10 things I saw from Raptors-Knicks (Nov. 22) – The Defeated
So, wtf happened? They didn’t play with intensity to start the second half and couldn’t turn on the switch until it was too late. I want to blame them for doing this, but the first two quarters were so easy for them that it’s somewhat understandable. Most of the run was the Raptors running stagnant sets on offense that led to bad shots and turnovers which sparked the Knicks’ transition game.
7 hours ago
Awful third quarter sinks Raptors in loss to Knicks | Toronto Sun
“That sh– was a blur,” point guard Kyle Lowry said of the third quarter. “It was a blur to me. We had seven turnovers, missed some good looks. They started out aggressive, made shots. That pretty much won the game for them. You have to tip your hat sometimes. For a team to get going like that, they did an unbelievable job. For us, we had seven turnovers. I missed a couple of shots, DeMar (DeRozan) missed shots, Serge (Ibaka) missed some shots, JV (Jonas Valanciunas) missed a layup. It happens man.”

Lowry played down the loss. Dwane Casey did not afford himself the same luxury.

“We did that to ourselves,” the head coach said. “I give the Knicks all the credit, they are playing well, especially here at home, but we talked about that. We have to match their energy and we did not do it except with that stretch with the second unit. The first unit did not match their energy defensively or offensively. We didn’t play with any force, any pace, any toughness to warrant anything.”

On three different occasions in that fourth quarter, the Raptors got the lead down to six points, but each time the Knicks pulled away.
7 hours ago
Raptors benefit as DeRozan delivers on vow to evolve as a playmaker - Sportsnet.ca
It’s his improving ability to make plays for those around him that jumps out, and bodes well as DeRozan gets into the heart of his prime, where players with true staying power evolve and find ways to continue to thrive even as their athletic ability ebbs ever-so-slightly.

“As far as passing the basketball, making plays, [the] quasi-point guard mentality, he’s done an excellent job and that’s what we need him to do,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who has coached DeRozan for seven seasons and can easily recall a player who panicked when facing double teams in the post, or was clunky and pre-programmed when teams tried to trap him coming out of pick-and-rolls.

That’s not the case now, as DeRozan trails only Steph Curry and Bradley Beal among players who generate a scoring opportunity as the primary ball-handler in a pick-and-roll, per NBA.com. His assist rate– he’s assisting on 23.9 per cent of his teammate’s field goals this season after averaging 14.7 per cent for his career to this point— is at all-time high too.

“He’s setting other people up, he’s taking what the game’s giving him,” says Casey. “ And with a dynamic scorer like him, if you have that other facet of the game going, where you’re making plays, seeing other people, it makes you more effective.”

In the course of the Raptors mission to modernize their offense and make it less predictable and more even-handed, DeRozan was approached about taking on added responsibilities as a playmaker. Not only did he say he was open to it, he’s followed through with his actions.

“I think it’s just me being a critic of myself, understanding how I can be better and make everybody around me better,” he said after practice at the BioSteel Centre before the Raptors headed out on three-game Eastern Conference road trip beginning Wednesday night in New York against the Knicks and including a stop in Indianapolis Friday and Atlanta on Saturday. “That’s always been my approach, especially coming into this season. I know I can score, I know I can do this, but I want to make everybody around me even more comfortable. That’s been kinda my mindset and it makes it a lot more fun, especially for me.”
7 hours ago
Takeaways: Atrocious third quarter costs Raptors in New York - Sportsnet.ca
It’s hard to understate just how atrociously the Raptors played during the third quarter of this game. They had little cohesion on offence, they bricked shot after shot after shot (Toronto went 1-of-16 from the field in the quarter), and they turned the ball over repeatedly, more than once throwing errant passes to vacant spots on the floor.

Meanwhile, at the other end, New York got absolutely anything it wanted on offence, scoring from mid range, from beyond the arc, and in the paint. The Raptors provided very little resistance throughout, and looked like a group simply waiting for the quarter to end.

The Knicks ended up going on a 32-3 run in the third (including 28 consecutive New York points), forcing Casey to frantically shuffle his rotations in search of any solution to stop the bleeding. But he couldn’t find it, and by the time the dust settled, the Raptors finished the quarter down 20 after coming into it with an 11-point lead.
7 hours ago
Podcast - Raptors/Knicks was incredibly weird - Locked On Raptors
In Episode 232 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley and Sahal Abdi (Raptors Republic) recap a wonderfully bizarre Raptors/Knicks game in which MSG was rocking, the Knicks went on a 28-0 third quarter run, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam shone, Serge Ibaka coasted except when he didn’t, and DeMar DeRozan had two wildly different halves.
7 hours ago
Don’t put an asterisk on this one: This was a Knicks statement win | New York Post
Not after the Knicks held off the inevitable Raptors comeback in the fourth quarter, a surge that was eerily reminiscent of what the Cavaliers had done here nine days earlier and elicited a sound among the 19,812 people that approximated nausea.

And not after vanquishing the Raptors, who had outclassed them in Toronto last Friday, who had won eight in a row over the Knicks dating to early in the 2015-16 season, who may not be the Celtics, but are in that rung just below them in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks have won plenty of confidence builders this year.

This was for something else. This was to prove they belong, that they really can play with anybody. They hinted at that against Cleveland, but couldn’t close the deal that night. They closed this time.

“We challenged the guys at halftime,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We played hard in the first half, but that’s a great team with a lot of energy and they really got after us. But we told them to put the pressure on and make nothing east and they responded in that third quarter. They were great.”

Hardaway especially, who poured in a career-high 38 points and added seven assists and has become in every way the team’s unquestioned emotional core. It was Hardaway (12) and Courtney Lee (11) who combined for 23 points and fueled the brunt of that 28-0 third-quarter explosion, one that came with Kristaps Porzingis contributing only a couple of free throws on offense.

