10 things I saw from Raptors-Pelicans (Nov. 9)

  1. Strange game: Not their best performance but the Raptors made enough threes in a sloppy error-filled game filled to get the win against a Pelicans team with some quality wins of late. Clutch shot making by DeMar DeRozan off a few crisp sets down the stretch to close it out. Gotta love those 1–2 pick and rolls with Kyle Lowry.
  2. Battle of the titans: Raptors did everything in their power to knock DeMarcus Cousins off his game. Credit Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka and Jakob Poeltl (but not Bebe Nogueira who fouled 3 times in a minute) for playing active, physical, and frustrating defense to never let Cousins get downhill towards the basket, forcing him to spin, then by sending help off the weak side for steals. Cousins scored 20 on 8–24 shooting with seven turnovers and battled foul trouble.
  3. Beating a bully: Of course, some of Cousins’ struggles were self-inflicted. He talked shit all night, but that only seemed to motivate a Raptors team that sometimes lacks a reason to play. Cousins tried to respond by bullying our bigs — and often he did with driving dunks and step-back threes — but nobody backed down. Eventually, Cousins also got tunnel vision and forced shots trying to draw fouls rather than taking good looks. He even froze out Anthony Davis, who was a passenger.
  4. Inside out: Lowry and DeRozan continue to attack with the pass in mind. Lowry is better working with a rolling threat like Valanciunas, while DeRozan likes to kick it out to a shooter like Ibaka. Either way, the Raptors are finding their bigs in the middle of the floor, which is lead to easy finishes, free throws, or kickouts to open threes. Lowry and DeRozan had 15 of their 27 assists while the Raptors made 16 threes. That’s how this offense is supposed to work.
  5. Getting theirs: DeRozan is having no problems at all initiating his offense and getting a shot, whereas Lowry is struggling to create without the ball in his hands. Lowry’s buckets are all in transition or spot-up threes.
  6. Sloppiness: There’s at least one or two spurts in every game where the Raptors just randomly switch off on defense. They don’t get back in transition, don’t communicate on the 4–5 switch, get crossed on the high post entry where the passer cuts to the rim, and they overreact to dribble penetration and leave corner shooters open.
  7. Bench scoring: Defenses are figuring out what to do against the bench units. CJ Miles is getting face guarded and the other four can’t do enough to generate easy looks. Delon Wright made some threes which helped, but for the most part it’s two guards driving into traffic to find iffy shooters. Lowry needs to see more time here.
  8. Unheralded: Poeltl was sensational on both ends. He played incredible defense against Cousins, giving him room to drive and using his quickness to beat Cousins to the spot. Poeltl was also a one-man wrecking crew on the offensive glass as he created at least six extra possessions just with his hustle.
  9. Gerald Henderson award: Jrue Holiday dominated Wright, which shouldn’t be the case. Holiday had some open looks early and rode that confidence into single-handedly destroying our bench by roasting Wright. That consistency needs to be there from Wright each night, especially on defense.
  10. Rotation notes: The rotation was 11 since Bebe was so unfocused … OG Anunoby closed out the game on defense and was the only one to bother Holiday … DeRozan with the bench had no flow … Pascal Siakam is thriving as a bench energy big.