The Raptors 2018-19 Quarter-Season Report Card

The Raptors 2018-19 Quarter-Season Report Card
Raptors comfortably beat Heat despite Dwyane Wades heroics
Leading essentially from start to finish, the Raptors put together a well-rounded performance, defeating the sputtering Miami Heat on the back of seven different Toronto players hitting double figures.

Based on their down-to-the-wire finishes last season, many expected the Heat’s toughness infused style of play to give Toronto all they could handle. However, down Tyler Johnson, Goran Dragic, and Dion Waiters, Miami simply didn’t have the individual creators to keep pace all night. The by-committee approach to running point guard that injuries have forced them into was a stark contrast to the surgical game management we saw from Kyle Lowry tonight. The amount of effort that seemed to go into each basket was night and day in favor of the Raptors.

Temperament could play a part in the numbers, too. Even though Leonard took the rare step of voicing his displeasure on the call Sunday night, it was a fleeting grievance. No matter how hard he believed he was getting fouled, Leonard still finished the game with a team-high 29 points and 10 defensive rebounds, an area where he is putting up career-high numbers this season by averaging 7.2 per game.

The game began with each team exchanging midrange jumpers in the opening minutes to open up the scoring. Lowry followed that up by getting straight to the rim in the early in a halfcourt possession for what feels like the 1000th time this season. Jonas Valanciunas then followed up a miss for a powerful slam, Pascal Siakam threw down a lefty poster, and Kawhi Leonard swished a three off an extra pass. The Raptors were off.

Temperament could play a part in the numbers, too. Even though Leonard took the rare step of voicing his displeasure on the call Sunday night, it was a fleeting grievance. No matter how hard he believed he was getting fouled, Leonard still finished the game with a team-high 29 points and 10 defensive rebounds, an area where he is putting up career-high numbers this season by averaging 7.2 per game.

The teams exchanged a few threes (including an absurdly smooth no hesitation one from Pascal Siakam) and Leonard used his strength to power in some tough baskets, before Dwyane Wade entered the game and injected some life into the Heat. The future hall-of-famer hit a step-back over Leonard that was reminiscent of the 2012 finals, got Whiteside an easy dunk, and got to the line off a savvy ball-fake.

“A lot of it is just great hands, man,” Nurse said. “A lot of it’s the guy that kind of stick his hand in there a lot and not hit flesh, and hits leather? It’s a skill and I think it’s an anticipation thing. He knows where it’s going to be when he finally makes that reach up, how high and how far away and all that kind of stuff.”

However, any momentum that Wade had created disappeared when the Heat forgot what transition defense was for the rest of the quarter, giving up uncontested fast-break layups or dunks on three beautiful passes from Lowry. Mix in some Serge Ibaka short roll jumpers, more slick Lowry feeds, and CJ Miles seeming to find some semblance of rhythm, and the Raptors shot 75% winning the quarter 36-27 despite Wade’s individual heroics.

“A lot of it is just great hands, man,” Nurse said. “A lot of it’s the guy that kind of stick his hand in there a lot and not hit flesh, and hits leather? It’s a skill and I think it’s an anticipation thing. He knows where it’s going to be when he finally makes that reach up, how high and how far away and all that kind of stuff.”

The quarter opened with Kelly Olynk scoring twice only to have Delon Wright answer each basket with a three. Wade then continued his excellent night, cutting for a nifty reverse finish before baiting OG Anunoby into falling for his signature pump fake to draw a foul. Miles kept up his strong half by driving for a difficult off-hand finish before Ibaka emphatically denied Justice Winslow a few trips later for the play of the game.

Despite things not going their way, the Heat, in character, didn’t fold. Ellington responded with a couple curling threes and the Heat scrapped their way to a few bunnies, cutting the Raptors lead to two. Unfortunately for Miami, Lowry then re-entered the game. The teams exchanged baskets before Lowry threw Valanciunas open on an alley-oop, long-balled a hustling Leonard for an easy two, and got to the rim himself, generating every piece of the 6-0 run. The teams then proceeded to trade baskets again until the half ended with the Raptors leading 63-54.

However, a key part of Popovichs statement was when he said Leonards leadership skills might start to grow as he progresses. The Spurs were the only organization Leonard ever knew for his first seven seasons, and they just happen to be the most structured organization in the entire league. Popovich is the dean of coaches, Tim Duncan had three championships and two MVP awards, and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker had been with the club since the early 2000s. Add the fact that Leonard is understated by nature, and Leonard appeared to be in the perfect situation to let his actions do the talking and follow the leader(s) instead of being one.

