After about a quarter and a half last night, I was thinking, thank God this game started at 6:00 p.m., so we can get it over with early. It was bad, like, the bad old days bad. You know, Thursday in Miami bad.
But then... the champs arrived.
Kyle Lowry Appreciation Society
I wish I’d been tracking all of these thoughts in a spreadsheet because I’d love to know how many of them are some variation of “I love Kyle Lowry.”
Last night was another example of why I do — in fact there were about a half-dozen examples over the course of the game. My favourites were when he gave Jarrett Allen the old, “what are you gonna do” after getting tangled up underneath...
... and his screaming “AND-1!” to the crowd after a late Serge Ibaka bucket. I honestly can’t imagine not loving how Kyle Lowry plays basketball.
Fred VanVleet has been in a shooting slump since he came back from injury, so it was great to see him break out with an 11-for-19 shooting night, including 5-for-8 from downtown.
Naturally, he got hurt at the end of the game jamming his back, and indicated post-game he’d also been dealing with a finger issue. With that in mind I’m prepared for this to be a one-game blip, rather than a positive trend, but I remain hopeful.
Thus Ends the Great Stanley Johnson Experiment
Stanley Johnson got another decent run of minutes last night, but, much like in the Miami game, he was ineffective, going 0-for-4 from the field (with three of those being three-point attempts). He did pick up three rebounds, which is better than the, um, zero he had on Thursday. Nevertheless his minutes (finally?) went back to Oshae Brissett in the second half.
To be fair, I don’t think this is entirely Stanley’s fault. He’s not a three-point shooter and playing him minutes against zone-heavy teams, when the rest of the team is slumping, is not putting him into position to succeed. But, I imagine Nick Nurse isn’t seeing the other things — defensive energy, hustle on the glass — that he needs to from Johnson in that role.
Brissett came in and did things like this:
Brissett’s on the three-point line when VanVleet takes that shot and almost stole that rebounds from four Nets. He didn’t re-gain possession, but that hustle? I’ve yet to see Johnson do anything like that.
Boucher Bringing It
As always when players go down with injury, the silver lining is that other players get an opportunity — and it’s been great seeing Chris Boucher get a consistent role with Marc Gasol (and previously Serge Ibaka) hurt.
Boucher still gets pushed around a lot and ends up on his caboose all too often. But he has that motor that just keeps going, which seems to be a signature of these Raptors: Pascal Siakam has it, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has it, Terence Davis, Brissett... these guys just go.
As for Boucher, he’s showing that despite the slight frame he can play in the NBA. In the nine games since Gasol went down, Boucher is averaging nine points (on 48% shooting) with six boards and 1.3 steals in 18 minutes a night.
Extra Possessions FTW
You’ll often hear the phrase “one team wanted it more,” and while it can be a meaningless term there are many ways to quantify it. Last night, the Raptors forced 24 turnovers and scored 32 points off them (Brooklyn, eight and nine); were +5 in rebounding (+9 offensive), were +6 in deflections and +4 in loose balls recovered.
All those extra possessions meant Toronto ended taking 30 more shot attempts than Brooklyn. That sure makes winning a lot easier!
The Raptors get a nice little two day break here to rest up and heal some of those bumps and bruises... and maybe, just maybe, get at least one guy back from injury? Matt Thomas appears to be close! Here’s hoping.