Green proving far more than just Kawhi came to Raptors from San Antonio in blockbuster trade

Green proving far more than just Kawhi came to Raptors from San Antonio in blockbuster trade
Raptors Showcase Potential in Win over Brooklyn
NEW ORLEANS — Pascal Siakam had 21 points and 11 rebounds and OG Anunoby added 15 points as a shorthanded Toronto Raptors squad wrapped up pre-season play with a 134-119 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.

CJ Miles had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting — including 3 of 4 from the three-point line — off the bench for Toronto (4-1). Malachi Richardson had 21 points, Kay Felder had 15 and both Jordan Loyd and Eric Moreland had 12 apiece.

Anthony Davis paced the Pelicans (0-5) with 36 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks. Julius Randle also had a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Nikola Mirotic, Jrue Holiday and ETwaun Moore were in double-digits at 15, 14 and 12 points, respectively.

I dont remember Leonard and Danny Green ever pulling this off when they played with the San Antonio Spurs, but it is great to see this type of chemistry between the two in just the preseason.

The Raptors took a 67-64 lead into halftime as Siakam banked in a hook shot with 2.4 seconds. Toronto never looked back, streching its advantage to as much as 15 in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans cut the lead to two at 111-109 with 7:39 left, but Toronto finished the game on a 23-10 run.

Whether or not he should start is another story, and our man Daniel Hackett covered it perfectly in this Twitter thread from last night: Valanciunas should be the starter. And if Ibaka doesnt like the bench, or ends up having a significantly reduced role? Hell have to deal. The Raps cant concern themselves with Serges ego or what his contract status merits, because this is an all-in year, and if starting JV and reducing Serges overall role gives you the better chance to win, thats what you do.

Torontos Chris Boucher was helped to the locker-room with just more than eight minutes left in the fourth quarter after a collision with Davis as both players jumped for a rebound. Boucher fell and his head appeared to hit the court. He stayed down a couple minutes while he received treatment.

Jonas Valanciunas had a career year last year despite playing a career-low 22.5 MPG. Its clear Dwane Casey wasnt his biggest fan, but thankfully Casey is gone. Valanciunas is a great rebounder and good interior scorer who also shot over 40% from three last year. The three-point shooting may not be real as he only attempted 74 and was left wide open on most of them. Where Valanciunas takes a lot of heat is with his defense. Is Valanciunas a great defender? No. Is he an awful defender like many people believe? Probably not. His pick and roll defense is non-existent at times and hes not a modern rim protector. However, he rarely gets bullied one-on-one. Plus, when Kevin Love was roasting the Raptors in the playoffs last year the Raptors only competent adjustment was putting Jonas Valanciunas on him.

Toronto rested stars Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry as well as regulars Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Danny Green and Fred Van Vleet.

Im not sure when Serge Ibakas best before date is, but he started to stink a little bit toward the end of the year and was straight up smelly in the playoffs. Ibaka is no longer a rim protector. Hes an average or slightly below average rebounder for a big man. Hes become a decent perimeter shooter over the last few years, but cannot really guard many players on the perimeter anymore. Kevin Love has beaten Serge Ibaka on dribble drives in the playoffs in consecutive years. If Kevin Love is beating you with his speed theres a problem. Ibaka is definitely overpaid making roughly $45M over these next two seasons, but can he be a serviceable bench player? If he buys in and accepts coming off the bench at this late stage in his career, sure.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, utilized their full squadron, including starters Davis, Holiday, Moore, Mirotic and Elfrid Payton, as well as Randle in reserve.

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Norman Powell, who is dealing with left IT band tenderness, and Delon Wright, who is nursing a strained left thigh muscle, both sat out for Toronto.

“We tried a lot of different things in the first half and our execution wasn’t there,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “It’s still pre-season and we’re looking for the right combinations, but no matter who’s out there, the execution should be better. The thing I liked in the second half was the way we picked up our defence. I think we had 14 deflections in the third quarter.”

The Raptors went to Montreal for the last home game of the preseason on Wednesday night, and the fans showed up to bring a true home court advantage as they took on the Brooklyn Nets. With OG Anunoby rejoining the team this week and being available for the first time this preseason, this was the first look at a fully healthy Raptors team, and the rust showed through, but so did the talent and potential of this team.

Share Share Raptors dominate defensively in 118-91 win over Brooklyn tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports Its officially Im tired of pre-season, can the games start already season. Raptors fans have gotten enough of a taste of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to be collectively salivating at the mouth. Now all we need is for the games to matter so that Kyle Lowry doesnt have an excuse to be apathetic and unprepared. Alas, the Raptors still have one preseason contest remaining even after tonights 118-91 drubbing of the Brooklyn Nets at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The fanbase will need to attempt to contain its ever mounting horniness for real, actual NBA basketball just a little bit longer.

