Well the week got away from me again and I haven’t been able to get my thoughts on paper, nor was I able to write up the Power Rankings on Monday. Time to get back on track! I missed so much!!
1. Ugh, that first half
The Toronto Raptors played some of their ugliest basketball of the season in the first half last night. It really seemed like the injuries and mismatched lineups, not to mention their propensity for fouling, was catching up to them in a big way.
Raptors shot 35% from the field and 21% from 3 in the 1st half. They have twice as many turnovers (8) as assists (4) and went nearly 5 minutes without scoring in the 2nd Q. They've given up 9 offensive rebounds and 17 2nd-chance points. That they're within 11 is a minor miracle.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 1, 2021
Thankfully the second half was much better — the Raps actually won the half 43-40 and shot an OK 42%. But they didn’t have enough in the tank, thanks to...
2. Injuries, again
Our guy Sean Woodley called it out the other day: With all of the overlapping injuries, this season is starting to feel uncomfortably like last year. No consistent lineups, no chemistry developing, and a poor product on the floor. And losses. Lots of losses.
I still feel like the team maybe, kinda, sorta... takes things a little too carefully when it comes to injuries. Not that I have an issue prioritizing long-term health, but… sacrificing chemistry among players you hope will be here for the long haul, not to mention wins, seems, perhaps, a bit short-sighted.
Then again, what do I know. Maybe I’m turning into a crusty old “back in my day” guy. Back in my day, guys would play five games in six nights with a torn ACL while smoking five cigarettes at halftime...
3. Scottie and the look-backs
Yeah, I know, another old man rant. But Scottie, man, just stop.
Beauty steal by @ScottBarnes561 but not sure what he was doing here after. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/5Lz8r2mxuE— (@DocNaismith) December 1, 2021
Now, it’s possible Barnes thought there was a whistle there. But it’s also not the first time Scottie’s slowed down to look back on a breakaway.
But this... what was this about?
Scottie Barnes' staredown dunk didn't go as planned pic.twitter.com/lVbwkhzYP6— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) December 1, 2021
Time and score, young fella. Time and score.
4. Desmond Bane vs Flynn
So, Demond Bane, owner of one of the coolest names in basketball, was drafted one spot behind Malachi Flynn.
I don’t want to say anything bad about Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster as talent evaluators — clearly these guys know what the hell they’re doing! — but man, they missed that one (as did many other teams).
Desmond Bane is proof the Raptors front office is not infallible. Should have been an easy pick (not hindsight, looked like a sure thing even back then), but they loved Malachi Flynn.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) December 1, 2021
Flynn still might be solid, but Bane was a miss for many teams.
Bane scored 23 in the game, and in one first-quarter sequence, faked Malachi out of his shoes, sidestepped and drained a triple.
Flynn, meanwhile, scored a mere five, missed some very open looks, and ended up a -14.
Yeah. I sure would like to have that one back.
5. Familiar defensive game plan
The Grizzlies shadowed Fred VanVleet last night, much the same way that that VanVleet typically guards guys like Steph Curry. As a result, Fred only scored 15, but more importantly, his teammates didn’t step up the way we've seen opponents step up when the Raptors take out opponents’ top scorers.
Part of was simply the Grizzlies sticking Jaren Jackson Jr. on Pascal Siakam; JJJ’s length gave Siakam trouble all night, and he swatted away five Raptors shots. The other part, of course, is the missing bodies; surely OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. would have taken advantage. Without those guys, it’s asking a lot of Svi Mykhailiuk and Yuta Watanabe to fill those shoes.
All of which is to say: Please get healthy soon, Raptors!