three-pointers, these guys?"— Josh Kern (@joshuakern) March 9, 2019
-- my Dad, checking in on the state of 2018-19 Toronto Raptors.
Now, the Raptors did a much better job shooting the long ball in the second half, but regardless, I have to wonder: why didn’t the Raptors keep Jodie Meeks, at least for another 10-day contract?
Meeks wouldn’t have a huge role on the team, but the role he did have — three-point gunner — he was perfectly suited for. While the Raptors have a lot of guys who are good at a lot of things, they don’t have a three-point specialist anymore (and, with C.J. Miles’ struggles, they haven’t really had one all season). Meeks knows what he is (and isn’t) and seemed to fit in perfectly. And clearly, they didn’t have anyone else lined up to take his spot. That one’s a head-scratcher to me.
Dear Danny Green, Please Stop Trying Things
On the third offensive play of the game, Danny Green got the ball off a handoff from Marc Gasol, tried to turn the corner and take the ball into the paint. Of course, he turned it over as soon as he got to the elbow.
I can appreciate that Nick Nurse has given everyone on the team offensive freedom, and I don’t want to pigeonhole Green as a one-dimensional offensive player — he’s better than that. But we’ve seen enough of him trying to drive the lane from the wings to know that it’s just not his game.
All too often the Raptors go away from the simple plays that work — Lowry initiating the pick-and-roll with Ibaka, Pascal catching the ball on the move, Gasol operating from the elbows, Kyle/Kawhi/Pascal driving-and-kicking... again, this is the downside to the “offensive freedom,” is that sometimes (most times?) you want guys to stick to doing what they do best. You know... like Jodie Meeks.
Evaluation Time Has to be Over Soon, Right?
From the very start of his tenure as Raptors head coach, Nick Nurse has spoken of his mad scientist ways, and his desire to experiment with personnel and lineups. And although I am a firm believer that NBA players need clearly defined roles, I was fine with Nurse experimenting to figure out what those roles should be. For a team that was only going to measure success in the postseason, it made sense to devote the regular season to figuring these things out.
But now as the postseason looms, it’s a little disconcerting to hear Nurse continue to talk about his “fluid” starting lineup and how he’s still “evaluating” lineups and player pairings.
Isn’t it about time to make some decisions? After 66 games, you should know your team well enough by now to know what works and what doesn’t. And the fact that Nurse hasn’t made more concrete decisions really concerns me.
Nurse is the head coach, the leader. One of the most important things a leader does is make decisions. His desire to continue evaluating, well past the point where other teams know who they are, smacks of indecisiveness, and more importantly, of fear. Why is he so afraid to make decisions and stick by them? Is he afraid to fail? He knows how much pressure the team is under this season — it’s a make or break season — is he not up to the task? How can his players have confidence that he knows what he’s doing if he can’t decide who should play with whom?
Maybe I’m overreacting but I’m very concerned that this team still doesn’t know who it is with only 16 games left.
The Quick Timeout Instigator
I’ve written about outlet passes a lot lately, but my goodness, this is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Look how perfectly it floats into Siakam’s hands! My goodness.
The best part about this is that it prompted Alvin Gentry to pull a Popovich, and call a timeout just 19 seconds into the half. I’m sure his conversation with his players was something along the lines of, “this Siakam guy has snuck behind you 15 times already, how could you let him do it again!?”
The Bank is Open!
Who doesn’t love a good banked-in three-pointer? During garbage time last night, Malcolm Miller came in and after about 12 seconds of playing time launched his first three, and it dropped in off the glass.
Last game, against Houston, Pascal Siakam banked one in — and P.J. Tucker went glass from deep as well in that one.
Are we entering the banked-in three-point revolution? Is this the new step-back? Will we see Stephen Curry and James Harden work on this over the summer? You read it here first, the all-glass revolution is coming.
It was good to see the Raptors break their skid and keep Kawhi Leonard’s minutes under 30 (and he was sensational in those 30 minutes). Maybe that’s the new load management: Just blow teams out and sit Leonard for fourth quarters?
Let’s see if they can do it again against an always-tough Heat team down in Miami on Sunday.