The Toronto Raptors are a difficult watch. There are no two ways around it. The absence of Pascal Siakam was one thing, but when they started having to play without essentially half of their roster, and over half of the starting lineup, games started getting extra difficult to win.
The Raptors face off against the NBA points per game leader, Luka Doncic (34.0 ppg) and his Dallas Mavericks, who have honestly also had a bit of a disappointing season, heading into tonight’s game at 9-8. This will be the Raptors’ second game in a span of just six days. Their first being a 112-98 Wednesday night loss at home to the Brooklyn Nets.
Where to watch:
Sportsnet, 3:00 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Thaddeus Young, Christian Koloko
Dallas Mavericks — Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell
Toronto Raptors — Precious Achiuwa (Out - Ankle), Dalano Banton (Questionable - Ankle), Scottie Barnes (Out - Knee), Justin Champagnie (Out - Back), Otto Porter Jr. ( Out - Foot), Pascal Siakam (Out - Adductor), Fred VanVleet (Questionable - Non Covid Illness)
Dallas Mavericks — Maxie Kleber (Probable - Back)
There is a bunch of film and statistics that you could turn to, to showcase how poor the Raptors played Wednesday night, but it ultimately comes down to one thing: injuries.
I hate beating the same drum on this topic, but it’s true. You hear whiny fantasy managers complain about losing their matchup due to injury, when two guys are listed as out. Meanwhile the Raptors’ injury report is looking how it looked when it was popular to be in health and safety protocols.
The one benefit that the Raptors get once again is home court advantage, and the lengthy stretch of rest the team has received this week.
It’s very rare that you don’t have to travel within the course of an entire week, let alone play only two games within that span as well. But I guess the schedule makers hopped into their time machine and knew the Raptors would need this desperately.
Can the Raptors get bench production from their starters?
The Toronto Raptors bench has essentially turned into their starting lineup, and their further down bench has converted into their rotation bench.
Did at least two people understand that sentence?
If the answer to that question is yes, then congratulations! That is more people, than Raptors’ players that managed to shoot over 50% from the field last game.
When injuries occur to a bulk of your main rotation, players have to step up into bigger roles. And as much as it would be unfair to expect a similar level of production, I think it’s fair to at least expect better offensive production than last game.
On Wednesday against the Nets, Thaddeus Young was the only player to shoot over 50% from the field, finishing 6/10 with 12 points. The rest of the team combined to shoot just 32.9% (30/91).
Although the offense wasn’t pretty, it truly was the defense that struggled that game. Once again, the players who are injured are some of the more effective players on the floor both offensively and defensively, so a slight drop off is expected.
But the Brooklyn Nets shot 55% from the field, 45% on 3-pointers, and 71% from the line. They nearly shot 50/40/90 as a team, and if they managed to shoot more than just seven free throws on the game, I’m sure it would’ve been possible.
The Nets also put up two nearly 40 point quarters, finishing with 38 in the first, and 39 in the fourth.
All I am asking for is to get some solid bench production, out of their starting lineup.
Will Fred VanVleet return?
That’s it. I just want to know.
Every single player returning from injury is a blessing, but especially when it is one of the only three guys on this roster who will likely make an all star team.
No, I am not meaning this as a shot at Anunoby, it is likely just factual. Making an all star team is extremely difficult. If we were talking all-defense, that’s a different story.
Should we just enjoy watching Luka Doncic?
We are likely going to see some sort of extreme defensive game plan from Nick Nurse today, because when do we not. My only question is: will it matter?
You would think that if there was a defensive strategy that worked against Luka Doncic, that it would have already been deployed and used over and over again.
Instead, the 23 year old continues to average nearly a triple double, and has put up over 30 points in 13 of his 16 games played this season.
If Fred VanVleet returns, watching the chess match between Doncic and the Raptors could become really interesting.
Toronto’s two best defenders in OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet could each see time guarding the three-time all star, each providing a different look. VanVleet is a tough and gritty guard, who can stay right up on you, and Anunoby is a long wing who can stay in front of your every move and extend out to block your jump shot.
It would be nice if it were only that easy.
You often don’t see the Mavericks implement much offensive strategy aside from, “Here Luka, go ahead.”
Doncic averages 9.2 isolation possessions per game which leads the league, and scores 9.8 points per game off of those isolation attempts, which also leads the league.
Will Nurse throw more double teams at Doncic this time? Their defensive strategy or dropping the help man and forcing him into multiple defenders clearly didn’t work last time.
They did start to double and deny him more in the second half, which I think is the best option. I understand the desire to take away his step-back, but Doncic only shoots 39% from three on the year, and there isn’t a second all star on the team.
So if he beats you by out-shooting you, and the rest of the team has a great game, I say you chalk it up to a tough loss to one of the best players in the league and move on.
Also, last game against the Mavericks was the game that Siakam went down, so there’s a sad memory. Good news is that he’s almost back!