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Heroic Summer League comeback cut short as Raptors lose to the Spurs, 93-90

A very try-hard zone and a late surge by Chris Boucher and Jordan Loyd nearly brought Toronto back after they trailed by 26. They ultimately fell just short against the Spurs in Vegas.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Toronto Raptors Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Normally in a Las Vegas Summer League recap I wouldn’t talk about game flow at all, given that what matters is really the individual performances, but tonight’s game was a little weird, so I’ll at least pay the game flow some lip service. The Raptors got their tails thoroughly whupped by the Spurs through three quarters, primarily by Lonnie Walker IV. Walker, selected out of Miami by the Spurs with the 19th pick in the 2018 draft, looked altogether too good for Summer League, as he consistently stepped confidently into pull-up jumpers, bouncing high into his shot and often knocking them down with ease even when contested. The result was a 26-point Spurs lead with just over nine minutes left in the 4th.

Then the Raptors implemented a zone defense, and, to no one’s surprise, their opponents could not crack it. When you’re up against a bunch of guys unaccustomed to playing together, using a defense that mandates the offensive team have a strategy beyond “run a pick-and-roll” is honestly kind of unfair. So, the Raptors surged back, with their zone locking the Spurs down and their offense getting run-out opportunities as a result. They closed all the way to within three points, before ultimately falling short 93-90 following a missed last second 3-pointer by Jordan Loyd.

Alright, now, let’s get to what really matters: how the various individual players looked. We’ll go through all the current roster guys (Loyd, Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller), recent draft pick Dewan Hernandez, and then any non-roster guys who really stood out.

Jordan Loyd (27 points, 7 assists, 6 steals, 8-of-24 FG, 3-of-8 3PT)

Loyd was the Raptors’ best player throughout most of the contest, doing his best to buoy a flailing offense during the rough early quarters. Loyd was the Raptors’ de facto late clock guy, and as such was asked to put up a bunch of tough shots. He struggled when asked to isolate, often failing to get all the way to the basket and getting forced into tough floaters and midrange step-backs, all of which he missed. It doesn’t look like the in-between game is really there for him yet. These late-clock isos resulted in a 8-for-24 shooting line that was mostly a product of Loyd being asked to step out of his comfort zone and do a little too much.

When Loyd got to work in his comfort zone — working with ballscreens and spacing out to catch-and-shoot — he thrived, as he dimed up his roll man on several occasions, got all the way to the basket for a finish out of pick-and-roll three times, and banged a pair of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers. Loyd also looked good playmaking in transition, and had a nice connection with Chris Boucher running the floor throughout.

Defensively, Loyd took advantage of the Summer League rule that allows each player 10 personal fouls and played slightly more aggressive defense than he’d be allowed in the NBA, ending with six fouls. It paid off, he straight up ripped more than one ball-handler, including a steal on Lonnie Walker, the Spurs best player, down the stretch. Loyd was also very active when defending off the ball, seeking out opportunities to jump passing lanes and nab deflections, and made a spectacular play to blow up a Spurs’ transition possession by tipping and corralling a lob pass in flight. Altogether Loyd ended with six steals, and, though his over-aggressive on-ball defense is perhaps not the norm (given the 10-foul limit), he often looked the part of a high-level team defender. All-in-all, a good performance from Loyd, who looks to likely have the most NBA-ready skillset on this year’s summer squad.

Chris Boucher (24 points, 12 rebounds, 1 block, 7-of-17 FG, 2-of-9 3PT)

Boucher was at his best after the Raptors went to their zone, as it allowed him the opportunity to run the floor in transition. He consistently beat the Spurs bigs down the floor throughout the 4th whether he pushed it himself, or got a pass from a Raptors’ guard. And he exploited that to get easy dunks and trips to the foul line, scoring 13 of his points in the final frame alone.