“This is such an unselfish team,” Hardaway said.
7 hours ago
Raptors endure worst quarter in franchise history, lose to Knicks 108-100 - Raptors HQ
No, you didn’t read that incorrectly — it was a 28-0 run. Toronto started the quarter shooting 0-for-a helluva lot, and at one point it looked like the starting group was losing composure, jacking up ill-advised shots, taking unnecessary risks on defense and offense, and really allowing New York (the team and the city) to get in their heads.

After shooting 49 percent from the field and 43 percent from 3 in the first half, the Raptors would hit 1-of-16 shots in the third, good for 6 percent from the field. Again, this was a quarter to forget, as the Raptors finished the frame down twenty, good for a 31 point swing on the score board. They were outscored 41-10. Incredible.

Tim Hardaway absolutely torched Toronto, as he finished with 38 points (OG Amber alert) on 13-of-27 overall, 4-of-9 from distance, while managing to make 8-of-10 free throws. Oh, he also added six boards and seven assists. This was the Hardaway show through and through. Toronto had no answers for him as they focused the second half on stuffing the post.

In the 4th, Toronto thankfully began playing with a tenacity and energy completely missing in the third quarter. Multiple times, thanks to defensive stops and rebounding the ball, they were able to chip the lead down to 6, only to miss a crucial shot, followed by another, to let the Knicks once again take control.

It wasn’t until the final frame that Ibaka, who played one of his most forgettable games as a Raptor tonight, made three jumpers in a row to give Toronto some hope. Kyle Lowry, who appeared to be the only Raptor playing with urgency throughout the game, also hit some cold-blooded shots to scare the Knicks, who watched a 20 point lead evaporate in under five minutes in the fourth quarter.
7 hours ago
Toronto Raptors winning streak: By the numbers - RealSport
When the Raptors lost the Cavaliers for the second year running in last season’s playoffs, Raptors GM Masai Ujiri called for a culture reset. Casey and Co. listened. Compared to last season, the Raptors are averaging five more assists and seven more attempted  3-point shots per game in 2017/18. Even the king of the mid-range, DeMar DeRozan, has extended his scope to the 3-point line, almost doubling his attempts from beyond the arc.

Other notable performances have included Delon Wright’s continual improvement as the backup point guard, Pascal Siakam’s suffocating defense (notably against the Wizards on Sunday night) and rookie OG Anunoby’s development.

The cultural change isn’t without its challenges though. Kyle Lowry has struggled through the early games this season, averaging just 14.6 points per game, 8 less than last season. His production has at least increased during the Raptors’ hot streak, and should Lowry get going and strengthen his already formidable partnership with DeRozan, look out. 

Check out some of the dynamic duo’s highlights against New York recently that sum up the Raptors culture change and show off the significant improvements from the supporting cast.
18 hours ago
Sohi: It’s time to talk about swapping Pascal Siakam in for Jonas Valanciunas in the Raptors’ starting unit – The Athletic
The Raptors are 17.7 points per possession better with Siakam in the starting lineup than Valanciunas. They clamp down defensively, allowing just 98 points per 100 possessions. It's a small sample size, but one that certainly passes the eye test. Siakam provides defensive versatility that Valanciunas, or any of the other big men on the roster, simply cannot. On the defensive end, he is Lucas Nogueira's upside paired with Jakob Poeltl's consistency.
Last season, Siakam's motor powered his offence. When Kyle Lowry's eyes shoot up the floor after corralling a defensive rebound, it is Siakam's stride he is looking for. In the halfcourt, though, he was a major liability. This season, however, he's added just enough to his game that defences can't ignore him. His corner three-pointer remains iffy, but he's whipped out a spin move as of late — it's wobbly and occasionally anxiety-inducing, but it's improving.
“I love the way he's playing now,” said Casey. “He's so much more improved from last year as far as handling the basketball, making decisions, reading situations, and not just out there just using all that motor. He's really thinking the games. He's playing hard.”
His game is, on both ends, growing. I'd like to see how it progresses buoyed by the cushion of playing with the starters, with less (read: absolutely no) attention paid to his offence.
The risk of this move — and it is no small one — is disrupting the current chemistry of the bench unit. Toronto's second unit lineup (with Delon Wright) is outscoring opponents by 12.6 points per possession. They manage this by being utterly destructive on the defensive end, allowing a game-curdling 88 points per 100 possessions, and running off misses in transition. Siakam, of course, figures heavily in both categories. Valanciunas decidedly does not.
18 hours ago
Is DeMar DeRozan playing his best basketball as a Toronto Raptor? – The Athletic
There was a lot of talk about the need for DeRozan to add the three-point shot to his arsenal this summer. It's his play-making that's always seemed a little more important. Threes are great, of course, and DeRozan is putting them up this season with greater regularity than ever before, but the Raptors will rarely want DeRozan in the corner, and his reluctance to pass has often proven to be the team's stylistic bottleneck.
That appears to be changing. For several playoff series now, DeRozan's dealt with heavy trapping and blitzing, with opponents selling out to get the ball out of his hands. His success has been uneven, and it's clear he made dealing with those scenarios a focus of his off-season work. With greater responsibility, DeRozan is getting a greater sense of how defences respond to him, and he's using the attention he draws to manipulate that defence rather than just respond to it. Through 16 games, he's averaging a career-high 22.9 per cent assist rate, good for 4.6 per game.
“I know I can score, I know I can do this, but I want to make everybody around me even more comfortable,” DeRozan said. “That's been kinda my mindset and it makes it a lot more fun, especially for me. I tell guys all the time, I don't care if I pass you the ball 20 times in a row and you miss 20 shots in a row, I'm gonna pass it 21st-second-third time, every time down, you know? And just to give that confidence, that go a long way. I really don't pay attention to the assists, they just come. That's just the confidence I got in my teammates.”
His teammates are shooting 33.9 per cent on threes he sets up and 55.3 per cent on twos. The former is still a smallish sample size that could improve with more time alongside C.J. Miles or better shooting from Lowry. The latter is the best on the team (yes, even better than Lowry's 53.5 per cent). Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas have been the primary beneficiaries, combining for a 24-of-40 mark inside the arc following a DeRozan pass. His turnover rate is up in conjunction with the heavier passing emphasis, but he remains one of the game's more sure-handed high-volume players.
18 hours ago
Ranking the 5 Best NBA Contracts at Each Position Right Now | Bleacher Report
5. Delon Wright, Toronto Raptors ($1,645,200)

