Well that was kinda fun, wasn’t it? The Raptors and Trail Blazers acted like they really gave a damn last night, playing hard and getting chippy with each other. Serge Ibaka almost threw hands with Jusef Nurkic! The trash talk in the quiet arena was evidently flying from bench to bench! And then we got some Dewan Hernandez minutes, a Paul Watson dunk, and a Malcolm Miller and-1!
Yes, its still just a scrimmage, but it was entertaining.
1. OG Anunoby Crossing ‘Em Up
This was definitely the buzz on Twitter last night: OG Anunoby showed off some series improvement with his handle! I’ve found this to be the weakest part of his game so far in his career, but he looked like a new player last night. In the first half he delivered a through the legs crossover for an and-1, and filled it a few minutes later with another wicked crossover to beat Zach Collins, which led to a Terence Davis a triple. Both were silky smooth, with none of the awkward movement his drives often have.
The handles... The ball movement... Poetry pic.twitter.com/0YF6ZKfz8p— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 26, 2020
Clearly OG has been working on this, and if it leads to the Raptors having another creator on the floor, that could be a huge benefit to any non-Kyle-Lowry lineups.
(OG had a couple of sweet blocks, too, lest you think he’s been focusing too much on offense!)
2. Deja Vu!
Speaking of OG Anunoby, this sure looked familiar:
Man, how many times did Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan connect on this? Also, color me shocked that Carmelo Anthony got caught with his back turned on a cut...
3. Matty Jumbo
So we got our first look at some “jumbo” lineups last night as Marc Gasol made his long-awaited return. I’ll admit I was surprised to see it was OG Anunoby who got demoted from the starting group, as opposed to Fred VanVleet, giving us an initial small-backcourt-big-frontcourt group.
But one jumbo lineup I really liked was Gasol, Ibaka, Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Matt Thomas. It was only out there briefly, but I love the idea of having great creators like Lowry and Gasol, a scorer like Siakam and a big presence with an outlet like Thomas. It strikes me as a nicely balanced group on offense; with the attention Thomas gets on the perimeter, it should free up space for Siakam or Ibaka to work, or for Gasol to find them — or, alternatively, if the defense packs in to guard against Gasol and Ibaka then Thomas should have room to fire away.
4. More Sherman Hamilton, Please
I really enjoyed Sherman Hamilton doing the color analysis alongside Matt Devlin last night. He makes good points without getting too up or down, and voice sounds great — very natural. I’m not saying he should replace Leo Rautins on the Sportsnet broadcasts, but I’m not not saying it either...
Hamilton also said something about Black Lives Matter that I really appreciated. He said, “It’s not a resistance, it’s an existence”, and that is truly insightful way or looking at it. I’ve not felt comfortable with the term “Black Lives Matter Movement” because it seems so much more important than the word “movement”; it’s literally life or death.
One thing I didn’t love on the broadcast were the videoconference calls with Leo and Alvin Williams. I mean, I love Alvin and I’m always happy to hear from him, but, do I need to see him on a crappy Zoom stream on my TV? Nah. I think we’re all getting enough crappy Zoom calls in real life these days, ya know?
5. Fun in the Sun
It struck me last night how tanned the Raptors are; Marc Gasol and Matt Thomas are looking golden brown! (Nick Nurse maybe is looking a little too red!) We’re not used to seeing these guys play in the middle of the summer. My wife made an interesting point about this: NBA players aren’t used to playing extended games in the summer, in the Florida heat; even those that play in summer tournaments, those are usually only a couple of weeks. And although obviously they’re in air conditioned facilities, there’s got to be an additional physical adjustment, beyond just getting back into shape after the long layoff, for the guys. Certainly they’ll need to stay more hydrated, at the very least!
One more scrimmage to go before the real games begin. Hopefully we’ll continue to see more Marc Gasol minutes; I understand easing him in of course, but I still was hoping to see a little more from him last night. I thought he looked good, with a couple of aggressive takes to the hoop. I can’t wait to see more!