Here one day, gone the next. This is, of course, in reference to the Toronto Raptors defense. After stymying the NBA’s best offensive team in the Sacramento Kings — which might be one of the strangest sentences I’ve ever written — the Raptors made their way south to San Francisco to take on the Golden State Warriors and gave up a whopping 129 points in a loss. To be fair, Toronto managed to keep the game close until the fourth quarter, despite losing O.G. Anunoby to an arm injury after a nasty fall in the first half and Pascal Siakam shooting 8-26. What they couldn’t contain were those two generational shooters that the Warriors like to trot out. Selfish.
Tonight, as the bleary-eyed Eastern Time Zone faithful watch on for the 10:00 PM tip-off, the Raptors take on another sharp-shooting guard combo in Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons of the Portland Trail Blazers. Not quite as splashy as their Golden State counterparts, yet still able to turn on the faucet, or, set off the sprinklers, or, whatever metaphor/analogy/simile you’d like to prescribe to the lesser-than backcourt in Portland that can also pour in a ton of points form beyond the arc. That should mean that the blueprint for success is right there for the Raptors, right? They’re facing an inferior, yet similar team. Guaranteed success, right?
Not so fast. Nick Nurse, as Jack Armstrong so eloquently put it last night, “emptied the tank” on his starting unit. Pascal and Fred both played 40 minutes and Gary, Scottie and Precious (the alternate starter after O.G. went down) each played 36+ minutes. Conventional wisdom of a person who knows basketball will tell you that not all minutes are created equally. Consider the DNA of that Warriors team when comparing minute-loads against the Kings. Sacramento likes to pack the paint, which certainly has it’s own fatigue factors. Golden State on the other hand, never stops running; darting around screens, cross-cutting, perpetual motion. These are the minutes Toronto was up against last night and their legs and lungs are certainly feeling it today.
On the second night of a back to back, will Toronto have enough left to give to fight off a middle of the pack Portland team? Can Nick Nurse summon some kind of help off of the bench, now that he is a player short with O.G. on the shelf? Perhaps Pascal can reconnect with his jumper and Fred and Gary will stay burning hot and the Raps will come away with a beautiful victory at 12:30 AM ET. Wouldn’t that be a nice way to send the Toronto faithful off to sleep?
Where to watch:
Sportsnet, 10 PM ET
Toronto Raptors – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Keon Johnson, Jerami Grant, Drew Eubanks
Toronto Raptors – Dalano Banton (hip – out), Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out), O.G. Anunoby (wrist – out)
Portland Trail Blazers – Josh Hart (hamstring – qustionable), Jusuf Nurkic (calf – questionable), Justise Winslow (ankle – out)