10 things I saw from Raptors-Spurs (24–1–2017)

  1. A productive loss: The Raptors dropped their fourth-straight in a one-possession game. This hurts like a bitch, but at least the team showed progress as compared to their three losses last week. Change won’t come overnight for the Raptors as they look to rebuild their game. Tonight they showed compete, heart, and composure in the end and against the hottest team in basketball. They can build off this one.
  2. Energy: So much of basketball comes down to energy and quick decision making. The Spurs are a perfect example: they run two lineups flying around warp speed all the time, moving the ball, cutting away from the play, forcing the defense to keep up. Raptors were lethargic in the first half but woke up for the second half. Raptors used to do this to opposing teams earlier in the year. Need to get back to that.
  3. Lone gunner: Kyle Lowry can carry the offense without DeMar DeRozan for short stretches. We’ve seen this many times. But the Raptors need to be very careful, because Lowry tends to push it into overdrive and take some major punishment for all the additional drives in the lane. Tonight he was fantastic, but he hit the deck 4 times in the first quarter alone. Please be cautious. Resting him tomorrow would be wise.
  4. Next man up: Norman Powell was incredible, full stop. He was everywhere in the passing lanes, helped out on the glass, and looked to attack the defense every time down. He needed this bounceback game as much as the Raptors needed someone to fill in for DeMar DeRozan’s sizeable shoes. That missed layup at the end was painful and not indicative of what Norm provided tonight.
  5. Bench steps up: Tremendous effort from the Raptors’ bench tonight. Cory Joseph got them going in the third quarter with a hot spurt. Terrence Ross was great in his role as the Sixth Man scorer. Patrick Patterson couldn’t go the distance but he drilled some open shots he normally bricks, Bebe Nogueira was phenomenal.
  6. Disappointing starters: Those contributions would have been enough for a win had DeMarre Carroll and Jared Sullinger given them a little more than literally nothing. They went 0–10 for two points and weren’t good on defense, either.
  7. Patman returns: Strong showing for Patterson in his return. He took a charge, drilled a corner 3, dribbled to basket for a nice finish, and drained a baseline pull-up. His energy faded in the second half but this was encouraging. He looked much better tonight as compared to in his hasty return against Boston two weeks ago.
  8. Up and down: Jonas Valanciunas started by repeatedly losing David Lee in transition. He was benched for a solid 10 minutes but responded well in the second half. His post defense against LaMarcus Aldridge was strong and he was active on the glass. Jonas flubbed a few pick and rolls that could have swung the game.
  9. Minor notes: Bebe and Ross miscommunicated on some side pick-and-rolls, Raptors did a better job of containing penetration when they switched 1–3 on the perimeter, Sully-Jonas frontcourt is somehow slower than Scola-Jonas.
  10. Go. Get. Millsap: Everyone’s favorite note is back! The Raptors could really use some more help in the frontcourt, especially at power forward. Sullinger or Bebe at the four isn’t close to being good enough.