Remember on Sunday when the Toronto Raptors threw the defensive clamps on the Indiana Pacers in the fourth quarter and fought their way to a win?
They were primed for a repeat performance last night, down 98-97 heading into the fourth — but then it all fell apart. The Raptors D disappeared, their offense went in the tank, the technical fouls came a’flying and the Pacers ran away 129-114.
1. What a Ridiculous Mess
After the defensive intensity and shot-making of Sunday afternoon, I guess we were due for some zaniness on the second half of the back-to-back.
Last night, both squads looked tired early, the ball was flying all over the place, bodies were too, and defense was entirely optional… and then after halftime, both teams locked in during the third, and it momentarily seemed like we were headed for another classic fourth quarter.
Alas: the Pacers showed up, but the Raptors didn’t. Toronto didn’t do themselves any favours by letting the officials get in their heads, but regardless, you’re not gonna win too many when you give up 31 fourth quarter points.
2. Terence Davis is the new Pat McCaw
What else is there to say at this point? Even if you put aside the off-court issue — and you definitely should not — Terence Davis has been bad on the court. He’s aggressive looking to score, which is something the team needs, but it does not make up for the turnovers and the defensive miscues.
It looks like Nick Nurse may have finally had enough last night, as Davis did not play in the second half, and Yuta Watanabe and DeAndre’ Bembry took his minutes. (Matt Thomas got a few too, and even hit a four-point play!)
Watanabe, in particular, looked solid, and in my mind, has supplanted Davis in the rotation. Sure, he’s not the scorer Davis is, but he does so many other things well that I feel the positives outweigh the negatives. We’ll see if it sticks.
3. Swat Patrol
Rim protection hasn’t been Toronto’s strongest suit this season, but last night we saw a few highlight reel blocks that deserve recognition. First, we have Stanley Johnson, not known as a shot blocker, with this incredible stuff of Aaron Holiday right before the first quarter buzzer:
.@iAmSJ SAID GIMMIE DAT ISH pic.twitter.com/1qfigCWla5— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 26, 2021
Then, Aron Baynes — also not known for his shot blocking — slid over nicely to toss back another Aaron Holiday layup in the second quarter.
In the third, Chris Boucher said “don’t you forget about me” and turned back a Doug McDermott three, followed shortly thereafter by a swat of a Malcom Brogdon layup.
NO CHANCE. NONE. pic.twitter.com/UFkNaLrOyZ— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 26, 2021
DENIED (via @Raptors) pic.twitter.com/E5aNAFq5Pv— Yahoo Sports Canada (@YahooCASports) January 26, 2021
There weren’t a lot of Raptors highlights to go around, but those four made the cut.
By the way, I was a bit surprised to see Aron Baynes glued to the bench in the second half; sure, Domantas Sabonis was out, but Baynes had played well against Turner through one-and-a-half games — and Turner feasted against Boucher, Johnson and OG Anunoby, to the tune of 13 points (mostly on foul shots) and eight boards in the second half. Am I crazy in thinking Baynes would have helped slow him down?
4. The Playmakers
There weren’t a whole lot of reasons to feel good about Toronto’s first half last night, but once again, we must give the props to Stanley Johnson, with a handful for Norman Powell too — for their playmaking!
Johnson has been excellent with the ball during his minutes this season, keeping his head up and seeing the floor. In the first half yesterday he threw a nice dish to a cutting Aron Baynes for a layup, and later found Norman Powell open in the corner on a quick swing pass. Simple plays, but considering where Johnson was last season, impressive ones.
Powell, meanwhile, coming off a six-assist game on Sunday, collected another four dimes before halftime last night.
Unfortunately, Powell made a number of bad decisions in the second half that contributed to Toronto’s offensive drought. But we take the positives where we can get them, right?
5. Are the Raptors Better Without Kyle Lowry?
Would they have been better without him last night? Wwweeelllll... if he’s still hurting, then, yeah, maybe. It wasn’t his finest night, to be sure. But he’s Kyle Freakin’ Lowry. If he wants to play, he plays!
Overall? I don’t care what the team’s record is without him (it’s very good!), they’re not better without him.
Things aren’t gonna get any easier for the Raptors as they return to Tampa, as they have the Bucks waiting for them on Wednesday. Could be another long night!