The Toronto Raptors’ conditioning and mental toughness will be subject to a litmus test to start the season as they quickly move on from their loss against the Brooklyn Nets last night, visit the Miami Heat, and say “hi” to our old friend GROAT Kyle Lowry.
The Raptors dropped a winnable game against the Brooklyn Nets, wasting Pascal Siakam’s MVP-level performance: 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists. Unfortunately, the bench and transition lineups looked like a bunch of athletes from different sports getting together and trying to play competitive pickup basketball.
Pascal Siakam’s poster got the Raptors off the bench pic.twitter.com/lIfP6AdIhy— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 22, 2022
Pascal Siakam seems to be backing up his word, but he’ll need help from his teammates, starters, bench, and coaching staff. The only bright spot off the bench is the second-round pick Christian Koloko, whose presence in the middle is something the Raptors have been missing since the chip season. Now, if only the refs could take it easy and not blow a whistle every time Koloko breathes on another player near him.
“I definitely wish I could have that one back,” Fred VanVleet on decision to leave Royce O’Neal to double Kyrie Irving on O’Neal’s dagger.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) October 22, 2022
It’s not necessarily a must-win for the Raptors, but they have a hard schedule to begin the season, so picking up wins as early as possible would be nice so that coach Nick Nurse doesn’t go six-deep midway through the season and run the core players to the ground.
On the flip side, last season’s best in the East is off to a bad start, dropping their first two games. They’re not the same team as last season, with the departure of PJ Tucker, starting Cody Martin and Tyler Herro this season, and the Heat is in equal parts struggling to score and defend.
However, that doesn’t mean they are an “easy out.” As we saw last night, the Raptors got out-executed by much more experienced players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Jimmy Butler and old friend Kyle Lowry may be aging, but the Raptors know who they are and what they’re capable of, so they have to be ready.
Tonight can be an ugly game, mainly because of the style of play of both ball clubs, but with both teams coming off a back-to-back, it can get really ugly, but ugly or not, we’ll still watch the Raptors perform and be frustrated by it. Here’s how to watch:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8:00pm ET
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., O.G. Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Miami – Jimmy Butler, Cody Martin, Bam Adebayo, Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro
Toronto – Otto Porter Jr. (hamstring – out), Chris Boucher (hamstring – questionable), Khem Birch (knee – questionable)
Miami – Victor Oladipo (knee – out), Omer Yurtseven (knee – out)
Christian Koloko, rotation player
I give up. As the resident Raptors 905 guy here at RaptorsHQ, I was looking forward to seeing Koloko blossom with the 905. However, his fit and contributions make it less likely every game that we’ll see Koloko sent down. He’s still green and will make occasional mistakes defensively, but getting him regular minutes might help in the near future, especially this coming post-season.
Pascal Siakam, MVP?
I know, I know. It’s only two games in, but Spicy P is averaging 30.6 points, 11.5 rebounds, six assists, and 1.5 steals. He’s looked ridiculous these past two games and has been the best player on the court, even with the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Cedi Osman on the floor. Is this sustainable? Perhaps. Or he can flame out. It’s evident late in the third quarter last night that he started to gas out, and given how hot he was, the usage is understandable. But to ask him to play high-level defense 24/7 and to anchor the transition lineups, it looked like Nurse was asking Siakam to do way too much. Perhaps tinker with the rotation? Maybe play a traditional backup?
Hot and cold
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
That sums up the Precious Achiuwa experience, for better or worse. However, this shouldn’t be the case for O.G. Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. They can’t have halves (halves!) where they are a non-factor offensively; it’s not like the Raptors have a bunch of scorers that can come off the bench. Anunoby pretty much had nothing offensively in the first half, while Trent Jr. laid an egg in the second. The East is a bloodbath; they can’t afford to cough up winn