Basketball is fun. Even in a meaningless game between two opponents with nothing left to play for this regular season, we Raptors fans were treated to an excellent showing from some deep bench players, got to witness Norman Powell do it again against the Bucks, and got to witness Eric Bledsoe do the exact opposite again against the Raptors. Good times!
Before we get to the thoughts, as you may have noticed, the Raptors media is doing its best to share and amplify the social justice messaging the players have adopted during the Bubble. Yesterday we spoke about voting rights, and how important it is to share the message that, yes, the act of voting is important, but ensuring everyone has fair and equal access to voting is just as, if not more, important. Both Canada and the U.S. have a history of voter suppression, and right now in the States, with an important election just a few months away, voting rights are under attack. You can learn more about Canada’s history of voting rights here, and see what the ACLU has to say about the current situation in the U.S. right here.
Let’s get to the thoughts:
1. Matt Thomas, Tilting the D
One of the coolest things to watch is when a team has a lights-out shooter on the floor, and how the opposing team shifts its defense to prevent said shooter from getting good looks. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the surest examples, but you don’t have to be all-world to have that kind of power; you can be a proven veteran like JJ Redick, or... an undrafted rookie who came over from Europe this season, like Matt Thomas?
Almost immediately upon entering last night’s game, Thomas was receiving extra scrutiny from the Bucks, who were picking him up well behind the three-point line and fighting over every screen. On consecutive plays in the second quarter, the Bucks were selling out so hard to prevent him from coming around screens, they fouled him away from the ball.
And you can see why. The guy barely needs any space:
*ON REPEAT*@Theiceman_21 pic.twitter.com/KGro3V3yFv— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 10, 2020
Chris Boucher sets a terrible screen for Thomas there, and Eric Bledsoe is right with him, but Thomas takes the handoff and one-dribbles into a fadeaway three-pointer.
Thomas hit four of his eight threes and finished with a career-high 22.
2. Boucher Balling Out
If there’s anything that Raptors fans and media seem to agree on, it’s that Chris Boucher is not shy with his shot. And yet! I appreciated the... restraint Boucher showed last night in his first big-minutes opportunity of the Bubble.
Boucher took seven threes last night, which, yes, is still a lot. But all but one were good shots, coming in the flow of the offense (and the one that wasn’t, he knew right away was a bad shot, and tapped his head to indicate he knew it). More importantly, he mixed up his offense with head-fakes and drives, making sure that he was more than just a three-point threat. He had a pretty drive at the start of the second quarter, and two more on Robin Lopez in the third — one that rimmed out and another that he double-clutched and muscled up and in.
Of course, he saved his best for the fourth quarter:
CHRIS BOUCHER WITH NO REGARD FOR HUMAN LIFE pic.twitter.com/TIywg8cTh8— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 11, 2020
Bubble bench reactions remain undefeated.
3. Terence Davis Needs a Slump Buster
I thought Terence Davis getting the start last night was a good thing for him. He’s been invisible so far in the Bubble, and I thought getting the nod at point guard might help him get back on track.
I’ll have to grade him “incomplete” after this one, though.
It was probably his best game of the Bubble, but I wouldn’t say it was particularly memorable. He scored 10 points on eight shots, including a couple of nifty putbacks that showed there’s nothing wrong with his hops. But he couldn’t impact the game in any meaningful way, because he couldn’t stay on the floor, thanks to foul trouble.
He eventually fouled out with nine minutes to play, after only 16 minutes of playing time.
Pre-game, Nick Nurse indicated that Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is his eighth man at this point. I think Terence could have had that spot had he played as well as he did in the first two scrimmages. Alas, his poor showing in the seeding games means now he’s fighting for the ninth man spot, and he’s got competition there with Matt Thomas. Davis showed some positives last night, but he has a lot to prove in these last two Bubble games.
4. Rondae, Please
I love so much of what Rondae Hollis-Jefferson brings to this Raptors team: The scrappiness and the hustle on the court, but also the thoughtfulness he displays off the court. One thing I don’t love, is Rondae’s attempts to dribble the basketball.
I know I’ve also moaned about Hollis-Jefferson’s finishing ability, but in many respects those are still positive plays; he’s going to the rim, taking high percentage shots, keeping balls alive. These turnovers off the dribble, though, nothing good comes from them.
Every player has their strengths and weaknesses. Ballhandling seems to be in the latter category for Hollis-Jefferson, so hopefully come playoff time the team doesn’t put him in any more of those situations.
5. Let’s End the Stanley Johnson Experiment
I know the Raptors were going to the deep bench yesterday, and I know Terence Davis was in foul trouble, but I gotta say: It might be time to move Stanley Johnson even further down the rotation. Like, right out the back door and on to the inactive list.
I’d rather have seen a few more Paul Watson minutes, and heck, some Dewan Hernandez minutes (and definitely some Oshae Brissett minutes, if he weren’t banged up) than the 10 minutes Johnson got. I just don’t think we’re gonna see anything more from Stanley this year that’s gonna change anyone’s mind, whereas this time could be used to get the young guys some valuable reps. I think even Malcolm Miller, as much as he’s disappointed me, is a better NBA player than Johnson right now.
So, two more of these to go, huh? Hopefully they’re as fun as this one was, and we continue to see the sort of play from players 8-12 that gives Nick Nurse confidence that he can call on them when needed.