A few quick ones on another rock-solid win from the Toronto Raptors:
1. Midrange madness
The Raptors were 14-for-23 from the midrange last night (outside the paint, inside the three-point line); it wasn’t quite a season-high (they had 26 such attempts against the Orlando Magic but it’s only the second time they’ve cracked 20 midrange attempts. Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Gary Trent have all found room to operate in the midrange. It’s a bit of a throwback, but if those guys are hitting the shots then it works for me.
2. Bench drought
Nick Nurse went with a very short bench last night — though Malachi Flynn and Justin Champagnie each got a couple minutes, for the most depth was limited to Khem Birch, Chris Boucher and Dalano Banton. Birch was excellent but in foul trouble, Banton was his usual spark-plug self, but Boucher, well, we’ll get to him.
But with Yuta Watanabe, Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes all out, I though Nick Nurse might run a little deeper. VanVleet played 43 minutes, and Anunoby played 40. That’s a lot! And it doesn’t really seem sustainable.
3. Boucher doghouse bound?
With the way Chris Boucher is playing, though, I guess I can’t blame Nurse for running up th starters’ minutes. Boucher needs to seriously turn it around before Watanabe and Siakam return, otherwise he might find himself out of the rotation completely.
4. FVV All-Star?
It’s too early to be talking about this, and I don’t quite think the numbers are there yet, but if the Raptors are for real and VanVleet continues his excellent play then he has a real shot at making his first All-Star team. I think the three-point shooting has to tick up, though — he’s currently at a career-low 35%.
I don’t know if there would be room for all three, but how freaking cool would it be to see Fred, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry all on the same All-Star team?
5. Achiuwa v. Birch
I don’t think anyone would have been surprised had Nurse started Khem Birch last night, but he stuck with Precious Achiuwa as his starting centre... for the first half. Birch once again started the second half and surely would have played more if not for foul trouble.
I’m not sure how I feel about the approach. On the one hand, starting Achiuwa shows confidence in him that, even though he’s not looked great lately, he’s still a big part of the team’s plans. But then what message does not starting him in the second half send?
So it’s a bit of an odd tactic from Nurse. Ultimately when Siakam is back I think we’ll see Achiuwa’s minutes cut down the most.