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Toronto Raptors v Boston Celtics

The Rap-Up: November Nomadness

The Raptors return from a fairly successful road trip with a 4-game homestand that includes its first In-Season Tournament game.

Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Count me in as a believer in the In-Season Tournament.

Sure, the court designs are questionable for many teams, the city jerseys rolled out during the tournament are hideous, and I’m still getting questions from friends to make sense of the Tournament’s logistics.

But the NBA has succeeded in its original goal: I care about a mid-November game!

I’ll care (a little bit extra) about every Raptors tournament game. I’ll care about every game played by the other 4 teams in Toronto’s group. I’ll start thinking about playoff scenarios in approximately 10 days.

For the players, every single one of them — from young rookies to seasoned veterans — gets to experience a playoff-like atmosphere with extra stakes on the line. The stakes themselves could be better (a guaranteed playoff spot would be much more enticing than money), but I’m also wondering if the marketing could improve for future iterations.

Can the NBA take a page out of the NCAA playbook and give the tournament a better name? My brain is fried so please share your thoughts in the comments.

  • November Nsanity
  • The Association’s Cup
  • November Nomad-ness
  • November Nonsense

Okay, maybe In-Season Tournament isn’t so bad after all.

November 13 vs Washington Wizards

There’s bad defense. There’s atrocious defense. Then there’s whatever the Wizards call it when they don’t have the ball.

Washington’s allowed at least 116 points in all but one game so far. The only other game (a 113-106 win over Memphis) came against a Grizzlies team playing the second game of a back-to-back without Brandon Clarke, Santi Aldama, and Luke Kennard (in addition to the suspended Ja Morant and Steven Adams, who’s out for the season).

While 4 of the 6 best offenses have contributed to Washington’s porous defensive numbers, it’s logical to think the Wizards played a key role in elevating the offensive numbers for Indiana, Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. The road doesn’t get much easier as the next couple of weeks have them facing the Bucks and Mavericks, along with In-Season Tournament games against the Knicks and Bucks (again, this time in Milwaukee).

Fun fact that may only interest me

Not all things are dire in Washington. Bilal Coulibaly is already showing why he rose up the draft boards in June. In his first NBA game, he collected three blocks. He’s already had two games where he’s had at least three steals, including Sunday when he had four steals (to go along with four made triples). It’s just a matter of time before Wes Unseld will have no choice but to start the rookie.

Something that can easily be forgotten about rookies is.....their age. Coulibaly is only 19 years old and (surprise) doesn’t have his driver’s license.

When he was playing in Paris, the transit system was so accessible (shed a tear, Toronto), that he could always rely on the subway. In Washington, he’ll resort to using Uber if none of his teammates or coaches offer him a ride.


This will be the second game of the Wizards’ first back-to-back of the season, after losing in Brooklyn on Sunday. Toronto has won 5 of the last 6 meetings between the two teams. The Raptors are also 3-1 against teams who currently have a bottom-10 defense (Wizards defense currently ranks 27th), with the only loss being the late-game collapse in Chicago.

The Wizards are the worst rebounding team — on both ends of the floor. Any Washington miss (and subsequent defensive rebound) could fuel the Raptors’ deadly fast break. Coulibaly can only guard one of OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, and Scottie Barnes, so expect two of them to have solid games (Scottie triple-double, anyone?). The Raptors kick off their homestand with a comfortable 124-108 victory over the visiting Wizards.

November 15 vs Milwaukee Bucks

Since losing wire-to-wire in Toronto on November 1st, the Bucks haven’t really shown anything worthy of a title favourite. Milwaukee lost to the Pacers and Magic while winning three games that very easily could have been losses:

November 3 vs New York — trailed 103-101 with 1:10 left

November 6 @ Brooklyn — tied 123-123 with 1:27 left

November 8 vs Detroit — trailed 115-114 with 1:21 left

Oh, and this happened during the Pistons game.

Fun fact that may only interest me

After the Bucks essentially swapped out Jrue Holiday and Grayson Allen for Damian Lillard and Malik Beasley in their starting lineup, many folks (ahem, myself included) felt Milwaukee’s defense would dip while the offense would soar. The prevailing question heading into the season was “How do you stop the Dame-Giannis duo?”

It would appear that a lot of teams have answers. Milwaukee’s Offensive Rating when Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo are on the court is a measly 103.6 (as of Sunday evening). To put that in perspective, the worst offense in the NBA belongs to the Portland Trailblazers: 104.7.


It’s very tempting to say that Toronto should come out victorious again. Milwaukee’s only looked dominant in one game (an October 30 home win over a Heat team without Bam Adebayo), Dennis Schroder & Scottie Barnes should continue having their way with the Bucks’ starting backcourt, and the aforementioned stat about Toronto feasting on bottom-10 defenses.....that list included Milwaukee!

