I feel like a broken record, but man, wouldn’t it be nice if the Toronto Raptors played consistently well for a full 48 minutes? They played some of the most uninspired D you’ll see from an NBA team for three and a half quarters last night, before finally deciding to give a damn for the last six — but it was too little, too late to overcome the Sacramento Kings, who won 126-124.
I’m pretty dang tired of moral victories anyway, and this was not that — it was an embarrassingly bad defensive effort compounded by some embarrassingly amateurish chipping at the officials.
All in all, it was a bad night for the Raptors.
1. The Terence Davis Experience
With both Norman Powell and OG Anunoby sidelined with injury, we got to see Terence Davis start for the first time this season. He was bad, which is the bar he’s set for himself this season: a bar that’s inexplicably lower than just about anyone else on the team yet somehow doesn’t prevent him from getting minutes.
Let’s watch Davis take a bad shot, miss it, track down his own rebound, and then promptly throw it away:
Despite his typically bad first half, amazingly, Davis started the second half, and Aron Baynes was benched. The Baynes move made sense inasmuch as you’d want to match Baynes’ minutes with Hassan Whiteside. But Yuta Watanabe deserved Davis’ minutes, and if to make his case, Davis airballed a layup and lost Buddy Heild twice at the three-point line in the first two minutes.
He soon left the floor for good and Watanabe, Stanley Johnson and DeAndre’ Bembry took his minutes for the remainder of the game (minus the final four, out-of-reach seconds).
2. Finger roll Wedgie!
Pascal Siakam had one of his best offensive games of the season last night, consistently attacking, getting the ball up on the rim and getting to the free throw line. He recognized mismatches well, cooking both big men (Marvin Bagley, Hassan Whiteside) and guards (De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Heild) in turn.
He also accomplished the rare finger roll wedgie!
The wedgie actually feels somewhat apropos of Siakam’s season — a kind of weird suspended animation, not really up or down, just kinda sticking there.
I’ve said this before too, but we can only hope Siakam’s play last night was a harbinger of better things to come.
3. Pick up the D
How the heck did the Raptors give up 104 points to the Kings through 36 minutes? How did they play so much better on the defensive end against the Bucks the other day?
I’m trying to decide what’s been worse for the Raptors this season: The lack of consistent play on the defensive end, or their inability to generate good looks on offense. Honestly? I think it’s the former. If you just don’t have the guys to score and create offense, you don’t have it. But the defense is just effort and awareness. And we know these guys have it! They show it to us for stretches, sometimes long stretches, of games. Remember that fourth quarter against Indiana? What happened to that team?
Oh right, they showed up for the last six minutes. But for the entire game before that, the Kings got any shot they wanted, and the Raptors barely even got a hand up. It was embarrassing.
4. OK, Let’s Complain about the Offense Too
The Kings are the worst defense in the NBA. Just a couple weeks ago the Raptors hung 144 on ‘em. So why they heck were the Raptors finding it so difficult to get anything going last night?
Their spacing, for one thing, continues to be terrible. Every Siakam or Fred VanVleet drive sees them running into a pack of defenders, and it seems no one is relocating to give them a passing lane. The pick-and-roll action with the guards and the bigs just isn’t there. Baynes and Boucher aren’t shooting the ball well enough to stretch the floor.
And last night, when Pascal Siakam did have it going… the Raptors went away from him! He only had three shots in the fourth quarter. (The rest of the team was 12-for-23, so it’s not like they were laying bricks… but still.)
I’m still waiting for the Chris Finch offensive revolution. So far, this team is even worse to watch in the half court than last year’s.
5. Yuta! DeAndre’!
Raise your hand if you were prepared to see Yuta Watanabe and DeAndre’ Bembry both play the entire fourth quarter of a relatively close game?
My hand ain’t going up!
But you know what, they deserved it. Both those guys played great. Bembry was a little out of control at times, and got a bit aggressive on an otherwise solid defensive stand against De’Aaron Fox late, but he seemed like he had good sense of what he was doing out there, on both ends of the floor.
And how about Yuta? Dude was hitting threes, forcing turnovers, and tying guys up for jump balls; he hauled down a huge offensive rebound with four minutes to go, and with two minutes to go, scored a lefty floater over Hassan Whiteside with the clock running down.
Those guys absolutely earned their minutes with their hustle, energy and heads-up play. I can only hope Nick Nurse continues to reward them — and that he gives them as long a leash as he’s given Davis.
In conclusion — you can miss me with your “the refs cost us that game” talk. Was the technical foul on Lowry with four seconds left unwarranted? Yes. Does it matter? No. It doesn’t even matter if Fox might have missed his second free throw. Because you don’t get to play grade school defense in the NBA for 42 minutes and deserve a chance to win.