Now in his third professional season and still operating on his rookie-scale contract after the Toronto Raptors chose to pick up his team option for both this season and 2018-19, Delon Wright has developed into everything the Canadian franchise could've wanted from its backup point guard. Well, he "had" developed into that player prior to dislocating his right shoulder—the same troublesome body part that has kept him out of action in the past. 

But assuming Wright returns to his early-season form when he re-enters the lineup, he'll continue to serve as a tremendous value off the Toronto bench. 

His three-point stroke isn't there, as he was shooting only 28.6 percent from downtown prior to his injury. But his growing work as a facilitator, physical defense against both 1- and 2-guards, solid work on the glass and scoring acumen around the basket still made him quite valuable. Last year, the Raptors posted a 4.71 net rating with Wright playing and Kyle Lowry on the pine, per PBPStats.com; this season, that number has swelled to 7.18. 
18 hours ago
DeRozan reboot more than a passing fancy | Toronto Star
“I tell guys all the time: I don’t care if I pass you the ball 20 times in a row and you miss 20 shots in a row, I’m gonna pass it a twenty-first, -second, -third time, every time down, you know?” DeRozan said. “And just to give that confidence, that goes a long way. I really don’t pay attention to the assists, they just come. That’s just the confidence I’ve got in my teammates.”

Confidence matters here, for sure. And maybe a team-wide lack of it contributed to the Raptors averaging a meagre 23 three-pointers a game, ninth-fewest in the league. This year, with the ball moving and the green light always flashing, they’re jacking up about 31 a game, fifth-most in the league. If they can figure out a way to make a few more — they’re among the bottom 10 teams in three-point accuracy — they could get dangerous. As it is, in the midst of a four-game win streak that has run their record to 11-5, they’ve made do impressively enough.

“We’re getting so many open looks,” Casey said. “We’ve got to get in a rhythm to knock them down.”

DeRozan is among those taking more three-pointers — not that anyone is going to confuse him with a Splash Brother. He’s averaging nearly three attempts a game, a career-high pace.

Still, it wouldn’t be a leap to suggest that the increased threat that DeRozan might take a three — coupled with the increased threat that he might actually do damage with a timely pass — is making it easier for him to do what he does best. Yes, the mid-range game remains his pet tendency. He has launched nearly a third of his field-goal attempts from between 10 and 16 feet, according to Basketball-Reference.com, on pace for career-high volume from this familiar pocket. And if that could be considered counter to the cause — because surely shooting more mid-range jumpers wasn’t part of this season’s grand plan — DeRozan is providing a saving grace. He’s shooting 50 per cent from the field from between 10 and 16 feet — a career-high pace in yet another category. That number suggests he’s getting easier shots, or maybe taking better ones.
18 hours ago
Has rookie OG Anunoby made a case for inclusion in the Raptors’ starting lineup? – The Athletic [subscription]
In the last week, Anunoby has been tasked with guarding Harden, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Al Horford for different stretches, a remarkably diverse mix that speaks to head coach Dwane Casey’s emerging trust in the rookie. Getting key crunch-time assignments against the opponent’s hottest or most dominant scoring threat is a role generally saved for more experienced, proven defenders, and yet Anunoby has already vaulted toward the top of that pecking order. It says a lot, too, that Anunoby was asked to play the final nine minutes of the close-out, blowing past his earlier season-high in minutes by more than 30 per cent.
Anunoby has now played 28 minutes with the starters over three games. That group has outscored opponents by 23.7 points per-100 possessions, the best mark of any five-man unit the Raptors have deployed for more than 12 minutes this season. The Raptors have defended well when he’s on the floor – his 97.8 defensive rating is second only to Fred VanVleet among regulars, he owns the best net rating (plus-16.3) and early, small-sample advanced metrics like Box Plus-Minus or Real Plus-Minus grade him favourably in the small window he’s played.
On paper, playing Anunoby with the starters makes some sense. He might be the team’s best perimeter defender at a number of positions, something the starting lineup has desperately needed for some time and something Powell or C.J. Miles can only offer against certain player types. He’s a low-usage option who doesn’t require the ball – his usage rate is at a modest 14.8 per cent through 13 games – but he reads the floor well enough to cut into space effectively or make a pass to keep the ball moving along the perimeter. He’s been eager to attack closeouts, shows a willingness and ability to create for others on the move, and has even knocked down 14 of his 34 three-point attempts, good for 41.2 per cent overall and 42.9 per cent in the corners.

(Courtesy: AustinClemens.com)
He may introduce some spacing concerns, with opponents likely more willing to let Anunoby beat them than Miles beyond the arc or Powell attacking from the corner. Anunoby has proven solid in his role on offence, but there’s a bit of an offence-defence trade-off looming.
7 days ago
Raptors: Indiana product OG Anunoby one of NBA's best rookies - Indianapolis Star
Mistakes aside, Anunoby is performing as well as some of the NBA's premier rookies. His offensive rating (121) beats out Boston's Jayson Tatum (118), Los Angeles' Kyle Kuzma (108) and Philadelphia's Ben Simmons (105), to name a few.

