10 things I saw from Raptors-Magic (3–2–2017)

  1. Warning signs: The Raptors are on the verge of falling apart. The Magic didn’t even play well tonight and they still led for almost the entire second half.
  2. Be careful: Kyle Lowry looked completely gassed and yet he still played 42 minutes out of necessity. His three-ball wasn’t dropping, he wasn’t as explosive on his drives, and he was pass-first for most of the second half. This man is utterly spent and the Raptors need to be really, really careful with his usage. If Lowry breaks we might as well tank the season. I reject the 2014–15 parallels because Lowry is still killing it — when he breaks so does the whole team.
  3. Frustration: Lowry picked up a tech down four with less than three minutes left arguing with the refs. I sympathize with his frustrations but he can’t keep doing this. He followed that up by getting stripped for a layup.
  4. Valiant effort: Jonas Valanciunas was doing work early on in the pick-and-roll against Nik Vucevic, while playing solid defense. But he hardly made any impact in the second half. Not sure why the team went away from him.
  5. Coaching tactics: Dwane Casey’s gameplan is to find any five players who are willing to compete with energy. But sometimes Casey completely ignores schematics. Tonight he played three guards with Norm at the four during a tight spot in the fourth. That lineup predictably tanked. Casey isn’t really helping things.
  6. Promotion: The only positive tonight was the performance of Fred VanVleet, who got backup duties over Cory Joseph. FVV played with energy and aggression on both ends of the floor. He drilled some threes, drove in for a few layups, or at least collapsed the defense to find his bigs. He also pressured the ball without fouling. Basically, FVV gave the Raptors what they’ve been missing from Cory.
  7. Huge concern: Patrick Patterson called it quits after seven minutes with another flare up of his left knee. Patterson is the only competent power forward on the roster and the only player who shows any interest in defense. If his knee doesn’t heal the Raptors are essentially fucked for the season. He is really that indispensable.
  8. Defensive mistakes: So many mental lapses. Bebe leaving his feet and fouling jump shooters even though he’s longer than a Sufjan Stevens song. Perimeter players allowing guards to go middle even when they’re supposed to ICE. Needless switches that lead to extra help rotations and zero rebounders.
  9. Broken: DeMarre Carroll couldn’t make open jumpers (yet he insisted on taking quick transition threes) nor could he finish at the basket. It’s sad watching him out there.
  10. Go. Get. Millsap/Ibaka: Wouldn’t it be nice if the Raptors had someone at power forward who could be a threat in the pick and pop? Wouldn’t it be nice if the backup options behind Patterson aren’t Jared Sullinger (rusty), Terrence Ross (soft as shit), Carroll (broken beyond repair), Pascal Siakam (unplayable), or Bebe Nogueira (needed at backup C)? Make something happen, Masai!