That was kinda fun, wasn’t it? The Toronto Raptors played pretty well last night, got a big performance on the glass from Khem Birch, got a solid shooting performance from Kyle Lowry, and got OG Anunoby doing a little bit of everything all over the court.
But, realistically, the outcome was never really in doubt, and a few sloppy turnovers and poor shooting nights from Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam cemented it. These Raptors need to play pretty flawless ball to beat Kevin Durant and a Brooklyn Nets roster that features guys up and down the roster who can just make shots. And the Raps didn’t have that in them last night.
1. Big Man Rumblin’
Khem Birch’s night got off to a good start, as he went up high to corral this OG Anunoby deflection and save, then finished in the open floor:
His strong night only got better, at least on the glass. He kept multiple possessions alive with his nine offensive boards, and finished with a 13-point, 14-rebound double-double.
Unfortunately he couldn’t finish a couple bunnies at the rim, but he was far from alone in that category last night.
2. Freddy + Bench = Bad
For whatever reason, I don’t think VanVleet trusts his bench teammates. Whenever he’s out there with four subs, he over dribbles like crazy, tries to create for himself off the bounce, gets himself in trouble and either has to throw up something desperate — or dish it to a teammate who then has to do the same.
It’s made even more infuriating now because he’s got Malachi Flynn out there, who can initiate the offense, leaving Fred to play the shooting guard role that suits him best.
Overall, it was a pretty subpar game from VanVleet, who didn’t really look like himself, at all, no matter who he was playing with. On the second Raptors possessions of the second half, Khem Birch coralled an offensive rebound, and dumped it to Freddy to reset the offense… but FVV launched a contested three with 11 seconds on the shot clock.
And then guess what? Two plays later, he did the same thing!! Only it was from 10 feet behind the line!
Freddy might be tired and his hip might be bothering him, but that’s just plain dumb basketball. He finished 4-for-17 from the field.
3. This is OG Anunoby’s Team Now
If you had any doubt that OG Anunoby is the real future of this franchise, just look at how well the Raptors did in Anunoby’s 10 first-half minutes — limited because of foul trouble — and how sloppy they looked without him. OG was plus-eight in his 10 minutes, while no one else on the team was above zero.
But hey, if you needed another indicator, how about OG pulling out the Dirk Nowitzki one-legged fadeaway:
Hook it into my partially-vaccinated veins.
4. Malachi Flynn is Here
I’m not 100 percent ready to trust Malachi Flynn yet; I don’t have a lot of faith in 29th overall picks. But, I have to say that Flynn continues to improve his standing in my eyes with his play, especially late in games.
While Flynn did miss a couple big shots in the fourth last night (again, he’s not alone here) I was still impressed by the poise he displayed, taking the ball strong against guys he’s grown up watching like Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant. And finishing through contact, too, with two and-1s on the night.
Flynn just looks steady out there, and the improvement from how shaky he was a couple of months ago is truly impressive. I look forward to seeing even more!
I think I held out longer than most, but it’s time — I’m leaving Stanley Johnson island. He had his moments earlier in the season, and he impressed when the Raptors needed help up front. But now… now, he doesn’t have a role, and when every game — heck, every possession — matters, as the Raptors push for the play-in.
Johnson had one nice dish to Yuta Watanabe for a dunk to open the fourth quarter scoring, but I can’t trust him any more. It’s just too risky to leave Stanley out there any longer.
It’s one step up and two steps back for these Raptors, who’ve now dropped a half-game back behind the Bulls and sit in 12th place. There’s still hope for a play-in game, but it dwindles every day. At this point, we might be better off forgetting this season altogether and simply hoping to have the Raptors back home in Toronto in the fall.