The first glimpse at what might be the team’s starting lineup may have come in this game, when Nick Nurse went with a group of Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka to open the game, and the group showed flashes of what they could be, but gave up an early lead that they couldn’t quite claw back from as they struggled with early turnovers, Lowry in particular having four in the first frame, and some shotmaking from the young nets. Caris LeVert, DeAngelo Russell and Jarrett Allen led the way the for the visiting team as they jumped out to an 8-point lead after the first quarter, and for the critics of using Ibaka ahead of last year’s starting center Jonas Valanciunas, this quarter showed the merits of going in the other direction. Ibaka doesn’t bring Valanciunas’ presence in the screening game or on the boards, and the offense was sluggish in the halfcourt despite the talent the team fielded.

This unit came out energized to start the half, with Green again being the pacesetter. The mobile group swarmed the Nets defensively. Green clogged the lane, digging in and ripping the ball from driving Nets, Leonard disrupted any ball movement at the top of the key, Siakam wreaked havoc with full court pressure, Lowry got on the floor for a loose ball and Valanciunas changed shots at the rim with some impressive displays of verticality. Everyone got out in transition off of these misses: Lowry and Leonard pushed the ball, resulting in Siakam getting easy dunks and Green nailing trailer threes. Even Valanciunas got in on the act, hitting a wide open three off a Lowry drive.

Towards the end of the first quarter and into the second, Valanciunas came in with the bench lineup, and they found some success, but again, it wasn’t the dominant bench mob of a year ago in the first half, and the Raptors came into halftime with a three-point deficit.

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Siakam leads shorthanded Raptors to win over Pelicans to end pre-season

In the second half, Nurse changed the starting group, opting to go back to Valanciunas, and swap Anunoby for Pascal Siakam, and the players responded immediately with the Raptors reeling off a 27-6 run to take control of the game, keyed by dominant defense and scoring some easy transition buckets. Lowry ended up getting himself ejected during the second half, an ejection you could see coming with his chirping at the referees throughout the game, but the Raptors didn’t skip a beat as Anunoby showed the progress he’s made during the summer defensively, and he and Leonard found some chemistry defensively where they frustrated the Nets while also delivering a highlight reel play together late in the game.

Quick Reaction: Raptors 118, Nets 91

For Leonard, his shot never quite came in this one, and it’s been the one thing that hasn’t fully returned from his MVP form of years past, but there were other very positive signs. Not just the defensive effort and he showed his ability to control rebounds as the game progressed, but his playmaking was in full form, finding lanes into the paint and kicking out to shooters for easy looks with regularity. He’s visibly enjoying himself out there with this Raptors team, and the shot should just be rust at this point, and should come as he gets further back into the swing of the NBA season.

To cap the night off, Chris Boucher, who grew up in Montreal, was able to deliver another nice moment for the crowd as he hit a pair of threes in the waning moments. Boucher has had a nice training camp and preseason, and should be a leading contender for the Raptors’ last two-way spot.

Of the over-30 crowd, Lowry is the most likely of the three to still be in Toronto for the start of the 2020-21 year, and that will only be if the Raptors retain Leonard. Otherwise, it probably makes sense for the team and player to finally go their own way after two or three false starts on that front. Miles is a possibility to stick around if he likes the situation for his young family, but I think there are far more scenarios in which he leaves after 2020 than situations that keep him here. Valanciunas is sixth in franchise history in games played, 235 behind DeMar DeRozan. Getting there would require Valanciunas spend three more fully healthy seasons with the team or, more likely, four years. His tenure here has been up and down, but Im starting to think it is possible he gets there. The Raptors do not (and likely, will not) have any true centre prospects in the pipeline, and if they can get him signed at a reasonable price, it could very well make sense for the relationship to continue. He has at least proven to be semi-functional in the new NBA. To the real issue: I have Wright, Siakam, VanVleet, Anunoby and Norman Powell (assuming he opts into the final year of his contract) making approximately $73-million total in 2021-22, which would be the first year of Anunobys second deal. That is not an overwhelming number considering the tax will continue to go up, but it is certainly more than the Raptors will want to spend if they are trying to build an elite team around Leonard. If he leaves, it becomes more palatable, but again is likely a little steep for a team that would probably be caught in the dreaded middle. The Raptors have surely had these conversations, and they are always evolving: How do you prioritize the pieces of their young core that is getting more expensive by the year? The answer to that question will heavily inform what they do next.

This was the team that was envisioned at the time of the trade this summer in this second half, an athletic team that could switch on defense and challenge offenses around the court while creating a lot of space offensively through their speed, talent, and shooting across the court. Nick Nurse’s vision appears to be translating in the preseason, because he got the players in rhythm in this game, and with just a week remaining until the regular season, it’ll be interesting to see if he can deliver this team on a nightly basis.

With a Thursday night matchup in New Orleans that won’t be broadcast on TV or radio as the only remaining preseason contest, this was the last look for most of us at this team prior to the opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Delon Wright left the game late with what’s being described as a thigh bruise, which will be something to keep an eye on. For Raptors fans though, the season can’t come soon enough after getting a glimpse of what this year’s team might be in Montreal.