Is this the real life? Or is this just fantasy? It really feels like it’s too early to tell if the (ahem) Jakob Poeltl-led Toronto Raptors have turned the 2022-23 season around, but through four games — and in particular the last three, that Poeltl started — the Raptors have looked pretty dang good, and instilled a refreshing sense of hope to the fanbase.
Can they keep it up today in an early-afternoon matchup against the Detroit Pistons?
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 12:00pm ET
Toronto – Gary Trent Jr, O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes,Jakon Poeltl
Detroit – Bojan Bogdanovic, Isaiah Stewart, Jaden Ivey, Killian Hayes, Alec Burks
Toronto – Otto Porter Jr. (toe – out), Fred VanVleet (personal – out)
Detroit – Cade Cunningham (leg – out), Jalen Duran (ankle – out), Nerlens Noel (MWT – out), Marvin Bailey III (hand – probable)
Siakam slump? Nah
There was definitely a stretch in late January where Pascal Siakam looked gassed, and his game suffered accordingly. He couldn’t shake defenders, shots were coming up short, and he was a step late on defense.
Well he’s scored 25 or more in five straight games (four of them wins), averaged 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists, oh, and shot 55% from downtown on 4.4 attempts per night.
Yeah, I’m thinking he’s back.
Fun note from Raptors PR, Siakam is now just the fourth Raptor (after Vince Carter, DeMar DeRozan, and Kawhi Leonard to have two five-game streaks averaging 25 or more in a single season.
On Thursday night, O.G. Anunoby played in his first game since January 27, when he sprained a wrist in a nasty fall. While Anunoby didn't have his legs fully into his shot on Thursday — he was just 1-for-8 from downtown, with all seven misses seemingly short) — hiss defense looked pretty decent after the layoff. He had two steals and six boards, and had a good game against Brandon Ingram; sure, Ingram went off in the fourth, but a) Anunoby had picked up his fifth foul early in the period, and b) Ingram hit some tough shots over solid defense from Anunoby.
What’s really good news is that most of Anunoby’s attempts, while off the mark, were open. Jakob Poeltl’s presence is really opening things upon the floor, and Anunoby really stands to benefit.
When will Jak miss?
So this seems pretty good:
Jakob Poeltl has missed a total of 6 shots in 4 games as a Raptor. He's shooting 82.9% from the floor.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) February 24, 2023
I’ll admit I haven’t watched too much of Poeltl the past couple years. Sure, I’d heard he’d become a defensive anchor and was decent in the pick and roll, but his footwork and ability to get into the right spots to score, even with his limited arsenal, have been eye-opening. He had great touch even back when he was a Raptor the first time, and now it seems like the rest of his offensive game has caught up.
So when I ask when he’ll miss — I mean he’s only taking good shots, shots that are right in his wheelhouse. He might shoot 80% for the rest of the season! (He won’t, but dream with me here.)
And the defense has been as advertised — maybe even a little better, as I wasn’t sure how he’d fare in Nick Nurse’s aggressive schemes, but so far so good!
Well, that’s a preview where I didn’t even talk about the other team! You know the deal: The Pistons aren’t very good, and they’re missing their best player. Road games in Detroit are like home games for the Raptors. The Raptors have won the last two against the Pistons. Everything points in the Raptors’ favour...
... and yet.
Dwane Casey. The man has the Raptors’ number. A win today is no guarantee!