In a rare occurrence, the Raptors generated 11 points in transition during the first half despite the Heat not turning the ball over once. It was the first half in Heat history with zero turnovers. It was also the first half in Heat history they’d given up four uncontested transition layups immediately following makes (well… probably).

Raptors get win No. 17 in familiar fashion

The Heat came out flat defensively, surrendering multiple easy baskets in the paint (including Valanciunas impersonating Siakam with a spin move). Lowry then threw another full-court pass to a layup before point-Pascal led a fast break resulting in an open Lowry three to stretch the lead to 17. Not to be outdone, Leonard then scored three straight times including two clean threes. Lowry then hit a rim-running Valanciunas to earn his 10th assist and increase the lead to 26.

Weve dropped a couple of games we should shot of dropped — that Detroit game was one we did not want to drop, the Boston game in overtime — its going to happen, said Danny Green who knows first-hand what championship seasons look like. No one is going to be perfect, no one goes 82-0, but we have a lot of potential. Theres a long way to go but there are a lot of good pieces here and but the biggest thing is — from our leaders and vets — we have to build some sustainable habits defensively that we can stick to and rely on where we can win games whether were shooting well or not.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors – 11/27/18 NBA Pick, Odds, and Prediction

Wade then re-entered the game and proceeded to claw the Heat back into it. He hit a cool mid-range pull-up, stepped back for a three, hit a Curry-esque scoop shot, and got Anunoby to bite on another pump fake. Bam Adebayo then earned a few sets of free-throws by sheer force of will and some Heats shooters not named Ellington finally got a few long shots to fall. The Raptors were outscored 27-13 over the final 6:45 of the quarter and somehow still won the quarter by three, entering the final frame up 101-89.

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat: Preview, start time, and more

The teams traded hoops until Wade got a shooters roll from the deep corner and hit a pull up three the following possession, cutting the lead to 8. However, Fred VanVleet responded with three huge baskets including a deceptive pull-back midranger to keep the Heat at bay. Wade did all he could to cut the lead below 10 again but his team was simply outmatched on this night. Lowry’s three from the logo (!) that stretched the lead to 15 with 4:45 left was the nail in the coffin. Wade missed some ill-advised shots late in his pursuit of 40 and the Raptors defended well enough to prevent the Heat from getting any ideas about a comeback as they only cut it to 10 on a meaningless Richardson three with under a minute remaining.

So, the Cavaliers are already 10 games under .500 and have lost the services of Kevin Love (at least until January) and JR Smith. Smith wants no part in Clevelands tanking efforts and has decided to leave the team and await a trade (This is still light years away from Washingtons level of dysfunction, but noteworthy nonetheless). Is anybody interested in acquiring JR Smith? How about Kyle Korver? These veterans should not be wasting the twilight of their respective careers by languishing on the Cleveland bench. Somebody save them, please (except you, Masai, please dont mess with our perfectly perfect team thats finally showing signs of cohesion).

Kawhi Leonard: Raptors coach makes revelation about NBA star after win over Heat

Ultimately, the Raptors won 125-115 to stretch their winning streak to five. The loss is the Heat’s seventh in their last nine games; strange territory for such a competitive franchise. For those concerned about the Raptors recent struggles from deep, this game likely didn’t help as they shot a mere 31%. Still, they beat a team with solid rim protection 60-38 in points in the paint, so it’s hard to be worried about much following this win.

Share Share Five thoughts on last night: Raptors 125, Heat 115 tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports The Toronto Raptors are 17-4. Seventeen wins! In 21 games! Thats pretty damn good. Last night, the Miami Heat put up a decent fight, clawing back a good chunk of a 26-point Raptors lead, but in the end, the Raptors just had too many weapons. Here a few things we saw (and one thing we almost didnt see):

While the Gasol-Conley duo have been holding down the fort for Memphis for 10 years, the metaphorical torch appears to be passing to Jaren Jackson Jr. The highly touted rookie out of Michigan State waited all of two games before earning a spot in the starting lineup. He has been a monster on defense, earning a defensive rating of 95.4 when playing alongside Gasol. (FYI, that rating would lead the league by a wide margin). Heres a list of all the players that can match Jacksons averages of 1.1 steals and 1.9 blocks: Anthony Davis and Rudy Gobert. Thats it.

Leonard has 29, Raptors win 5th straight, top Heat 125-115

One of the things I really enjoy about watching Kawhi Leonard drive is when he just gets a slight edge on the front shoulder — and then uses his superior strength to just move guys out of his way and protect the ball with his upper body.

