Some things never change, right? While predictability isn’t always great, sometimes, it can be reassuring. Case in point, it was reassuring to see that the Toronto Raptors — desperate for a win — can still beat up on their now-neighbours, the Orlando Magic.
Even without OG Anunoby and Norman Powell, the Raptors led wire-to-wire, were paced by Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry, and got contributions from all over the roster.
It’s about as quality a win as the team has had all year.
1. Meet the New Vooch, same as the old Vooch
I’m a big fan of Nikola Vucecic. When he’s not playing the Raptors, he’s got a fun inside-outside game, can score from anywhere, moves his feet fairly well on D and knows how to use his body to box out. I enjoy him!
And then he promptly forgets how to do all of those things against the Raptors. Which I also enjoy!
To be fair, Vooch did haul in 14 boards tonight. But still, he was 5-for-18 and didn’t impact the game in any meaningful way; the Raptors had a parade to the rim and he did little to stop them. He also got completed pwned by Yuta Watanabe in the fourth.
Like I said, it can be nice when things don’t change, right?
2. Was That Aron Baynes’ Best Game?
Part of Vooch’s rough night can be attributed to Aron Baynes, who played solid D on the Magic big man, making him just uncomfortable enough to throw him off his game. Baynes himself hauled in 16 boards and scored eight points, and finished with a +18.
Perhaps most important of all, Baynes managed to mostly stay out of Pascal Siakam’s way for the second straight game. Spacing on the offensive end has been an issue for the Raptors, as teams have not bothered to respect Baynes as an outside threat (rightly so), and his hanging around on the same side of the floor as Pascal made things cramped for Siakam.
He’s been relocating better, balancing the floor better and giving Siakam a little more room to operate. It’s great to see.
Of course, the Magic and Kings are both terrible defensive teams, so we’ll see if this same trend holds against a team that knows what it’s doing out there.
3. Freddy from the Midrange
I’m really enjoying Fred VanVleet’s midrange game this year. Yeah, I know the midrange is taboo. But I also know that having Serge Ibaka operating in the 15-foot range, where he was nearly automatic, saved a ton of Raptors possessions over the past three seasons.
Seeing Fred VanVleet operate in the same space gives me the same feeling of comfort.
If the mid-range is the province of superstars, I guess Fred is a superstar.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) February 1, 2021
He had two silky-smooth 16-footers in the first quarter, and although he had a bit of a rough night shooting it after that (1-for-7 from downtown), I’m still a big fan of him taking those shots. Remember, they’re only bad shots if an open three or layup is available! Attempting to force a three or something at the rim as opposed to taking an open midrange shot is never a good idea. Here’s to Fredy keeping the defense honest.
4. DeAndre’s First Step
I am a big fan of DeAndre’ Bembry getting more minutes, and so I’ve been happy to see him out there for extended runs the past two games. One of the things I really like about his offense is his big first stride. He uses it to great effect to get around his defender and explode to the hoop.
Now, his body control as he gathers needs work; his finishing is subpar. But he’s quick with it, the ball doesn’t stop with him, and I think that’s something the Raptors should be able to use to their advantage.
He’s also adept at moving without the ball, as he snuck behind the D for two alley-oops from Kyle Lowry last night.
5. I Don’t Wanna See ‘im Around No More
So, Aaron Gordon tried to play tough guy with Kyle Lowry (again!) and Kyle wasn’t having any of it (again, obviously). For a while, I was a little worried Kyle was gonna do something dumb; I mean, you don’t have to be a lip-reading expert to know what’s going on here:
Thankfully, Kyle let his game do the talking, and he let Pascal Siakam speak on it too:
So nice, let’s see it again:
Oh, Aaron, won’t see him around no more.
So, in true 2020-21 Raptors fashion, I guess we can expect them to play like garbage on Tuesday, when these teams meet again, right?
Nah, I’m bucking the trend here. I think the Raptors are gonna take care of business once again! It’s the Magic. How can you expect anything else?