Three takeaways from the Toronto Raptors shootout win vs the New Orleans Pelicans

Three takeaways from the Toronto Raptors shootout win vs the New Orleans Pelicans
Morning Coffee – Fri, Oct 12
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.

Share Share Raptors down the Pelicans 134-119, minus the broadcast experience tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports The story well be buzzing about until opening night next Thursday is going to be the depth of this Raptors team. Yeah, weve been talking about it for years now, but tonight against the Pelicans it was on display in a slightly different, but equally dominant way. The offensive efficiency was blistering throughout the game (21 fast-break points), with the Raptors managing to score at least 30 points in each quarter.

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.

His energy tonight was unmatched, as his 12 free throws show, giving Anthony Davis — an MVP candidate — a run for his money all evening (*also, its preseason). Ill add one thing: once Siakam learns how to finish around the basket, he wont need a three-point shot. In fact, whichever develops first will become one of the most dangerous offensive weapons on the entire Raptors roster. Siakam finished the game with a team-leading 21 points (matched by Malachi Richardson).

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.

Even with a lineup featuring the likes of Jordan Loyd, Kay Felder, Greg Monroe, Eric Moreland and Lorenzo Brown — the Raptors (905) were able to score at will. Whether you attribute this offensive display to the coaching staff, or to the horrid New Orleans defense (and to be fair, the Raptors played very little defense themselves), one thing is clear — the message that first year head coach Nick Nurse is attempting to drill into the heads of his players is getting through.

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

I want to dedicate at least a paragraph to roster-hopeful Eric Moreland. Moreland is a special talent — hes clearly an incredibly athletic big, but there has to be a reason hes never gotten consistent minutes in the NBA. So far, we havent seen enough to know why he hasnt played much in the past, but I do think weve seen enough to justify handing him a roster spot. He played a great game and made more than a few positive plays tonight.

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.

New Orleans looked ragged, to be perfectly honest. This isnt the same team — especially on defense — that we saw win game after spirited game en route to nearly 50 wins. Anthony Davis ended up playing 31 minutes in the teams final preseason game, including minutes played in the fourth quarter. It was an embarrassing sign for the Pelicans — it could be a long season.

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

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

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.

Ill be honest: I stopped watching the potentially illegal CCTV stream after about three minutes into the third quarter until the midway point of the fourth because it was a painfully annoying in-arena-but-actually-at-home experience. I wont go into details, except to say that the regular season cant come soon enough.

Siakam was truly unbelievable. He looked every bit the part of the leader he was during the Raptors 905 championship run a year and a half ago, quarterbacking an astonishing offensive pace in his 28 minutes of floor time. He continually pushed the tempo either with his passing (6 assists), or by flying coast to coast after pulling down one of his 11 rebounds.

Pascal Siakam showed off an unbelievable offensive burst to open the game, as he took defenders off the dribble, nailed his free throws and knocked down a triple. Overall he was spectacular — including 20 points, five boards, three assists and two steals in just 18 first half minutes.

His energy tonight was unmatched, as his 12 free throws show, giving Anthony Davis — an MVP candidate — a run for his money all evening (*also, its preseason). Ill add one thing: once Siakam learns how to finish around the basket, he wont need a three-point shot. In fact, whichever develops first will become one of the most dangerous offensive weapons on the entire Raptors roster. Siakam finished the game with a team-leading 21 points (matched by Malachi Richardson).

After being outscored 37-31 in the first quarter, the Raptors went on to win the second quarter by nine (36-27), the third by two, and the fourth by ten. Long story short: after the first quarter, the Raptors dominated this game.

I want to dedicate at least a paragraph to roster-hopeful Eric Moreland. Moreland is a special talent — hes clearly an incredibly athletic big, but there has to be a reason hes never gotten consistent minutes in the NBA. So far, we havent seen enough to know why he hasnt played much in the past, but I do think weve seen enough to justify handing him a roster spot. He played a great game and made more than a few positive plays tonight.

OG Anunoby and CJ Miles each hit three 3-point shots in the first half, although it was Anunoby who cooled down after the break, hitting just one more shot the rest of the way — it was a good one though:

Ill be honest: I stopped watching the potentially illegal CCTV stream after about three minutes into the third quarter until the midway point of the fourth because it was a painfully annoying in-arena-but-actually-at-home experience. I wont go into details, except to say that the regular season cant come soon enough.