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Game Preview: Raptors vs Heat

I think you could easily argue Leonard deserved the and-1 on last nights as well; perhaps that strength is what fools officials into thinking there isnt any contact going on?

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Wades throwback performance brings out ambivalence in Wright, Raptors

Lots of talk during and after Fridays game, including yours truly right here, about Kawhi being a black hole on offense. And while I dont think anyone was seriously suggesting Leonard is not a team player or that he cant play within the offense, allow me to present a few examples of Leonard sharing the rock.

On the flip side, the Raptors’ starters combined for 83 points on 31-of-57 shooting (54.4%). Kawhi Leonard once again led the team with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Pascal Siakam came through again, scoring 21 and only missing one of his nine field goals. Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas both dropped double-doubles.

The fact is, Leonard is good enough that he can play doing pretty much whatever he wants on offense, and still be successful. As I said the other night, Id still like to see Leonard get his teammates a little more involved, like we see in those plays above, but who can argue with the results so far?

The Toronto Raptors notched their fifth straight victory with a home win over the Miami Heat. In what was longtime Miami Heat guard, Dwyane Wade‘s final appearance in the Scotiabank Arena, Toronto defeated Miami 125-115. The Raptors led by as much as 26 points and never looked back.

James Johnson sees Raptors remaining attractive to Kawhi Leonard

A huge part of the Raptors building their big lead last night came in transition, and a big part of that was Miamis incredibly poor effort in getting back. The Heat didnt have a single turnover in the first half, and yet somehow still gave up 11 fast break points!

It was a throwback performance and got Wade in both teams’ record books. In scoring 35, Wade set a Miami Heat record with most points by a bench player in a single game. He also found himself in the Raptors’ books as the player with the most 30-point performances against Toronto.

A pick-and-roll between Dwyane Wade and Hassan Whiteside gets Whiteside open for the dunk, but Whitesides man — Jonas Valanciunas — beats everyone back down court for the layup.

There was one play where Siakam got a rebound and led the break hellbent for leather (I dont know what that means but people have been writing it and saying for years so there). He became aware of his surroundings about the top of three-point circle, made a great pass in transition to Green in the corner and Green gave up his good shot for a better one from Lowry, who drilled an above-the-break three for a 17-point Raptors lead.

Heat Game Day: James Johnson starts again in Toronto

Its not like JV sprinted out of the defensive end, either — he actually hangs his head for a minute, before composing himself! Id love to pick on Whiteside here, because, well, low-hanging fruit and all, but this ones Wades responsibility; Valanciunas was hung up and essentially matched up with Wade in transition. Wade simply lost him getting back.

Early in the broadcast, Matt Devlin and Leo Rautins mentioned that Wade was tied for the third-most 30+ point games against the Raptors. It was hard to imagine 36-year-old DWade getting another 30-spot, right?

Nah. Wade came off the bench spitting fire against Toronto, and almost single-handedly kept his team in the game in the first half. He had 16 at the break, on nine shots, along with three boards and two assists. In the third quarter, the Raptors starters blew the game open, and then Wade and the Heat bench almost swung it all the way back the other way.

Kawhi Leonard takes issue with Gregg Popovichs depiction of his leadership

Most notably, as hes done in the past (remember the 2016 playoffs, when he shot 50% from deep?), Wade immediately transformed into a three-point threat against the Raptors; he had 15 total three-point makes on the season coming in to the game, and somehow went 4-for-7 on the night. Hed finish with a cool 35 points (on 22 shots) and six assists.

Can I just say how much I haaaaate hate hate when the broadcast cuts away from game action in the middle of a play?

When a player scores, its not uncommon to get him on camera going back the other way to see a reaction. That closeness and familiarity with players is part of what makes the NBA so great.

But broadcasts have to understand when and where to do it. If the team now on offense is walking the ball up, cool. If the team is getting out on the break, do not cut away! To wit:

Wayne Ellington scores, we see Kyle Lowry clearly pushing the ball and passing it ahead… and then we see James Johnsons head. And then we catch the end of a Kawhi Leonard dunk.

Theres no good reason for this, especially in this case, because Johnson wasnt even the one who scored, and this is the home broadcast. Why are you cutting away from the home team on a fast break?

Well, at 17-4, thats about as successful a first-quarter to the season as we could possibly have hoped for. But its gonna get tougher:

The Raptors have now played 11 games against teams currently under .500. Theyve won all 11. Their average margin of victory in those games: +15.0. Impressive stuff, but theyll only see 2 sub-.500 teams over the next 12 games. Tough stretch coming.

These next 12 games will be a great test for the team now that its (almost) fully healthy, and I for one cant wait to see it.