His offensive box plus/minus, an advanced stat that estimates a player's offensive production against a league average, is a whopping 3.4. Tatum is the only rookie in that group even close, and he's at 0.8.

So far, he's only getting about 17 minutes and five shot attempts per game as a role player alongside DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, which certainly helps pad his efficiency. But in his first opportunity with real playing time, Anunoby shined.
8 days ago
The Toronto Raptors youth has a bright future - FanSided
Anunoby, on the other hand, profiles as exactly the type of defender who can take on those larger wings. Standing about 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and weighing 232 pounds at the 2017 NBA Draft Combine, Anunoby has the physical tools to be a high-level wing stopper. The mental side is lagging behind a little bit, but that’s to be expected from a rookie just a handful of games into his career. He got his crack at Harden, as almost every Raptor did in Tuesday’s game against Houston, and there were certainly some mixed results. Multiple times in the first half, Anunoby failed to execute the Weak scheme and let Harden get to the middle of the floor with his left hand, where he’s at his best. Things improved in the second half and those sorts of inconsistencies will be ironed out as he continues to mature on the floor.

Offensively, Anunoby is and almost certainly will always be extremely limited. He looks incredibly awkward with the ball in his hands, especially if he has to dribble with his left hand. There’s very little chance he ever develops into a secondary creator unless there’s a complete transformation in his future. Still, he can be a useful offensive player as he is; he can knock down the corner 3 and drive past an overzealous closeout to finish at the rim, which should be all the Raptors will need him to do on that end of the floor. He showed off both skills against the Rockets, hitting six of his eight shots en route to 16 points and a game-best +22.
8 days ago
The Toronto Raptors changed their offense with an eye to the postseason. Will it work? - The Washington Post
Two seasons ago, Toronto was 19th in three-pointers attempted and 29th in assists per game. Last season, the Raptors were 22nd and 30th, respectively.

This season, though, the Raptors are eighth and 11th, respectively, and performances such as Tuesday night’s 129-113 win over the Rockets in Houston – with 30 three pointers attempted and 28 assists on 41 made baskets – are becoming the norm.

“Anything that [can be] beneficial is always worth trying,” DeRozan said. “If it’s something that’s better in the long run, without a doubt. And then still, within that, [we’re] using the same things that have made us successful over the years, as well.”

The early returns are encouraging. Toronto is third in offensive efficiency, averaging 109 points per 100 possessions per NBA.com, indicating that pivoting away from so much reliance on Lowry and DeRozan won’t mean a slip in scoring.

But what has slipped, at least early on, is Lowry’s production. He’s taking fewer shots, not shooting as well and most notably, taking fewer than half as many free throws as he did the past two years (although the latter could be attributed to the NBA’s crackdown on exaggerated drawing of shooting fouls, a skill Lowry has mastered).
8 days ago
Raptors get signature road win but there’s still a need for consistency | Toronto Star
I’m trying to think of the last time the Raptors had a rookie who came in with the defensive awareness and skills of OG Anunoby and I’m really having a hard time coming up with a single name.

The kid’s versatile and willing and has a basketball IQ that’s high for someone so unproven.

Now, he’s going to have nights that aren’t nearly as effective as last night’s and everyone’s going to have to live with that. They also need to be at least a little bit careful with his knee since he’s still early for his expected ACL rehab time. And Dwane’s aware of it.

“He played more than we wanted him to. We didn’t want him to play 29 but, again, we had to have those quick feet and his defensive ability in there. He said he felt . . . good, he was playing well and we rode with him.”

Yeah, you’re gonna have to look long and hard to find a Raptor coach who’s said that about a rookie before.
8 days ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Rockets (Nov. 14) – The Defeated
Nigerian Kawhi: OG Anunoby started in place of Norman Powell and made his case for why he should keep that spot. OG put the clamps on James Harden (8–25 FG, 9 TO) while also scoring 16 points with 3 triples and a massive dunk at the end of the game over Chinese Kristaps. Anunoby kept Harden in check by defending with his feet and his length, staying in front, and always forcing Harden to shoot over him. His confidence in shooting the three is very encouraging.
8 days ago
Rockets have defensive lapse in loss to Raptors - Houston Chronicle
The Raptors went from making nearly 60 percent of their shots in the first half to 41.2 percent in the third quarter. After scoring 45 second-quarter points, they put up 27. The Rockets mostly lived at the line, but that was enough to extend the game and keep them scoring despite their misfiring from the 3-point line.
With 7 ½ minutes left, they had closed to within five. But Harden had picked up fouls on consecutive possessions, forcing him to take a seat with five fouls. The Rockets offense sat with him.
The Raptors glided through an 8-0 run to lead, 116-103, heading into the final five minutes. Harden broke through with a four-point play, bringing the Rockets within nine. But even with that 3, the Rockets had not found their shooting touch. And despite their run, they had not gotten the defense anywhere near where it would have to be to shut down the Raptors down the stretch.
Even when they led early, taking their lead to as much as eight in the first quarter, the Rockets seemed to be trying to find their usual energy. Harden had rolled through a 16-point quarter to help build the lead, but the Rockets were not finishing well or hitting 3s around him.
Most of all, they were not offering even a replica of the defense they had played through most of the past two weeks, with the Raptors beating them badly off the dribble to get to the rim or force the Rockets to leave shooters open at the 3-point line.
8 days ago
Rockets fall to Raptors to end winning streak - The Dream Shake
They actually battled back from as much as a 20-point deficit to get within 108-103 with 7 minutes left to go in the game when The Beard went to the bench with five fouls. The Rockets would get no closer. This was definitely a moment when the Rockets could have used another future Hall-of-Fame point guard to handle the rock while Harden sat. Thankfully for them, there’s one on the way in just a few days’ time.

