The Toronto Raptors have spent large swaths of the season playing without some number of their top seven players, but the shoe was on the other foot last night, as the healthy Raptors took the floor against a Philadelphia 76ers team missing Joel Embiid and Josh Richardson (who left in the first quarter with a hamstring issue).
Even without those two players, the 76ers made the Raptors work for last night’s win. Another Norman Powell bench spark and a barrage of Fred VanVleet three-pointers made the difference in the end.
What’s the Deal with Pascal Siakam
You’ll forgive the Seinfeld-ian header, but something is just not right with Pascal Siakam. He scored 18 points last night, but needed 23 shots to get there, and didn’t showcase his customary explosiveness at the rim, nor did he seem able to take advantage of slower defenders the way we’re used to seeing. That hesitancy may also be part of the reason he only had two free throw attempts.
Siakam has been below his usual standards since coming back from injury, and you have to wonder if A) he’s still hurt, or B) he’s got some mental block after the injury. (Or both, I suppose.) If it’s the latter, well, this seems like a good time to let him play through it, with five games coming up against sub-.500 opponents.
If it’s the former, though... maybe the Raptors should consider shutting him down a few more games?
Speaking of “what’s the deal?” Raptors...
OG Anunoby, We Need You Back
Both Mitch Orsatti and I wrote about OG yesterday, specifically how he excelled at the shooting guard spot in two games last week, but then struggled from his “usual” small forward spot in the next two games.
Well, he started at the three again last night, and it was more of the same: no points, three shots, two boards, two assists, and a team-low minus-13.
(I’d make a “Is OG the new Patrick McCaw?” joke here, but McCaw but hurt, and that’d just be mean.)
I’m not sure what’s happening here with Anunoby. Offensively, you could argue that there just aren’t that many shots to go around with the starters — especially with the new offensive-minded Marc Gasol we’ve been seeing.
But he’s been pretty awful at the defensive end too.
I still don’t actually believe starting OG at the two is a real option long-term, but he’s got to snap out of this funk.
Let’s Put Fred in the Right Role
Fred VanVleet spent an awful lot of time last night driving in the lane, shooting contested layups and having them bounce off the rim or backboard. Against a big team like Philly, Fred just doesn’t have the size to generate quality looks at the hoop — we saw enough of that in May, and Philly’s only gotten bigger since then. (Fred, as far as I know, is the same size.) Even without Embiid, Philly is still big and long, and it causes VanVleet problems.
What’s maddening about this is that Fred doesn’t need to do that against this team. The Raptors have enough size upfront to fill the lane, and enough passers to move the ball to shooters in open spots. Which is where VanVleet should be. One of the advantages the Raptors have against Philly, after all, is three-point shooting. VanVleet should be hovering on the perimeter, relocating, even running off of screens; I suspect they’re just fine with him coming into the lane where they can contain him, rather than chasing him out on the perimeter (which would, in theory, open up more space inside for Ibaka and Siakam).
VanVleet’s second-half shooting (5-for-6 from downtown) was a huge difference maker in the game. If he’d been doing that from the start, maybe the Raptors never get down by 15.
TO has Simmons’ Number
The Toronto Raptors must Ben Simmons nightmares.
Fun stat:— Anthony Doyle (@Anthonysmdoyle) January 23, 2020
In Ben Simmons' career, he has 64 turnovers playing against the Toronto Raptors.
The team he has the second most turnovers against is the Washington Wizards, at 42.
Simmons averages 3.7 turnovers per game against the other 28 teams in the league... and 6.7 against the Raptors!! That’s just this year. For his three-year career, Simmons averages 3.3 TOs per game against everyone else, and 5.8 against the Raps.
I don’t generally single out point guards for high turnovers — comes with the territory as playmakers — but those are some staggeringly high numbers against one team.
Incredible Stat of the Night
I had this spot reserved to talk about the Marc Gasol-Serge Ibaka double-big pairing, which I didn’t think we’d see against the Embiid-less Sixers — but we did, for four minutes, in which the Raptors were +9.
But then! I saw this stat this morning:
The @Raptors had 6 players score tonight and they all scored at least 16.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 23, 2020
They're the 1st team to have everyone who scored finish with 15+ points since the Magic in Feb. 1996. pic.twitter.com/HVFh3V4qjA
I thought, hey that’s pretty cool... but wait: Only six Raptors scored? That can’t be right. They played 10 guys; even if Patrick McCaw left after 10 seconds, that’s three players who didn’t score...?
Yep. Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and OG Anunoby all played 13+ minutes, and did not score a single point between them.
That’s unbelievable. (Or is it? it must happen more often than I think, that multiple players play double-digit minutes and don’t score... otherwise ESPN Stats probably would have pointed it out!)
One last note, on Patrick McCaw. During the game, while manning the Raptors HQ Twitter feed, I tweeted my lack of enthusiasm about McCaw when he came into the game. He immediately got hurt — and in fact, since my League Pass feed is usually 30 seconds behind, he was technically already hurt when my tweet went out. Obviously, I felt awful. (What’s ironic is that I broke my nose on almost the exact same play in high school; the first, and only, time in my life I ever “saw stars,” and I still have the little hitch in my nose to this day.)
So, sending my best to Patrick, who’s seeing a specialist for his broken nose this morning. Get well soon!