The Toronto Raptors hung around and hung around last night, and as viewers all we could do was wait — wait for the run that put them back over the top and let them pick up their fourth straight win.
Alas! It wasn’t meant to be, as the tired Raptors couldn’t make enough stops or finish consistently at the rim, and the Atlanta Hawks, behind a barrage of open three-pointers, ran away with the win, 132-121.
1. Defensive Matchup
The Raptors had played much better basketball on the defensive end lately — and I’m willing to let the Nets game go — but they gave it all back last night, didn’t they? Again, it’s the second night of a back-to-back, and they’re missing their best defender, but still: they gave up a ton of open looks to the Hawks, who aren’t even a good three-point shooting team; they only average 12.5 three-pointers made, on 34.9% shooting.
Last night they were 19-for-36 (53%).
Going the other way, I was pretty impressed by the Hawks’ transition D; they held the Raps to nine fast break points, and held the Raptors to below 50% shooting in the paint.
2. Time Catching Up?
Kyle Lowry was sensational against the Nets on Friday night, but against the Hawks, he was… less than that. Is it too much to ask for our soon-to-be 35 point guard to be brilliant on back-to-back nights?
Yeah, it probably is.
Unfortunately, there’s not much the Raptors can do about it. Without a third PG on the lineup, and not enough scoring on the roster overall, they need Lowry to keep playing big minutes just to be in games. No load management program for the GROAT!
3. Rough Baynes
After a stretch of solid games, Aron Baynes is suddenly very bad again. He somehow managed to play 15 minutes last night and yet not secure a single rebound, which seems impossible for a 6’10”, 260 lbs. human being. He did manage to air-ball a three pointer and miss three layups in those 15 minutes though, and pick up a technical foul!
I suppose at this point, we know what Baynes is: Bad hands, bad finisher, occasionally decent three-point shooter, decent defender against unathletic centres… we really shouldn’t expect anything more.
Which in turn begs the real question: Should Baynes be starting? There is some advantage to starting a traditional centre in some matchups, sure — but is that worth what you’re giving up with Baynes? I’m not sure.
4. Starter Powell
I guess what I’m really asking above is: At what point (when OG Anunoby is back) do the Raptors just bench Baynes and start Powell?
It probably won’t happen. But I think it’s pretty clear Powell is more effective when he starts; whether he “likes to hear his name called” as Matt Devlin likes to joke, or whether he’s just a better player with better players around him (as is the most likely explanation), he’s giving the team more when he starts than when he comes off the bench. And with DeAndre’ Bembry coming alive as a bench option, and Yuta Watanabe and Stanley Johnson also playing consistently well, the bench should be OK without him.
Starting small is risky. But what about a matchup-based starting group? Nick Nurse toyed with this a couple of years ago, with Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas. He could start Baynes against bigger centres, Chris Boucher against more athletic centres, and Powell (with OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam at the five) against smaller teams.
Of course, Nurse can’t seem to find a solid rotation, so asking him to mess with the starters might be asking too much…
5. Why Can’t Nick Nurse find a Rotation and Stick With It?
For the past three games, it sure felt like Nick Nurse had found a good rotation of guys that played hard at both ends and didn’t give up too much on either; Bembry, Watanabe and Johnson are all playing well enough to get consistent minutes, and there’s Boucher too of course.
Terence Davis, meanwhile, seemed to have played himself out of the rotation, finally; but then there he was again last night, committing terribly dumb fouls and forcing up terribly bad shots. He played 16 minutes, and it was clearly 16 too many.
So why does Nurse keep going back to him? What’s he done to earn those minutes… and what have Watanabe and Johnson done to deserve a reduction in theirs? The defensive smarts and energy, and solid three-point shooting that they bring fits what the Raptors want to do far more than whatever it is Davis brings to the table.
I would love to be able to get inside Nick’s brain, just for a few minutes, to see what he’s seeing!
Well, the Raptors now fall behind the Hawks and Knicks and are back to eighth in the standings. They’ve got a couple more winnable games before the schedule really turns against them, so they still have time to make a move; getting OG Anunoby back will certainly help as well.