In addition to Harden, the Rockets were also led by Trevor Ariza, who finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds while shooting 5-8 from deep, and they also got 11 and 11 from Clint Capela, and 13 points and 7 boards from Tarik Black in a strong performance off the bench.

The Rockets’ bench was outscored 50-23 overall tonight however, building yet more of a case for D’Antoni to open up the rotation on nights like these. Troy Williams, anyone?

The Raptors had a pretty balanced scoring attack to overcome the Rockets, as they were led by DeMar DeRozan, who had 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, and Kyle Lowry, who had 19 points and 10 assists. They also got 19 from C.J. Miles, who was shooting hot, 16 from OG Anunoby, 14 from Delon Wright, and 12 from Jonas Valanciunas.
8 days ago
Raptors beat a good team, win 129-113 against Rockets - Raptors HQ
It was the fulcrum of a huge night for most of the Raptors. Kyle Lowry was alive again and pushing the bench unit to new heights, anchoring a second quarter push that gave the Raptors the lead for good. He finished with 19 points and ten assists. DeMar DeRozan, as he is wanton to do, led the Raptors with 27 points on 16 shots — adding six assists, five of those coming in the first quarter alone.

That start for the Raptors was everything the finish on Sunday against the Celtics wasn’t. The ball was zipping around, and Houston’s early strategy was to double DeRozan in the post or trap him up top. DeMar made all the right decisions, finding Jonas Valanciunas on the roll three times in five minutes to keep the Raptors in it. Once Harden and the Rockets’ best gunners went to the bench, Toronto was able to win minutes with Lowry and CJ Miles out there; Miles put in his bi-weekly Mo Peterson night with six(!) triples for 19 points.

Holding a double-digit lead was more difficult late in the game. The Rockets grew frustrated with the whistle, PJ Tucker was ejected, and the Toyota Centre (oddly empty) came alive. In turn, the referees were a bit more forgiving of Houston’s usual foul-drawing shenanigans, and a parade to the free throw line narrowed the Raptors’ lead to as low as six.
8 days ago
GANTER: Oh, what could have been with Tucker and the Raptors | Toronto Sun
Had he stayed, Tucker likely would have flourished even more. So far this season, the new, ball-moving Raptors are chucking up threes with as much regularity as any team in the NBA not named Houston.

Instead, he lined up opposite his old teammates Tuesday night in the first of two meetings between the Rockets and Raptors this season.

Tucker has brought to Houston exactly what he brought to Toronto — a versatile defender who can score from the outside. He, along with Luc Mbah a Moute, have taken the Rockets’ second unit to new heights, says Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

“The second unit consists of a defensive, switching team that they’ve put together that is very tough-minded,” Casey said. “They are tough-minded defensive guys, they have the ability to switch, they’re two-way guys that also have the ability to shoot the three. They’ve kind of bolstered their second unit with defensive players and tough-minded guys.”

Casey, while reluctant to see Tucker on the other side, sees the potential to develop another Tucker of their own, and maybe one who can be even a little bit better than Tucker with some seasoning.

“We feel like OG (Anunoby) is going to be that guy in time, no question about it, a better version of P.J. in time, but right now P.J. has the experience factor over OG,” Casey said. “It’s tough, we lost a lot of experience last year but our young guys are getting it now, they’re learning on the fly and they’re doing a good job. They’re putting us in a position to win, we just got to get over the hump and play through some of their mistakes, which we knew going into the season they were going to make.”
8 days ago
GANTER: Raptors beat high-powered Rockets at own game | Toronto Sun
The Raptors basically beat the Rockets at their own game out three-pointing them 14-12 in the win.

DeMar DeRozan, who didn’t make a three, led all Raptors with 27 but he got plenty of help with 19 points from Kyle Lowry, a huge 16 from rookie OG Anunoby and 19 off the bench from C.J. Miles who was 6-for-9 from distance and seemed to save his biggest makes for when the Rockets were threatening the most.

James Harden still got his, going off for 38 on the night, but it didn’t matter as the Raptors simply outworked the Houston team for its eighth win in 13 games and handing Houston just its fourth loss in its first 15.

Harden’s primary defender was the rookie Anunoby for most of the night and regardless of the 38 he put up, Casey was pleased with what he saw from his first year player.

“I thought OG came in and did a heckuva job,” Casey said. “You’re not going to stop a young man like Harden but I thought he made him work for every inch of the court he tried to get to and used his foot speed and length to make it difficult. He still scored, still he made him work and that’s what we need out of that position.”
8 days ago
Raptors overpower Rockets with record second quarter | Toronto Star
Anunoby was asked to be the primary defender on Harden and did as good a job as anyone, and contributed a trio of three-pointers to the cause.

In the last week, the 20-year-old has been asked to guard a range of players from Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans to Harden and Boston’s Jaylen Brown, and has been solid each time out.

“You’re not going to stop a young man like Harden, but I thought he made him work for every inch of the court he tried to get to, and used his foot speed and length to make it difficult,” Casey said of Anunoby.

“(Harden) still scored. Still, he made him work and that’s what we need out of that position.”

Toronto’s first half was one of the most offensively explosive ones in franchise history.

By piling up 45 points in a franchise-record second quarter, Toronto jumped out to a 76-64 halftime advantage. The 76 points were a season best by 10, and just three off the all-time mark of 79, set in New Jersey in 1997.

Meanwhile, if there was much anticipation about the impact P.J. Tucker would have playing his first game against his former Raptors teammates, it dissipated quickly. Tucker played only 16 minutes, with no points and five rebounds, before he was ejected after picking up two lightning-quick technical fouls midway through the third quarter.
8 days ago
Raptors see Anunoby filling Tucker’s big shoes | Toronto Star
Continuing to rave about the Toronto rookie forward’s mentality and skills, Casey sees a striking similarity to Tucker, whose Rockets faced the Raptors here Tuesday night.

