Things have gone from bad to worse for the Toronto Raptors. Despite playing a Golden State Warriors team missing two starters and playing the the fourth game of a six-game road trip, the Raptors delivered one of their worst defensive performances of the season and dropped a 126-110 decision to the defending champs.
The Raptors have now lost five games in a row, and eight of their last 10.
Although the sluggish defense was an all-game trend, the first half of the game really told the story; the Raptors gave up 68 points in the half, allowing the Warriors to shoot 55%, and 11-for-22 from downtown. The Raps weren’t completely terrible on offense in this one, but suffice to say they weren’t good enough to keep up with that kind of shooting.
Jordan Poole had 25 of his career-high points 43 in that first half, as he shot 8-of-12 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line. He finished the game with 6 assists and 2 steals.
Pascal Siakam led the way for the Raptors, with 27 points on 9-for-20 shooting, with five rebounds and six assists. Fred VanVleet scored 22, and hit four three-pointers; Scottie Barnes chipped in 17.
Draymond Green scored 17 points to go with his 9 rebounds and 5 assists, and Klay Thompson finished with 17/7/4.
The Raptors shot 13-for-33 from downtown, a downright herculean performance from this team, given their recent shooting woes. But any gains made on that end were overshadowed by an absolutely brutal performance on the defensive end. The Raptors allowed Poole, Green and Thompson way too much space — either letting them shoot, or giving up way-too-easy pick and roll plays and back cuts. Every time the Raptors attacked a ball handler with a trap, it gave the Warriors a 3-on-2 advantage, and they made the Raptors pay. The Raps even tried going under some screens for Poole, and you can imagine how well that went. The Warriors finished the game shooting 53%, and shot 18-for-39 from downtown.
I know no one wants to hear it, especially now, but I’m still on Team Patience. This was a terrible loss and the team should damn well be embarrassed. But this is still nearly the exact same team that won 48 games a year ago. It’s true that we haven’t seen the progress from Scottie Barnes that we’d like, and it does seem like Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent have both taken steps backwards. But I still don’t think a bad month, one wracked with injuries, is reason to blow it up. Let me see what it looks like after Siakam, VanVleet, Barnes, Trent, Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Precious Achiuwa, Otto Porter and Thad Young have played 8 straight games together!
It looked like it might be a different kind of night early, with Siakam hitting two three pointers in the first minute. Alas, it was the same old Raptors of recent vintage; Green (yes, Draymond Green) hit three straight three pointers to open Golden State’s scoring, the start of a first quarter barrage that saw the Warriors start 11-for-14 from the field. The Raptors held pace for the first six minutes or so, but if you’ve been watching this team at all, you know that they don’t shoot the ball well enough to keep up that kind of pace — and after those first two Siakam makes, the team missed 12 of their next 18 shots.
The Warriors? They finished the quarter shooting 63%, with 11 assists on their 13 made field goals, and used a 16-4 run to take a 36-26 lead into the second.
The first quarter was also mired by shot clock issues that slowed the pace down to a crawl; as if it wasn’t bad enough watching the Raptors sleepwalk through defensive possessions, drawing it out was sheer torture. (At least we didn’t sink so low as to have to suffer through Herbie Kuhn yelling HORN on every play!)
Christian Koloko had another rough night, picking up three fouls, grabbing just two boards and not taking a shot in his 11 first half minutes.
scottie misses a layup, then koloko fouls 90 feet from the hoop while warriors are in the bonus. there's been so many sequences like that in the first half.— William Lou (@william_lou) December 19, 2022
I know the Raptors are thin right now, but I think it’s time to send Koloko to Mississauga, and get him some serious G League reps where be can build some confidence and get the schemes down right. In his place, give Khem Birch more minutes. Is Birch the right long-term answer? Nope. But he’s a solid vet who can rebound and be the roll man in PnR sequences with VanVleet and Malachi Flynn. He may not have the rim protection potential that Koloko offers, but he won’t make half as many mistakes.
Unsurprisingly, the Raptors opted not to start Koloko in the second half; perhaps surprisingly, Nick Nurse gave his spot to Malachi Flynn. Flynn played well for the second straight game, hitting four of his eight three pointers.
As the second quarter opened, the Raps quickly closed to within six, then gave up a 7-0 run… and that’s pretty much how the quarter went. The Raps would score 4 or 6 in a row, then give up 8 or 10 in a row.
It's especially a game of runs when you go on runs of not playing much defense— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 18, 2022
That’s exactly how the quarter ended, too: a VanVleet three with a minute to go in the frame brought the Raptors within 10, but a Siakam offensive foul, a Klay Thompson three, a Raptors turnover, and a Ty Jerome free throw gave the Warriors a 14-point halftime lead.
While it’s true that defense remains Toronto’s top issue right now — a bit of a shocker for a Nick Nurse team — their offense still isn’t setting any records. Much as I appreciate the team’s effort in crashing the offensive glass, it can lead to rather comedic (or tragic?) outcomes, as it did in the second quarter tonight; the team missed five shots on a single possession, three of them three-pointers. Offensive rebounding? Great! Inability to take advantage? BAD.
I will give Chris Boucher credit for his rebounding, though. He struggled to score in this one — 4-of-10 shooting, 0-for-2 from downtown — but he pulled down 14 rebounds, 7 of them offensive.
The third quarter started much like the first, with the teams both shooting well and matching each other step-for-step. Thompson, Donte DiVincenzo and Poole all nailed threes for the Warriors in the first five minutes; Flynn, VanVleet and Barnes all knocked down triples for Toronto. The Raptors quickly cooled off — of course they did — and the Warriors didn’t, but the Raptors were at least slightly more feisty on defense in the third, forcing 6 turnovers.
That helped the team keep pace for the first 10 minutes of the frame, but ultimately their ability to stop the point of attack, and inability to attack the Warriors’ zone defense on the other end, led to a 22-point deficit that no amount of turnovers or offensive rebounds was going to help them overcome.
Both teams essentially went through the motions in the fourth. The only things of interest was how long Nick Nurse left Barnes, Siakam and VanVleet in the game (way too long!), how the bizarro three-guard lineup of VanVleet, Flynn, and Dalano Banton would play (poorly!), and how quickly Poole would hit his career high (within 5 minutes!). Nurse finally waved the white flag with five minutes to go.
The Raptors now head to Philadelphia to play the 76ers tomorrow night.