The Toronto Raptors Lose 111 to 97 to the Chicago Bulls on Monday and then win 116 to 109 against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday. The loss was to be expected as it was the second game of a back to back against the Bulls and the Bulls were getting Zach Lavine back who sat out the first game. However, the Raptors regrouped and had a good win against a young, talented Houston Rockets team who played hard and spirited basketball. Here are my pros and cons from last two games.
Raptors Lose One Win One – Pros
Nick Nurse Makes a critical Move to Change the Game – I have been hard on Nick Nurse regarding some of his decisions lately. However, one move he made in last night’s game in Houston completely changed the game for the Raptors. After being behind 37 to 29 in the first quarter, Nick Nurse went with a big line up of Christian Koloko, Delano Banton, Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. and OG Anunoby. This line up changed the complexion of the game. They slowed down Houston’s transition game. The extra length on the perimeter kept Houston’s guards from penetrating to the paint and forced them to take contested jump shots. Having Thad, Otto along with OG really tightened up the defense and they got the team back into the game. It was a thing of beauty. Well done Nick Nurse!
Thad and Otto are starting to Make in Impact – With Boucher and Achiuwa struggling last night, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter stepped up their play from off the bench. Otto Porter provided timely baskets and good defense and scored 14 points and six rebounds. Thaddeus Young did not score a point but had eight rebounds and had a game high plus/minus of plus 21! He played hard on defensive, battled on the boards and made timely passes. Both players’ veteran savvy were needed to slowdown a determined Houston team.
Raptors Lose One Win One – Cons
What Kind of Team do the Raptors Want to Be? – My only real con I have from the last two games is that question. The reason is that since Pascal Siakam has been out, the Raptors pace has slowed. No longer are they immediately pushing the ball up court and putting pressure on the other team’s defense. In the Chicago game, you really saw this as it became a half court battle where Chicago was obviously the better half court team. Even in last night’s game, Houston was the team pushing the pace and the Raptors were the team slowing it down. However, they won partly because Houston is not a great halfcourt team and Nick Nurse played Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. more as both know how to play in a half court offense. Unfortunately this pretty much neutralizes the impact that Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa can have on a game as both are not great half court players.
I think part of the reason for this is that Pascal can play fast and loves to initiate the offense by throwing the ball forward up the court. In particular him and Barnes have a connection and as one of them would throw the ball up the court; the other was sprinting up the court to get the pass. This resulted in a lot of quick baskets because the other team’s defense was not set. With Pascal out, Fred now initiates the offense and he likes to play slow and likes playing in the half court. The Raptors can win this way as seen last night but the team doesn’t have many shot creators and players who are effective in isolation. However, OG Anunoby seems to be improving in this and if Scottie Barnes can get a bit healthier, I think he might be able to help also. We will see.
The next few weeks will be interesting to see how the Raptors adjust to life without Pascal. They have a three game road trip but the games are winnable. If they can win most of them, then they put themselves in good shape to weather Pascal Siakam’s absence. The road trip starts Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Go Raps go!
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