Another boring shorthanded loss? Yep! With Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam out (along with Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn of course), the Toronto Raptors just don’t have enough good players to compete — even with mediocre teams like the Chicago Bulls. Hence, last night’s loss — Toronto’s fifth in a row.
There really isn’t much more to say at this point, other than to hope that those guys are healthy and able to come back soon.
1. Lineup Change
Last night, Nick Nurse switched up the starting lineup, inserting Terence Davis for DeAndre Bembry.
Pre-game, I thought subbing in Davis was a good, but not great, move, to get more offense into the starting lineup. To be clear, I would rather not see Davis at all for off-the-court reasons, and on the court, well, he’s been generally awful. But since the team insists on keeping him around, starting him over Bembry or Stanley Johnson has some logic behind it, since Davis is — in theory! — more of an offensive threat. In addition, Bembry brings some level of playmaking to the second unit.
Unfortunately, Davis didn’t take advantage of the promotion last night, as Nurse brought Bembry off the bench less than three minutes in. With six points and two assists combined between them, neither Davis nor Bembry did much in their new roles.
2. Bring Me Boucher
The real starting lineup change that needs to be made, of course, is subbing Chris Boucher in for Aron Baynes. In addition, I think the team needs to do a better job staggering Lowry, Powell and Boucher; two should be on the floor at all times. I recognize Boucher’s weaknesses from a rebounding and positioning standpoint, and I know he still picks up too many fouls. But his shooting and his ability to finish at the rim are much, much-needed right now.
And while I don’t mind the Baynes-Boucher pairing, I think playing Boucher at the four with Stanley Johnson at the small-ball five, a role Johnson played fairly well at times earlier this season, might have some potential too.
(I can’t believe I’m even writing about this! Come back soon, OG and Pascal!)
3. Good D on LaVine, at Least
With Stanley Johnson, Paul Watson, and DeAndre’ Bembry taking turns, the Raptors did a pretty solid job containing Chicago’s All-Star, Zach LaVine. I was impressed with Watson’s D on LaVine in particular — he guarded LaVine so tightly I thought for a minute the Raps had gone box-and-1! LaVine only scored seven points on six shots.
Although the Raptors collectively still aren’t playing great team defense, it’s been nice to see these guys continue to play solid man-to-man D.
4. Forcing It
The other night I called out one impressive sequence where the Raptors ran through a set, swung the ball around the perimeter and found the right shot with passing. And I recalled how little we’d seen such action this season.
This was surely on display last night, as the Raptors looked incredibly stagnant in their offense. Everything seemed forced, and when players did probe the defense, rarely did it seem the ball was kicked out to an open man.
It’s easy to keep saying, “yeah but they’re missing three guys” but the guys that are in there have to be able to manage the basics, right? You don’t need to be an All-Star to keep the ball moving!
5. At Least We Have Jack
These games are not fun to watch, but when Jack Armstrong is on, at least they’re entertaining to listen to! Jack was in his typical form last night, complaining about calls and no-calls, recalling the Niagara days, wondering aloud why the WNBA isn’t in Canada, using about listening to tunes while golfing, and of course, throwing out all the classics from GTGOH to “Bonjour!” It’s also highly entertaining to hear him try and cover his disgust at some of the Raptors’ defensive effort and poor offensive execution.
I don’t know where we’d be without Jack.
There really isn’t much of a bright side here to share, so we’ll remain hopeful that these extra reps will do guys like Henry Ellenson and Paul Watson good, and cross our fingers that the team is healthy again soon.