“We feel like OG is going to be that guy in time, no question about it,” Casey said before his team’s shootaround Tuesday morning. “A better version of P.J. in time, but right now P.J. has the experience factor over OG.”

The experience cannot be taught and it’s only 13 games into Anunoby’s career, so extrapolating too much might not be wise, but Casey does draw parallels between the 32-year-old Tucker and the 20-year-old Anunoby.

“The toughness factor, the size factor,” Casey said. “He’s the same size. He’s maybe a little bit bigger than P.J., but the physicality part of it? He’s just like P.J. from that standpoint.

“And he has no fear. The young fella has no fear and that’s what we love about him, that he has no fear. But again, does he make mistakes? Yes. And our job now is grow him, cut down on some of his ‘oh crap’ moments that give up a three-point shot or backdoor, whatever it is. We have the patience to do that with him.”
8 days ago
Wednesday NBA preview: Toronto Raptors at New Orleans Pelicans | Toronto Star
The availability of injured Raptors forward Norm Powell (hip) won’t be known for certain until game time. . . . Rajon Rondo returned to the Pelicans lineup on a limited basis, playing four minutes of a win over Atlanta on Monday. . . . The Raptors have won five in a row over New Orleans, including the first meeting between the teams this season. . . . Cousins, Holiday and Davis are all in the top five in minutes played so far this season.
8 days ago
How the home of the Maple Leafs and Raptors got its new name - Sportsnet.ca
"I think that name’s perfect," said Hopkinson, the chief commercial officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.

MLSE and Scotiabank considered a handful of new names, including Scotiabank Gardens, which would’ve been a nod to downtown’s historic Maple Leaf Gardens, now part Loblaws grocery store, part Ryerson University athletic facility.

"In Toronto, the Gardens is a bit of hallowed ground," said Doig, who reminded that MLG never had corporate sponsorship. "Part of the city would’ve said, ‘You dirty bastards.’ "

The parties were also concerned that "Scotiabank Gardens" would get abbreviated in conversation to "The Gardens," the way Boston’s TD Garden is "The Garden."

Invoking the spirit of epic boxing matches and historic bullfights, Doig says, "Big things happen in arenas."

Hopkinson likes how uninteresting "Scotiabank Arena" sounds. That’s intentional, to make the sponsor the default slang.

"A year from now, we’ll be going to Scotia to go to the hockey game or the concert," Hopkinson said.
8 days ago
Takeaways: Raptors rebound by attacking Rockets' defence - Sportsnet.ca
Anunoby got the start in place of Norman Powell, who sat out with a hip injury suffered in the first quarter of the Celtics game on Sunday. The first-year forward rookie stepped in seamlessly to provide the same staunch defence and three-point threat the team expects from Powell in that starting five— and then some.

Anunoby logged a season-high 30 minutes on Tuesday and had a team-best plus-22 rating to show for it. He took on his assignments admirably, guarding Harden tough, disrupting the ball in passing lanes and during man-to-man coverage. Although he passed out on a couple of clean looks, he scored a season-high 16 points, shot a tidy 3-4 from deep, and was active as we’ve come to expect.

He’s been the most eye-opening player on the roster this season and should be around for a long, long time. Who knows yet if he has star potential, but right now Anunoby is both understanding and accepting of the role being given to him by his coaching staff and performs the job being asked of him. Simple as it may sound, that’s often the hardest adjustment for incoming rookies, who’ve spent their amateur careers in the centre of their own basketball universe. Anunoby just gets it, and both he and his team will benefit from it.
8 days ago
Podcast - Raps/Rockets Reaction & Team Building Qs with Matt Moore - Locked On Raptors
In Episode 227 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley chats with Matt Moore (@HPBasketball, CBSSports.com) about the Raptors’ win over Houston, their offensive struggles against Boston on Sunday, larger team-building questions related to DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas, and the job Dwane Casey has done this season.
8 days ago
The Raptors’ three-point guard lineup is niche, but potentially deadly – The Athletic [subscription]
Prior to Tuesday night, Raptors coach Dwane Casey had used the three together for just 10 minutes. There is nothing to criticize there — it is a niche lineup for specific situations. Memorably, the Raptors used three point guards together when they came back to beat Charlotte last year before the all-star break.
And while you do not want to get caught playing the exact same game as the Rockets like to, with the tempo fast and three-pointers flying, the Raptors were essentially able to outperform them playing that style for those minutes. The Rockets have no post-up threat; their only big man on the floor, whether it was Clint Capela or Tarik Black, are screen-setters and rollers.
It is a stretch to say Lowry and VanVleet are even 6-feet. The Rockets were not playing any pint-sized guards at the time. However, in this case, style is more important than size.
“Well, I’m big, so I don’t know about that,” Lowry said when asked about the smaller lineup. “But I think the way they play gave us the opportunity to do it. They don’t post up much and spread the floor so we had opportunities to be out there with a smaller unit. We’ve done it before and it worked out tonight. It was a good lineup tonight.”
Still, there are obvious issues on the defensive end. Again, the Rockets’ style mitigates that problem a little bit, but the Raptors have to find a way to play good initial defence, challenge three-pointers and close out possessions with a rebound. The Rockets did not get a single rebound during the span, a credit to the group figuring it out.
8 days ago
Kyle Lowry: The Raptors' Stifled Star | SI.com
This might be the least assertive Lowry has ever been. His free throw rate has cratered to a clear career worst—a drop that has naturally been linked to changes in how the league is officiating continuity. Lowry used to wring a few Hardenesque free throws a game out of created contact at the point of the screen. When a well-intended defender would chase him through a pick-and-roll, Lowry baited the contact and then coughed up a shot. As those plays are ruled now, Lowry would not be awarded free throws. This costs Lowry, though it’s worth noting that he’s drawing significantly fewer fouls of all kinds. The issue isn’t simply that Lowry isn’t getting to the line, but that he isn’t applying pressure. His lack of drawn shooting fouls, down from 2.4 per game last year to 0.6 this year, are a mere symptom.

