But it felt a lot closer than that for most of the night, didn’t it?
Regardless, the outcome was never really in doubt, the Raptors had seven figures in double digits and are now just one game below .500 on theseason.
1. Freddy on the Move
I really enjoyed this first quarter play the Raptors ran, with DeAndre’ Bembry handling the ball up top, dishing to Fred VanVleet on a curl, and then VanVleet dumping it off the Chris Boucher who got two free throws.
We often talk about the Raptors getting Pascal Siakam the ball on the move, but it works just as well for others. Norman Powell often receives the ball on similar curl plays, and although it may make less sense to run them for VanVleet, with I’m being the smallest player on the court, he’s creative enough — and getting better all the time — to make things happen out of the same sets.
2. Starter Friendly
The Raptors starting group looks like they’re all finally getting on the same page at the same time. Earlier in the year, Fred VanVleet was scoring well, but Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby were in slumps. Just as OG started to come around, he got hurt — and then VanVleet went into a brief shooting slump before busting out for 54. Even Kyle Lowry’s shooting numbers have been down overall.
But for the past six games (five wins) Siakam is averaging 25-7-5, VanVleet is shooting 47-45-97, Lowry is shooting 46-42-71, and Powell is averaging 23.6 on 53-53-95.
(Aron Baynes remains… Aron Baynes.)
If the Raptors can continue to get that consistent production from their starting group, then they might actually be able to turn this thing around.
3. First Quarter Powell
If Norm’s number’s above seem impressive, how about this: In the last five first quarters, Powell is averaging 9.2 points on 68% shooting. That’s incredible!
At this point, it seems impossible to think that Nick Nurse will be comfortable moving Powell back to the bench when OG Anunoby is back. Powell just plays so much better with the starters, and the two units just have much better offensive balance, when he’s out there. When Norm starts, he’s the fifth option, and doesn’t have to do anything but score.
But when he comes off the bench, he’s the second option (and sometimes the first) and he’s expected to create for others. Defenses key in on him when Siakam, VanVleet and Lowry aren’t there to draw attention.
I know starting small is scary, and maybe it’s not something they can do every game, but at the least I think Powell and Baynes need to platoon, depending on matchups (with Anunoby sliding to the five when Powell starts).
4. Free Brad Beal?
Bradley Beal finished with 24 points on 8-20 shooting last night, and he barely looked involved in the game. This is not Beal “he’s slacking” slander, but rather, a general statement on affairs in Washington. Beal is terrifying, normally; he’s a certified Raptor killer who’s had explosive nights against Toronto in the past.
He was just kinda there last night.
I appreciate Beal saying he’s committed to winning in Washington and so on, but this is not a good basketball team, with no real path to getting a lot better, other than the draft. At this point, we can’t say any contract is untraceable, and Russell Westbrook has been traded twice, but he looks… well, bad, and if the Wizards want to trade Westbrook to build around Beal… they’ll have to attach some of their picks!
It’s a no-win situation.
5. Boucher Fully Back
Chris Boucher seems to have broken out of his slump, and that’s great news for the Raptors. He’s averaging 18.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks over the past four, and is shooting 43% from three-point range.
In fact, with a sample size of 25 games, it might be time to declare that Boucher is an actual legitimate threat from downtown, who must be guarded out there. He’s up to 43.8% on 3.6 attempts per game.
He’s no longer a novelty act, and his high release isn’t something to laugh at. If teams leave him open, he’s gonna make them pay!
He can also still do this too, which you absolutely love to see:
BOUCHER CATCHING BODIES ON THE REGULAR pic.twitter.com/AKOg2KAsKQ— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 11, 2021
I hesitate to call this a “road trip,” since every game is a road game this year, but the Raps have won four already on this six-game trip, and five of their last six overall since that mini-three game skid. Are they back? It might be too soon to tell, but a win tonight in Boston would go a long way towards making me a believer.