Throughout the early going, when Boucher often had to play in the halfcourt, he looked substantially worse, as the problems with his slim frame shone through. He often found himself bumped off his spots, and ended up falling away from the basket when asked to create, missing fadeaways, turning the ball over, or getting forced to reset the offense. Boucher helped offset that a little by working hard on the offensive glass, pulling down three offensive boards, and getting at least one big putback dunk.

Boucher was as confident as ever flinging up 3s, getting nine attempts up, including a couple he stepped right into in transition after taking the ball up himself. Ultimately, he only drained 2-of-9, and, with his funky release, it’s tough to know what to make of his shot — though the extreme confidence is obviously appreciated.

Malcolm Miller (2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 0-of-4 FG, 0-of-4 3PT)

Miller isn’t a Summer League guy. A complimentary piece whether he’s playing in the G League, Summer League, or the NBA, Miller relies on others to generate offense for him. In Summer League he’s playing off of worse talent, and, of course, guys might be playing slightly more selfishly in an effort to put up the numbers needed to crack a roster. As such he’s just not going to get many opportunities offensively. Even when he’s on, the ceiling is going to be limited. Still, when the catch-and-shoot specialist doesn’t hit his catch-and-shoot 3s, then it’s going to look ugly, and tonight that’s what happened. Miller was a passenger in the Raptors’ offense (that’s not a callout, it’s simply his role) and when opportunities came his way he failed to capitalize, it’s as simple as that. Sometimes you hit the shots, sometimes you miss.

Defensively, it didn’t look great either. Miller failed to make any real defensive plays, he never scratched in the steals or blocks categories, and when called to guard the one real NBA level wing on the Spurs in Walker, he struggled to effectively challenge his shots. Honestly, despite the anemic offensive stat line, the defense was the most concerning part of the night for Miller. We know the jumper will come, but he needs to be able to guard if he’s going to carve out a role in the NBA. Put it all together and it was a forgettable night for Miller, which has to be concerning for him, given that his rapidly approaching contract guarantee date will soon force the Raptors to make a decision on whether or not they want him on the roster.

Dewan Hernandez (10 points, 5 rebounds, 4-of-9 FG, 0-of-2 3PT)

Hernandez looked really rough in the game’s opening minutes. He got caught in space defensively, struggled to deal with the physicality of Spurs’ two-way player Drew Eubanks on the block, and smoked an easy finish. He was quickly yanked for Richard Solomon, and, upon re-entering later in the contest, looked much better. Hernandez got a steal and a run-out assist immediately upon his return. As the game proceeded he worked hard on the offensive glass, securing a pair of putbacks, finished a pick-and-roll, and made a nice 10-foot push shot in the lane. He even stepped into his pair of 3-point shots without hesitation, a good sign, though he ended up missing both.

Hernandez played significant minutes down the stretch, and any defensive limitations he might have were masked by the zone defense. It’s hard to tell what kind of player he’ll be on that end from what we’ve seen so far. Despite the rough start, this ended up being a much better game for Hernandez compared to his debut, as he flashed some NBA skills offensively by hitting the glass, showing some touch, and stepping outside for a jumper or two.

Matt Morgan (11 points, 4 rebound, 2-of-4 FG, 2-of-4 3PT, 5-of-5 FT)

Morgan was the only one of the “other guys” who really stood out today, as starting point guard Corey Walden really struggled, and everyone else played very limited minutes. He ended the game a team high +14 as he played for most of their late surge, though he scored most of his points in the first half. Morgan comes as advertised, undersized, and without real point guard skills, but a totally pure shooter. He canned some deep catch-and-shoot jumpers tonight and got the Spurs worried enough about him from the perimeter that he was fouled on another attempt.

I thought Morgan looked fairly engaged guarding the ball defensively as well, though his lack of size will certainly be an issue on that end if he’s forced to play the two. Overall, any prospect with a high level skill like Morgan’s shooting will likely get a look somewhere eventually, though with the recent signing of the rather similar Matt Thomas, I’m not sure the Raptors would be the place for him.