The reality is that Lowry no longer has the same opportunity. Hackneyed sports tradition would tell you that he needs only to be more aggressive. But if you take the ball out of a point guard’s hands, discourage him from attacking off the dribble in the way that made him successful, and cap his minutes, to boot, you deny him the fundamental means to produce. Toronto has gone a step further by changing its rotation, denying Lowry the chance to rack up points with and against second units. 

Lineups featuring Lowry and three or four bench players have been the Raptors’ secret weapon for years. Even when the starters would play opponents to a loss, Lowry and a cast of smart, hard-working teammates could make up ground and then some. Without DeRozan around to collaborate with, Lowry shot more often and drew more free throws. The starts of the second and fourth quarters were where Lowry ate and, often, where Toronto won its games.
8 days ago
Breaking down the early returns of the Raptors’ new pass friendly offence – The Athletic [subscription]
Based on the first 12 games, it appears Casey has integrated side-to-side actions more heavily into his playbook to accomplish this ball-sharing task. This isn’t to say that he has reinvented his playbook; he has merely redistributed his play-calling to favour sets that push the ball through multiple hands before finding his stars. That this change is incremental is a particularly important point. Toronto has been one of the better teams in the league in recent years, and portions of its offence clearly work. To throw it all away is both unnecessary and risky, as it can be a tough pill to swallow — particularly for Lowry and DeRozan — when you’ve built a comfort level with a certain style of play.

That’s why, at a tactical level, one of Casey’s solutions has been turning a continuous action commonly known as “Strong” into one of their most frequently used plays this year. There are endless mutations of this staple NBA set, but it is always initiated by an attempted ball reversal: The point guard (1) dribbles to one side of the floor and swings it to a trailing big (4). The 4 then keeps it moving and hits the wing (3) on the opposite side. This 1-4-3 ball reversal is followed by the 1 and 4 setting a “stagger”— consecutive off-ball screens for the same player — for the 2, who starts off in the strong-side corner.

Follow-up actions from here are endless and team specific, but the key lies within this initial ball movement. Three players touch the ball quickly without holding it. Every player is involved and an option. There’s flow.
8 days ago
Tuesday NBA preview: Toronto Raptors at Houston Rockets | Toronto Star
Raptor Norm Powell left the TD Garden in Boston on crutches Sunday. While he was walking on his own Monday, he’s listed as doubtful for this game. Anunoby started in his place in the third quarter Sunday. . . . Houston’s dealing quite well with the absence of the injured Chris Paul, rattling off six straight wins and leading the Western Conference with an 11-3 record going into play Monday night. . . . Harden is shooting 44.7 per cent from three-point range in his last six games. . . . Capela had a 20-point, 17-rebound game in Houston’s Sunday win over Indiana.
9 days ago
What Didn't Suck? - OG's potential oozes vs. Boston - Locked On Raptors
He’s a modern, switch-friendly defender who’s currently shooting threes at a 36.7 percent clip — about 10 points higher than his slightly hitchy release might lead you to believe he’s hit. Through 12 games, no Raptors regular has a more gaudy on-court efficiency slash line than his 112.0 / 98.6 / +13.4. Anunoby is good a month before he was supposed to be wearing the jersey. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff — objective goodness that you simply can’t expect from a rookie, robust draft class or not. Hyperbolic as it may sound, Anunoby already holds the keys to the mystery box that is the Raptors’ future.

That brings us back to Sunday. A trivial loss to a collection of try-hards during the month in which sane players and teams don’t give a shit is irrelevant to the season-long goals of the Raptors, or the limitless potential of its most tantalizing young player. It may actually be better that Toronto lost, better that Anunoby didn’t quite complete the crowning of Baynes. While Boston’s cute little winning streak could very well be the apex of its Gordon Hayward-less 2017-18 campaign, the Raptors now have a carrot to chase; the desire to erase Sunday’s one-point disparity can now drive the Raptors on their quest to become something greater than they are now.

OG has a carrot now, too. It’s shaped like a 7-foot Aussie’s head top. Once he inevitably gobbles it up, the whole goddamned league may well be the next thing on the menu.
9 days ago
Casey Venting - Reddit
So I have well tried to sleep this one off although find myself unable to move past the saltiness. For starters I have no problem with Demar, ball in the best hands is vital, no arguments there. The problem is, as some have mentioned is just....run a fucking play...like anything....Personally, I have been a Casey supporter, pointing to his work on our bench unit as a sign hes doing the right things, and he is in some respects, but this is the first time i've genuinely felt he has to go. Even through the Wizards sweep and other BS I felt he was the right man for the job. Times do change though and I just felt as last game laid it out as clearly as possible how bad a coach he is facing Stevens. The broadcast mentioned "oh this is a play they worked on this morning, lets see how this goes" ....2pts. FFS what do we have to do. This was a Boston team of ROOKIES and SOPHMORES...no Kyrie, no Hayward, so whats the logical extension that we can ever beat this team at full strength. I feel as though this game put us in our place in more ways than one. Oh and the rebounding? better not play Poeltl, he couldn't possibly help being arguably the teams best rebounder. I had more of a problem with that than FVV, at least hes scrappy and does make some winning plays, putting us into a position to win.
9 days ago
GANTER: Raptors’ Anunoby might be looking at extended run | Calgary Sun
Casey wasn’t willing to cede Powell’s minutes (assuming Powell doesn’t play and, while he was much improved from a day earlier, he did not practice, which is always the best indication of when a player will return) to Anunoby, but he’s a good bet.

