The Raptors got a few more clutch reps in last night, which is great. OG Anunoby came back, and no one else got hurt, which is also great! They lost, which is not so great, but at this point of the season... not much of a big deal.
What may be a big deal? The Raptors’ execution on the final two possessions. Some thoughts:
Pascal Siakam Blew It
Our guy Pascal Siakam is having an amazing season and should win the Most Improved Player award, but on Charlotte’s final possession last night, he caught flat-footed on the perimeter, and let Kemba Walker blow by him.
That left the defense scrambling, and led to Jeremy Lamb getting a wide open look from downtown — which of course, he nailed to seal the win.
And guess what: Nearly the exact same thing happened on the previous Hornets possession, as Siakam was slow to cut off the baseline, and Walker blew by him for the layup.
Is Siakam tired? Is he expending too much energy on offense and allowing his defense to slip? Hopefully this is a blip and the ballhawking defender we saw lock down John Wall last year in the postseason re-emerges next week.
Two Timeouts... and That’s All We Got?
First of all, the NBA should make calling back-to-back timeouts without play resuming illegal. This is what people complain about when they say the end of NBA games are terrible to watch!
But second of all... why did Nick Nurse need to call back-to-back timeouts there, with 3.3 seconds to go and the Raptors trailing by two? Wouldn’t it have been better to keep one, in case you couldn’t inbound the ball or you saw something you didn’t like from the defense?
Perhaps more importantly: at this point in the season, shouldn’t you have plays at the ready that you can draw up in one timeout, without needing to burn a second?
And after all that... the Raptors got a contested long two-pointer out of it. That’s the master play that required two timeouts? Why would you even shoot a long two in that situation? Go for the win!! Sigh. Not Nick Nurse’s finest moment.
“Jeremy Lamb... not silenced.”
You know who did have a damn fine moment? Matt Devlin! His call there as time expired is just an all-time great one.
I’m not the world’s biggest Devlin fan, but I gotta give him props for that one. “Lamb... not silenced.” Absolutely classic.
Matt, I hope you got to enjoy some fava beans and a nice chianti after the game.
Allow me to be the one millionth person to say it, but it’s a damn shame that Kemba Walker is playing out his prime on this mediocre Hornets team. He’s a great talent, and a great competitor, who always seems to come through in the big moments... except his team has never been good enough to get him to many big moments.
Walker is a free agent this summer and he’s expressed a desire to stick around in Charlotte — which I respect. But if they can’t upgrade the talent around him, I hope he leaves and finds a more competitive situation. Maybe that’s teaming with LeBron James on the Lakers, maybe it’s teaming up with Kevin Durant in New York... whatever it is, he deserves a shot at postseason success.
At the very least, I can say this game gave me something I’d never seen before: a wedgie on a game-tying shot attempt! Isn’t that why we tune in, because we never know what to expect in any given game? Well, OK, maybe we tune for big dunks and game-winners and spectacular blocks... and not wedgies. And yes, I would have slightly preferred it had that shot gone in... but only slightly. I didn't really want to watch overtime last night. So, yeah, I’ll take the wedgie!
Last night’s loss guarantees that the Raptors will finish with a worse record than last year’s team, which, while disappointing (and is surely more fodder for those who disagreed with the firing of Dwane Casey and the trading of DeMar DeRozan), ultimately doesn't really matter; this season was never about regular season success, it was about postseason success, and we’re that much closer to finally getting there.