The nine field goal attempts in the first meeting were by far the fewest by Lillard this season. Antetokounmpo’s four rebounds was also his lowest total of the season by a wide margin. You’d expect both of them to ramp up the aggression (and subsequently their stats) and try to change the outcome.

Khris Middleton is a shell of himself. He’s not even the 3rd leading scorer on the team. That title belongs to Bobby Portis (11.7 vs Middleton’s 11.1). Despite Middleton starting most of the games, his 18.9 minutes average is only good for 8th on the team.

Maybe a date with his former team is the antidote for what ails Adrian Griffin, but I’ve seen enough from both teams to think that the Raptors can pull off another win over the Bucks at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto wins 118-109 against Milwaukee.

November 17 vs Boston Celtics (In-Season Tournament)

I dislike Boston.

I dislike that Jayson Tatum ended the Tatum-or-Siakam debate quicker than it took to write this sentence.

I dislike that Tatum and Jaylen Brown were still on the floor during the 4th quarter of a blow-out, long after the Raptors starters headed to the bench.

I dislike that Joe Mazzulla doubled down on providing bulletin board material for the Raptors by challenging an official’s the 4th quarter of a Celtics blowout!

I dislike the decision to go with a Goldmember-like motif for the latest city jerseys.

I......kinda like the In-Season Tournament court design for the Raptors.

I really like that I get to cover that game for Raptors HQ (thanks Chelsea!).

Fun fact that may only interest me

If it feels like every NBA team has kicked off their tournaments, you’re not wrong.

This will be Boston’s second In-Season Tournament game after defeating the Nets last week. Every NBA would have already played at least one of their tournament games before Toronto’s first. In fact, Memphis and Oklahoma City would have played THREE of their tournament games by this date.


This should be a closer matchup than Saturday’s debacle. Anunoby will do a better job of fighting through screens when guarding Tatum. Barnes should do a better job of keeping Brown uncomfortable (i.e. dribbling to his left). The home crowd will surely help motivate a Raptors squad desperate to break through against the Celtics (who have won 13 of the last 16 meetings). Nobody in the locker room will admit it, but the Celtics seemingly trying to pour it on during Saturday’s blowout will drive these players harder to get a win.

Despite all of these factors, I cannot predict a Raptors victory without appearing like a homer. This Boston team is better than I expected and is rightfully the favourites to win the East. The Celtics get another In-Season Tournament victory with a 112-104 win over the Raptors.

November 19 vs Detroit Pistons

This continues to be the weirdest rivalry to follow. In each of the last SIX seasons, one team has swept the season series.

2022-23: Raptors sweep 4-0

2021-22: Pistons sweep 3-0

2020-21: Pistons sweep 3-0

2019-20: Raptors sweep 3-0

2018-19: Pistons sweep 3-0

2017-18: Raptors sweep 4-0

All eyes will be on the Bucks and Celtics coming to town, but neither of those games has the possibility of predicting how the remaining two games might play out.

Fun fact that may only interest me

Ausar Thompson is very quickly showing how special of a talent he is. In only his 7th career game, Ausar scored 14 points, grabbed 9 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, collected 4 steals, and amassed 4 blocks.

At 20 years, 279 days, Ausar became the 4th-youngest player in NBA history to have a 4 x 5 game. He passed Tracy McGrady, who was 20 years, and 295 days old when he had a 4 x 5 game as a Toronto Raptor.


This game marks the first time in over 12 years (March 2011) that neither Dwane Casey nor Nick Nurse will be on the sidelines of a Raptors-Pistons matchup.

Detroit is the 2nd-youngest team in the league, so it should come as no surprise that Monty Williams is off to a rocky start to his Pistons coaching career — losers of its last 8 games.

The Pistons are 30th in personal fouls and 29th in turnovers. So, not only will Toronto’s transition offense fly, but they should be able to get to the line a lot (and not necessarily need a hot-shooting game from beyond the arc). Cade Cunningham leads the team with 23.7 points and 7.1 assists. Despite his injury history, Cunningham is the 2nd-oldest player in the Pistons starting lineup (Isaiah Stewart is four months older).

With no Casey patrolling the sidelines, I cannot justify picking another Pistons upset. The Raptors take down the visiting Pistons, 111-99.


Last Week: 2-0

Season Record: 6-3

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets Final: 119-116 — Late resurgence not enough to overcome poor start

Report: Toronto Raptors waive Ron Harper Jr., open two-way roster spot

Game Day

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets: Preview, Lineups, and more