If the Raptors are going to be elite theyll have to learn from past mistakes – The Athletic [subscription]

As an organization, the Raptors have been trying to ascend from good to great for several seasons now. Modernizing their scoring, finishing in the top five of both offensive and defensive rating and flirting with 60 wins last year were all supposed to signal a step into that elite class. Yet, the season finished in all too familiar fashion.

Perhaps, then, it makes complete sense that the new head coach, Nick Nurse, has introduced championship belts to practices, is freely mixing and matching starting lineups in each half of preseason games, and has brought an offensive playbook a tenth the size of a season ago — for now — to challenge not only the players, but himself, to figure it out.

The addition of Kawhi Leonard is certainly a major step in the direction towards greatness as a team. You just dont contend for titles without a true superstar (unless youre going up against two superstars feuding to the point of no return). The addition of Danny Green matters, too, but for all the innovation and fresh faces brought to the table, its vital the Raptors also learn from the errors of their past.

The signs mentioned earlier pointed toward last year being different, but then why did it end so poorly? Were there red flags that should have made us better understand how good this team really was? Or were the Raptors really good but just under a mystifying LeBron voodoo curse?

As a starting point, Toronto finished a league-best 35-2 against teams with sub-.500 records. One loss came in late November in New York when the Raptors inexplicably gave up 28 straight points in the third quarter, and the other a day after Christmas in Dallas. Thats a remarkable accomplishment by Dwane Casey and his coaching staff to get his players ready to play on nights when the struggle to stir up those competitive juices was as real as it gets.

The other half of the glass, though, shows they went 24-21 against teams over the line of mediocrity, a mark that didnt really separate them from the likes of Oklahoma City, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Utah or Indiana. Those teams were never in the conversation as legitimate title contenders.

Murphy: Raptors dialing up pressure on defence to fuel transition offence – The Athletic [subscription]

The result is that theyve forced opponent turnovers on an obscene 22.5 percent of preseason possessions, by far the best mark in the league. (Turnovers are higher in the preseason in general, but thats 11 percent more turnovers than the No. 2 preseason defence.) There are some trade-offs in terms of the openness of 3s on resultant kick-outs if a ball cant be deflected and with an opponent free-throw rate the team will want to come back down. Still, the net result is working in Torontos favor — theyre averaging three more shooting possessions per-game than their opponents and have a better mark than their opponents across all of the Four Factors (effective field-goal percentage, turnover rate, free-throw rare, and offensive rebounding).

This may not maintain all year. Nurse believes its easier to ratchet up aggression now and then dial it back as necessary rather than vice versa, and when the games count, some of those trade-offs will carry more weight. Opponents will also tighten things up, end-of-bench players will see fewer minutes, and teams will be more aware that the Raptors are getting aggressive in driving and passing lanes.

This is still a pretty major development. The Raptors are big, switchy, fast and more importantly long, and they have exactly the type of personnel that can afford to play a riskier brand of defence two-through-four (and, depending on your risk preference and lineup choice, one-through-five) and still be just fine stopping shots, as well.

The Raptors figure to be a top-five defence, maybe even top-three. Its what that defence can do for their offence that is perhaps most exciting, given how theyve approached things in transition.

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

Green has missed 12 and 14 games, respectively, the past two seasons and also played through an ailment last year.

Green is also helping Leonard settle in as a Raptor. Their lockers are placed nearby and Leonard was even chuckling while Green answered questions on Wednesday night.

Leonard added four steals of his own against the Nets, while head coach Nick Nurse singled out OG Anunobys ability to pick the pockets of opponents, and its clear this group is going to be able to force tons of turnovers, leading to quick transition opportunities at the other end.

We worked a little bit on some of the changes that were going to make defensively and turning things up a little bit, Nurse said.

I think we had something like 14 deflections in the third quarter and thats a humongous number. Its one of the things were trying to do. Ive told you since Day 1 weve got a team that can be more aggressive and we want to play more aggressive and we didnt really let them for a while … were trying to get closer to (the way) we want to play.

Green says he owes a lot of the success hes found has been thanks to the recently retired Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, as well as long-time Spur – now Charlotte Hornet — Tony Parker.

They led in many different ways, Green says of that great Spurs trio. Sometimes by accident, sometimes by words. But they were passionate guys that gave their all every night on the court, every day in practice. They made sure they took care of business. So just being in that atmosphere, in following them and learning from them naturally my habits developed in doing what they did.

Now a member of the Raptors because of the stunning July trade that also saw the team acquire Kawhi Leonard, Green wants to apply some of those same lessons he learned while with the Spurs to his new club.

Theyre both top organizations, Green said of the differences between the Raptors and Spurs. We have some younger guys, they had older guys who were established and won some championships and were still trying to figure that out here.

