The last time the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors played, the Raptors obliterated the Hornets in a laugher. And while the Hornets remain terrible, the Raptors are far from whole, missing four key players from their championship rotation — and as such are vulnerable to just about anyone, even the terrible Hornets.
So last night came down to the wire, and the Raptors had to rely on their defense to get two key stops — and thankfully, the D came through.
Starting Lineup Roulette
Well, I sure didn’t see Terence Davis getting his first NBA start after Nick Nurse called him out yesterday, but once again, coach Nurse looks like a genius. Davis had career-highs in points (22) and rebounds (11), notched five assists and didn’t turn the ball over once. Sometimes the tough love approach works!
I also expressed my preference to start OG at the three because I don’t think he is as effective at the four. Well, he had 19 points and seven boards, and went 3-of-4 from downtown — including a clutch three in the fourth that broke a nine-minute stretch of gametime where the Raptors scored exactly two points.
Shows what I know!
It’s Not all Perfect
Coach Nurse obviously does a lot of things well but I’m still not crazy about lineups that feature both Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Patrick McCaw. There just aren’t enough offensive threats in that lineup. Those two were on the floor for 5.5 minutes of that nine-minute run of offensive ineptitude I mentioned, and on the night, played 14 minutes together — in which the Raptors were -19.
With all the injuries facing the Raptors, it’s tough to find a good mix without putting too many subpar defenders or rookies on the floor, and while giving players enough rest. But the lineup Nurse eventually put on the floor in the fourth — Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Anunoby, Davis and McCaw — at least gives you four players who can score and aren’t afraid to shot the ball.
That lineup immediately outscored the Hornets 16-6 over the final 5.5 minutes of the game, and probably would have won it in regulation. Except...
Looks like boneheaded mistakes in crunch time aren’t just limited to Patrick McCaw, eh Serge?
Much like McCaw’s ill-advised bounce pass that cost the Raptors a chance at a winning shot on Tuesday, Serge Ibaka gave a silly foul on an inbounds play that allowed Charlotte to tie the game on a free throw, and get the ball back with a chance to win in regulation (Devonte’ Graham missed a floater at the buzzer).
Thing about this, is that the way the Raptors play D in the half court, there’s no need to play ultra aggressive or to try and pull and trickery (like grabbing an opposing player’s jersey) before the ball is inbounded. The Raptors are awesome in the half court. Play straight up, let the opposing team get set up and trust your scheme. Fouling there is dumb. It didn’t end up costing them (well, except five more minutes of fatigue) but if I’m going to excoriate McCaw for that bad pass, I’ve gotta give Serge the business for the dumb foul.
And you know what, speaking of McCaw...
Patrick McCaw was Good!
McCaw did have one boneheaded turnover in the fourth, when he didn’t protect the ball following a steal (and he attempted to lead a... 2-on-2 fast break?), but otherwise, he was solid. He handled the ball a fair amount, with Charlotte aggressively trapping Kyle Lowry, and notched 11 assists — a career high — and just two turnovers. And he was... mildly aggressive shooting the ball. He finished with 10 attempts but there were at least three opportunities where the ball came his way, in space, and he swung off it. So, good, but not great.
All things being equal, 42 minutes is way, way too many for Patrick McCaw to be playing, even in an OT game. But with the Raptors’ limited depth, if McCaw gives you what he did last night... I guess that’s fine.
Uh, Rondae, This Ain’t It Man
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been one of my favourite Raptors to watch all year, especially on defense. He prides himself on hustle and it’s obvious. Do yourself a favour next game and just spend 2-3 straight defensive possessions watching Rondae, not the ball, and see how hard he works.
That said, I can’t let him off the hook for this attempt that missed, uh, everything at the end of the third:
I know the three isn’t his shot, but he’s wide open there and he should take it. And I know Rondae has a funky release. But I’ve never seen anything like that before. Yiiikes.
The Raptors now get a much-needed break before hosting the Spurs on Sunday. Could they possibly get a player or two back from the injured list? It sounds like Norman Powell is close! Here’s hoping.