The Raptors have perfected their script. Someone gets hurt, other players step up, the defense dials up the intensity to 11 and they lock in to win. Simple, right?
I’ve lost count of how many times that exact scenario has played out this year, but it happened again last night and now the Raptors are winners of 13 in a row and 10 in a row on the road.
We’ve all said how immensely enjoyable this season has been and how lovable this team is. Their resiliency is definitely a part of that. (If you want to call it “championship resiliency” I’m fine with that!) And I think part of why this resonates so much is because for so long, the Raptors simply weren’t resilient. When the going got tough, it seemed every break went against them; they got tight; they lost their composure; they couldn’t come through when it counted.
That changed last year of course, but A) I don’t know that any of us were ever truly comfortable or fully believed in it (I still generally assumed the worst), and B) If we did, it was because of Kawhi Leonard’s presence and demeanour.
This year it’s different. No Kawhi of course, but also, there’s a confidence that when the shit goes down, this team will be just fine.
They could have collapsed last night, without Lowry (and Norman Powell and Marc Gasol) against a good team, and no one would blame them. But all throughout the fourth, I never had that sense of dread. And on Wednesday, on Indiana’s final possession — the type of situation the old Raptors would not excel in — I had all the confidence in Toronto’s defense.
It doesn’t mean great players won’t make shots against us in big moments (see: Anthony, Carmelo) but if the Raptors lose in those moments, it won’t be because they fell apart. That just doesn’t appear to be in this team’s DNA anymore.
Terence Davis once again showed the NBA what they missed last night, essentially replacing Kyle Lowry for the final 15 minutes and scoring 11 points and grabbing 5 rebounds in the fourth quarter.
How good has Davis been?
Over the Raptors' 13 game winning streak, they have a +17.1 net rating with Terence Davis on the court, and he's averaging 10.8 points per game on 56.8% from the field and 50.9% from three.— Anthony Doyle (@Anthonysmdoyle) February 8, 2020
By the way, please stop with the “Davis wasn’t really ‘undrafted,’ he told teams not to draft him in the second round” stuff. First of all, teams could still draft him, regardless of what he said, and second of all... it is very, very clear there’s no way he should have gone undrafted in the first round.
Reduced Bench Run
Last time against the Pacers, bench-heavy units at the top of the second and fourth quarters hurt the Raptors, and this time out, Nick Nurse wisely left two starters in. Both Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby started the second quarter, and when it became clear that this wasn’t a good Chris Boucher night, Nurse quickly brought Serge back on to the floor.
Now, this meant Serge played 40 minutes last night, a really high number for him, but should be manageable with the All-Star break coming up. We also didn’t see the Siakam-at-centre lineup that we saw on Wednesday, which Nurse still has in his back pocket.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson looked a little more like himself last night in the second half, with a couple of nice finishes. But man, did he have a rough first half!
First, he threw a terrible inbounds pass right to T.J. McConnell. When McConnell dished it to Victor Oladipo for a layup, Hollis-Jefferson smacked Pascal Siakam in the face trying to defend it.
Then he allowed Malcolm Brogdon to blow by him for a layup, and then fouled Oladipo beyond the three-point line on a reckless close-out.
Hopefully, his second half was an indicator that he’s shaken off his injury rust!
Another Video Review Rant
It’s that time again! To complain about video review, because it’s broken.
So: A ball goes out of bounds, the ref immediately calls it Raptors ball. Then changes his mind and changes the call.
But Nick Nurse knows it went out off of Indiana. So he challenges, and wins.
Now he’s out of challenges. A few plays later, Serge Ibaka gets called for an offensive foul when the defensive player was in the restricted area (and moving, for that matter), but Nick can’t challenge it... because the refs forced him to waste it two plays earlier on a call they had right but then decided to change.
And don’t even get me started on what happened in that Portland-Utah game!
The point of all this review, of having challenges, of making fans sit and wait, is that “it’s important to get the calls right.” But it’s obviously not because important calls are going wrong with no review.
You either want to get it right, or you accept human error as part of officiating. I don’t think you can have both. Either make everything reviewable or nothing.
All that and I didn’t even mention my favourite play of the night:
What a king. Get well soon, Kyle!