10 things I saw from Raptors-76ers (2–4–2017)

  1. Coasting: It was Sunday afternoon with a blush of spring in Toronto with the 76ers in town. The Raptors could hardly give a shit about this one and it showed. What could have easily been a 30-point slap became an annoyingly close finish, but the Raptors got the job done. The entire ordeal had the feeling of a glorified scrimmage.
  2. Impressive: Having an effective interior presence makes all the difference for the Raptors’ offense. Serge Ibaka came out aggressive, looked for his offense whenever possible, and mixed in his usual assortment of jumpers and hook shots while making 11 of his last 12 attempts for 24 points in 28 minutes. More of this.
  3. DePointGuard: With Ibaka on fire, and since anyone could get buckets on the 76ers’ defense, DeMar DeRozan decided to become a playmaker. This extended stretch without Kyle Lowry has allowed DeRozan to learn how everyone likes their shots, how to handle double teams, and how to beat the defense with his pass. Having the vision and willingness to find his teammates only makes DeRozan all the more dangerous.
  4. Natural rest: Dwane Casey showed faith in his developmental players (affectionately nicknamed “La Masaia”) to close out the fourth quarter. It got shaky towards the end, but they got it done. This allowed the starters to get their rest the old fashioned way.
  5. DeLong Wright: More impressive defensive awareness from Delon Wright. Twice in his first shift he anticipated the pass, jumped the passing lane, then sparked transition offense. Live-ball turnovers are huge for the bench unit’s offense.
  6. Sloppy, forced, frustrated: Look, we all love Norman Powell. He’s clearly very talented and very driven. But the book is out on him — take away the driving lane, help at the basket and force him into taking a contested shot. He’s not passing, taking bad shots that spoil the floor balance, and he’s staring daggers into the officials every night.
  7. Coaching moment: Dwane Casey did a smart thing by pulling Powell for a brief stretch in the fourth, presumably to calm him down. Norm responded positively by getting a steal, then taking it coast-to-coast for an and-1.
  8. Bench spark: Fred VanVleet got some burn in the fourth quarter and immediately made an impact. He drove it for a layup, stole the inbounds, then drilled a three all within his first minute of play. It’s not easy to always be ready.
  9. Prankster: Matt Devlin revealed that Patrick Patterson spent $300 on post-it notes for his April Fool’s’ Day gag. Patterson then got his boys to decorate the cars.
  10. Settle the debate: Delvin was pushing Austrian Hammer, but Leo Rautins liked Second Chance as the nickname for Jakob Poeltl. Neither sounds appropriate for Tiago Splitter 2.0. Send me your best nickname for Poeltl.