Where do you even start with the deflating week that the Raptors just had? A high note? Well, Toronto definitely beat a basketball team in Brooklyn who have also been ravaged by injuries, so there is that. The Raptors also lead for 47 minutes and 43 seconds against the Portland Trail Blazers even though Nick Nurse decided to, on purpose, play Stanley Johnson, Oshae Brissett, Chris Boucher, Matt Thomas and Patrick McCaw at the same time in non-garbage minutes.
And therein lies the long, low note of the Raptors week. A loss to the Blazers that seemed like a guaranteed win and an absolute train wreck of a loss to the Heat where the Raptors managed to shoot 6-of-42 from three point range. That’s 14 percent on a total of 47 percent of the Raptors’ shots for the night, folks — good for their lowest total points scored in five years.
With that drudgery out of the way, Raptors fans will continue to trudge through January regular season basketball staring at a bench full of injured Raptors and dream of April, May and June. Let’s check the temperature.
Serge Ibaka, Shooting With Confidence
Let’s start this off with a big fat preface of no single Raptor player had a “hot” week. Did I want to title this section “Who’s Mid”? Yes, I did, but the brand is strong even if it’s mildly inaccurate at times, so with “hot” we’ll stay.
Chief among “mid” Raptors this week is none other than Ma Fuzzy Chef himself, Serge Ibaka who has looked mostly very good on the offensive end over these last couple of games.
Serge has been rising up with confidence over the last three games averaging 19 points on 16 shots which is good for 4.5 points higher than his regular season points total as well as four shots higher than his average. All of this can be attributed to the Raptors roster depletion due to injury, but you can’t say that Ibaka isn’t stepping into extra duties as required. Heck, outside of the game against the Heat, the efficiency has been there as well as he’s shot 55 percent over the last two.
As stated, Serge has had some bumps in the road as well. He had four three-second violations over the last three games, his defensive communications has been (and always will be) miles behind Marc Gasol’s and he put up two straight games without an assist. Now, perhaps there’s a question as to what can really be expected of Serge in those categories, but with the Raptors ailing, they need Ibaka to be more than he has been.
Chris Boucher, Confidence Deluxe
Slimm Duck provided no better example of the Raptors’ week then this highlight play right here.
Raise your hand if you know what happened immediately after that block? If you answered, committed a foul before the ball was inbounded (which results in a free throw for the opposing team) then you are correct! Yes, CJ McCollum missed that free throw and most everything else he put up against the Raptors thanks in large part to Oshae Brissett’s defense, but it once again illustrates that things are just a hair off with the Raptors right now. The team mostly does right, but is lacking finishing pedigree with the bulk of their starters on the injured reserve.
This is in no way, shape or form an admonishment of Chris Boucher. Boucher has been filling in admirably and has certainly earned his place on this roster. He went on a 7-0 run himself in the fourth quarter against the Blazers last night! What Raptors fans should be looking for in Boucher is a silver lining and that silver lining looks like copious real game experience for Boucher that can be translated to bench units once (if) the Raptors return to full health.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, After Hearts
If that’s not the most adorable video of a Raptors player this year, then I don’t know what is (please send your most adorable Raptors videos to me on Twitter at @thirstyvillain). As each day passes, RHJ earns a bigger slice of Toronto fans’ hearts.
Not only is he taking in the cultural sites but he is working his ass off and that style of play has historically endeared players to Toronto fan bases. He hustles on the glass. He moves his feet and gives everything he’s got on defense. He never gives up on a loose ball and he put together a big fat middle finger fourth quarter to Brooklyn for letting him go in free agency this past summer — that fourth quarter was orchestrated beautifully by Kyle Lowry force feeding him ISOs and post ups at every opportunity in garbage time.
And once again, he, like Boucher and Ibaka above is being asked to do much. With the game on the line, Nurse drew up a fake dribble hand off to Lowry from Hollis-Jefferson with the intent of Rondae beating Whiteside off the bounce for a layup. That went pretty much as well you could expect as Whiteside swallowed up the shot and it resulted in a turnover. Please get healthy, Raptors. Pretty please.
Patrick McCaw, We Get it Already
Wake me up when the Patrick McCaw experiment is over, k?
While I could definitely use a good sleep, it probably isn’t wise to sleep from January until June, so how can Raptors fans cope with Nick Nurse’s never ending agenda to turn McCaw into a point guard/starter/rotation player/anything more than a bench player? Nothing, apparently!
Over the three game stretch this week, McCaw has put up 5.6 points per game on 30 percent shooting. He’s been the lead ball handler at numerous points over that stretch and has averaged 1.6 assists. This is not good and Raptors fans would think it would call for a reduction in minutes and responsibility. Raptors fans would be wrong as Nurse decided a minutes increase was in order against the Trail Blazers! How quirky!
With McCaw’s lack of spacing and poor execution in the pick and roll and Terence Davis finally playing like a rookie, the Raptors desperately need Fred VanVleet’s injury to be healed in a hurry.
Terence Davis, A Rookie After All
Speaking of the rookie, I don’t think any more light needs to be shed on Davis’ not-hot situation than this quote from Nick Nurse.
Nurse on Terence Davis only playing 8 minutes tonight: "He's just not playing very well... It was probably 5 minutes too many."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 8, 2020
Kyle Lowry, All-Star Chances
Predictably, Kyle Lowry is getting no love from the fan voting system as he trails seven other guards in the Eastern Conference. This is unacceptable. If you are reading this right now, then finish this article by voting for the Greatest Raptors of All Time! That’s an order!