Were trying to bring that culture here, me and Kawhi, but theyre two top organizations that understand how to do it the right way and win games and get things done.

The Raptors at the moment are a lot like Green once was: Talented but unable to make it over that hump and really break through. Similarly, it hasnt been an easy road for Green, but he fought through it all and became a winner.

In Episode 394 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley is joined by Vivek Jacob and Sahal Abdi as they make their picks in the second annual Locked on Raptors Prop Bets Showdown. Viveks the defending champ, but has apparently gone soft, as we learn in his response to prop bet #10.

Daniels: Spurs fans embraced Kawhis quiet persona until things went sour – Video – TSN

OverDrive hosts Bryan Hayes, Jeff ONeill & Jamie McLennan are joined by Sirius XM NBA radio host Antonio Daniels to get his take on Kawhi Leonard appearing to come out of his shell more in Toronto.

WL: The main concern with Toronto is still their offense. Even though last year, their offensive rating was pretty strong, I think that had something to do with Washington being a really poor team, and then playing Cleveland, which was not a very good defensive team, either. I’m still a little worried about Toronto’s offense in the playoffs. Kyle Lowry’s offensive production drops off a little because the playoffs are more physical; teams are scouting a little more. Kyle Lowry is an opportunistic scorer, where he capitalizes on mistakes. And there are generally less mistakes in the playoffs, unless you’re the Wizards. So I’m worried about him as a secondary scorer. And then after that, it’s probably (Jonas Valanciunas), whom there’s a lot of optimism for, but he still has defensive shortcomings where you would have issues playing him all the time in the playoffs. And then, past that, it’s just Kawhi, because the rest of that team doesn’t really generate shots on their own. They could use someone on the roster to emerge and become a secondary shot creator. In the playoffs, it always helps to have more of those guys.

No. 2: Toronto Raptors Team president Masai Ujiri has eight months to make the relentlessly silent Kawhi Leonard fall in love with him, which feels like both a rom-com and a horror movie. Imagine if Leonard winds up worse than DeMar DeRozan, the beloved spokesman Toronto shipped out for him. Far more heartrending, though, is the more likely reality: Leonard is every bit the superstar the Raptors have lusted after — but he still loves LA. –Pablo S. Torre

The Quote: “We don’t want to be the ones that are felt sorry for anymore. We want to belong.” –Masai Ujiri

The Number: 263 (Raptors’ wins since 2013-14, Ujiri’s first season as GM, fourth best in the league)

Coach Nick Nurse said earlier this week he felt the team would be just fine if he had to set out his rotation. But it is not like the Raptors expected to have fully bonded by the final exhibition game in New Orleans on Thursday. That takes more than three weeks and five games.

Chemistry kind of builds all season, Nurse said recently. Its not like we say, OK, its game one and now weve got our chemistry. I think it shifts and moves all season long.

There will be players in and players out, different combinations to try early on. Nurse wants to be able to take one player out and plug another in without huge shifts in play at either end.

So far there are some things that have emerged to me that Ive really liked, Nurse said. Theres not a lot I havent liked. There are some things that obviously have stuck out that I really like and will continue to like. I dont think Im done looking at combinations and I dont think theres going to be much of a set (rotation) to start, especially. I think there will be some different starting lineups, which therefore means there will be some different second units. Well roll from there.

It takes some perseverance by us (not to) say, Oh, that combination didnt work and throw it in the bin because it was only a four-minute stretch, he said. The sample needs to be significant. Sometimes you want to pull the trigger on that stuff because games are coming one after another.

A certain amount of chemistry is built through the pre-season, guard Fred VanVleet said, but without meaningful games there is little adversity. The challenges mount throughout a gruelling season.

Despite finishing last season with an East-best 59 wins and then trading for Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors still seem hard-pressed to push past the loaded Boston Celtics this season.

A wing rotation of Kyle Lowry, Butler and Leonard may be the best outside of Golden State and puts them head-to-head with Boston and likely above the Philadelphia 76ers. Good luck to all opposing shooting guards and small forwards attempting to score against the Butler-Leonard duo.

For Minnesota, Anunoby is the main prize. The 21-year-old forward started 62 games as a rookie for the Raptors last season and could play alongside Andrew Wiggins to make a long, athletic wing. Green is still a solid two-way rotation guard, and Powell probably needs a change of scenery to jumpstart his promising career.

Would Butler and Leonard’s opposing personalities clash? Maybe, but at least Leonard has a ring and hardware to do the speaking for his laid-back demeanor.