Before the Toronto Raptors embarked on their now-completed six-game road trip, I foolishly titled that week’s edition of The Rap-Up, Road Sweet Road.
Allow me to correct myself and say what many Toronto fans are feeling as the calendar prepares for one final page flip: it is home sweet home for the Raptors.
In addition to traveling through four different time zones, Nick Nurse’s squad had to endure injuries to OG Anunoby, Khem Birch, Yuta Watanabe, and Precious Achiuwa. Coming out with two wins — albeit against Sacramento and Memphis — feels like a moral victory.
Elsewhere, Lebron James had himself an eventful week with headline-catching games in Detroit and Indiana — not necessarily for good reasons. Meanwhile, the Kings (partially) made a psychic out of me.
We discussed all of this and more in the latest episode of That’s A Rap!
In This Episode:
5:00 — Returning from a weary road trip
The Raptors have one of the worst defenses in the NBA and a top-10 offense — just as we all predicted before the season! If road trips are when teams find what they’re really made of, then you can almost understand why some Raptors fans are concerned. However, Toronto’s roster is not fully healthy, so there’s reason to believe the poor play of late is more of an aberration.
13:45 — The ups and downs of Precious
Achiuwa continues to provide hair-raising highlights and head-scratching lowlights, sometimes within the same game. For example, in Toronto’s victory against Memphis, Precious didn’t score any points in the first, second, or fourth quarters. He did, however, lead the comeback charge in the third quarter with 17 points (and three triples!) and a team-high +28. Two nights later, he followed that up with a team-worst -16 in a 17-point loss to Indiana.
18:45 — Home cooking
With eight of their next nine at home (9 of 10 at the time of recording), the Raptors have a real opportunity to right the ship before 2021 (mercifully) comes to an end. For the majority of the team, it’s a time to finally enjoy the friendly confines of Scotiabank Arena, take advantage of the 6th man that is 19,800 screaming Torontonians, and make up some ground in a tightly bunched Eastern Conference.
30:50 — Big Trouble in Little Caesars
While boxing out for a free throw, Lebron James elbowed Isaiah Stewart in the face, drawing blood, getting ejected, and receiving a one-game suspension. That, of course, is not the full story. Stewart, who already has a history of playing the tough guy role, turned the ensuing scrum into a personal tryout for the Detroit Lions. He charged through various Pistons, Lakers, and security to try and get to the king. In an unrelated matter, Stewart was suspended for two games.
38:40 — Sam’s Cassells
Fred VanVleet hit a clutch three-pointer that iced a victory over the Sixers. He celebrated by resurrecting Sam Cassell’s big balls celebration... in Philadelphia... with Cassell sitting on the Sixers bench (he’s one of their Assistant Coaches). A couple of nights later, James showed that Toronto’s always on his mind by copying VanVleet’s celebration after a clutch shot in Indiana. Both were fined $15,000... but I don’t think they should have been. What do you think?
47:18 — Checkmate
If you felt a random gust of wind last week, it was likely the collective sigh of Sacramento Kings fans after Luke Walton was relieved of head coaching duties. Alvin Gentry has taken over as Interim Head Coach. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that an organization that held on to Walton for far too long is also reluctant to test the coaching waters with a fresh face. Unfortunate news for Roy Rana or Doug Christie, but the petty side in me is fine with seeing Richaun Holmes regret his decision to re-sign with Sacramento.