Early on, yesterday’s matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers looked like a typical January afternoon NBA game: turnovers, rushed shots and players who looked like they’d just rolled out of bed.
But then it turned into a thrilling 107-102 Raptors victory in which Toronto — without its top two players — threw back the clock and delivered a 2019-20-esque defensive performance late to seal the victory.
1. Aron Baynes is Here
So the struggling Aron Baynes had a pretty good week, eh? He turned in two solid performances against Miami, battling Bam Adebayo and mostly keeping him in check, then turned in another one — with 12 points on 2-for-2 shooting from downtown and seven rebounds — against the two-headed monster of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.
Which means, in hindsight, we were probably a little rough on Baynes to start the season. We should know by now that it takes players a while to adjust to Nick Nurse’s schemes. We also should have remembered that Baynes didn’t play in the Orlando bubble, as he was recovering from COVID-19. Taking a dozen games to get the system and get back into shape after nine-month layoff (that included an illness) is entirely reasonable.
Regardless, he looks like a real rotation player now, and it’s great to see.
2. Throw a Power Move on ‘Em
Speaking of slow starts to the season, how about the turnaround in OG Anunoby’s game? He was struggling to score early on, and now he looks like the best three-point shooter on the team. But he’s proving that he’s more than just a 3-and-D guy; he’s being aggressive with his offense all over the floor. Case in point:
He even threw up an impressive (if awkward) baby hook over Myles Turner, too.
I’m not ready just yet to say that OG’s taking that “leap” we’ve all been hoping he would, but he’s on his way.
3. Finishing Quarters
Please enjoy (or not) the worst 28 seconds to close a quarter you’ll ever see:
The Raptors, this season, have had their struggles in end-of-quarter situations. I can almost forgive this one; without Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, Nick Nurse had to get somewhat creative with his lineups yesterday, and the Malachi Flynn-Stanley Johnson-Yuta Watanabe-Chris Boucher-DeAndre’ Bembry lineup was… well, it was something.
In the third, it happened again. This time, Nick added Matt Thomas and Terence Davis to the mix in place of Johnson and Bembry, to add some scoring punch to the lineup. But the Raptors’ final two possessions — one of which ended in a Watanabe travel, the other a Boucher airball runner — were awful, while the Pacers executed a 2-for-1 brilliantly, getting two and-1s at the rim out of it. That 6-0 run was part of a 13-2 run to close the frame. (It also left Thomas with a -6 in 53 seconds. He’s never getting out of the doghouse again.)
There were a few reasons yesterday’s game was closer than it probably should have been (missed free throws, missed layups) but the inability to close quarters was a big part of it.
4. Kyle Lowry is Writing the League Office
I would like to know, and I’m sure Kyle Lowry would too, why this is continuation when Fred VanVleet does it, but not Kyle Lowry:
I swear Kyle does that three times a game and never gets the call.
5. Should the NBA Adopt the FIBA “Live Ball” Rule?
After Aron Baynes tipped in an OG Anunoby miss with 5:14 to go in third that may well have been offensive goaltending, it got the broadcast talking about the FIBA live ball rule — where any ball, once it hits the rim, is live, and can be knocked away or tipped in without penalty — and how the NBA should adopt it.
I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, I think it would add an element of excitement to the game, with more swats and put-back dunks. But on the other, I feel like the NBA in general has bigger, longer players, and better athletes, than FIBA, and that the live ball rule would change the game too much — there would be too much activity on the ball after it hit the rim. It might alter scores and strategies too significantly.
What do you think?
As is the norm in this Bizarro World NBA season, we get to do it all over again tonight! The Raptors had three starters play 36+ minutes yesterday, and the Pacers had four, so I think we should keep our expectations for another exciting game pretty low... but then again, my expectations for yesterday’s afternoon game were also low, and we got a thriller, so you never know!