C.J. Miles, another option Casey could go with in the starting five, says Anunoby just seems to fit well with that starting group.

“I think the thing that helps is his strengths don’t take away from their strengths,” Miles said of Anunoby with the No. 1’s. “He’s good off the ball. He makes plays and uses his athleticism and length as a big part of the plays he does make — his cutting and getting his hands on deflections and getting out and running. He’s able to be even more of a threat in that situation because they have to go help but, I don’t want to say forget about him, but defences rotate away from him and he’s able to play within space and pick and choose.”

The key for Anunoby is going to be finding a balance between being a floor spacer for the likes of Lowry and DeRozan and an offensive option when teams invariably put the clamps down on his two all-star teammates.

Powell, who got a taste of playing alongside those two in the playoffs both last year and the year before struggled early on in the season finding that balance. For a time he all but abandoned his drive game in the mistaken belief that he was doing the right thing by sacrificing that in order to get the ball in the hands of his teammates more.

Eventually, Powell saw the error in that thinking and returned to form.

The expectation is Anunoby will struggle a little with this initially as well.
9 days ago
Woz Blog: Celtics were better team but Raptors shot themselves in feet too | Toronto Sun
So, despite being outplayed, the game was still there for the taking. To be clear, this isn’t an issue with the final shot, it was a decent look. A lot of voices aren’t seeing the forest for the trees here. The shot was fine, the issue is what led up to it (and what leads up to it so often … dig into my archives and you’ll find I’ve harped on this many times).

Why make DeRozan basically the entire show pretty much from the time he returned to the game with 5:43 remaining?

That let the NBA’s best defence to this point set up and fully expect what was coming, with little to no doubt in their minds. Plus Jaylen Brown had bitten on DeRozan’s fakes so many times that there was pretty much no way he’d jump early again. He was staying down and tight, period. With no movement, the other players basically spectators for every possession, it put DeRozan in a tough spot. He had to be nearly perfect and he had no support. It just doesn’t make sense to isolate on every possession. Way too predictable and it can breed discontent (remember DeMarre Carroll’s parting words about trust issues and the supporting cast feeling marginalized?).

The Raptors are supposed to be a changed group that shares the ball. Why completely abandon that for half of the final quarter of games? Take advantage of DeRozan’s gifts, sure, but don’t tie one hand behind his back while you are trying to do that.
9 days ago
C.J. Miles needs to play more with the Raptors’ stars — but it is not so simple – The Athletic [subscription]
“They’re not leaving him, which creates an advantage in (terms of) rolls and spacing,” Casey said. “ He’s smart enough to (exploit) that, too. He gives us a tremendous amount on the offensive end.”
Of course, when considering the fit next to DeRozan and Lowry, there is give and take. Anunoby is not a high-volume shooter from three-point range like Miles — although he is shooting it a tick better so far — but he provides more versatility on the defensive end, and has proven an adept cutter. Powell, when healthy, can zip around screens defensively a bit better than Miles, while Siakam disrupts passing lanes better than Miles, along with every other player on the team.
You can see the dilemma. While there are questions about how the Raptors are operating late in games, they are still fifth in the league in points per possession and 16th on the other end. Casey, like most coaches, craves balance, so you can see why throwing Miles out there instead of one of the younger players does not always check out.
Yet, Miles is too important to what the team is trying to do for his minutes to stay so low — everyone involved knows that. It is one of those situations where there are no wrong answers, but there might be a right one. As the season goes on, Miles will probably find himself on the floor with two other wings, along with Lowry and a big man, in smaller late-game situations, too.
“Being with the first unit, it’s more about creating space for them and playing in those spaces, in the gaps, and making myself available to be able to use that part of my game to help them. (And) also … they help me,” Miles said. “In the second group, it’s a little more (ball) movement, understanding there are spaces to be more aggressive and kind of step forward a little bit more with the younger guys.
9 days ago
Raptors' progress lost in transition | Toronto Star
The offensive woes that lead to poor transition defence stem from slightly different spacing when the Raptors have the ball. More movement gets players in different spots than they might have been used to, and with shots coming from different places — and often quicker than the team is used to — players can be caught by surprise.

It’s something that’s easy to work out once everyone is used to where shots are being taken from and who is taking them, but it’s getting to be long enough with problems still persisting. Missed shots — the Raptors are shooting only 33.5 per cent from three-point range, but take 31.1 shots from beyond the arc on average each game — and floor balance are often off.

It’s led to the inconsistency that has plagued Toronto through a 7-5 start to the season, and the Raptors give up an average of 13.4 fast-break points per game, which ranks 27th in the 30-team league.

“There are a lot of things we see we are not doing and we’ve got to do better,” Casey said.
9 days ago
Q&A: Raptors guard Norman Powell's playing the piano - Sportsnet.ca
SN: You’re seen as an intense guy, a hard guy. Where did the love for the keys come from?

NP: Growing up my dad, when I was younger, taught me just a little bit of the piano, so I got a feel for it. It was like my get away from everything. Not a lot of people knew I played the piano because I kept it to myself. So I thought this is a way to show a different side of me and have a bit of fun.
9 days ago
The Clock Is Ticking on the Bruno Caboclo Experiment - VICE Sports
"I think, yeah, he came in this preseason and the hope was that he would maybe earn a spot within the rotation," 905 general manager and Raptors assistant GM Dan Tolzman said. "And he didn't shoot the ball great in the preseason, everyone knows that, and I think that probably hurt his confidence a little bit and maybe set him back in terms of where he's at mentally compared to the other guys that he was fighting against.

"He shot the ball really well in the camp portion, and then the games started and it just didn't carry over. Had that translated into the games, it'd be a whole different story."

The story as it played out put both player and team in a difficult position. With three years of NBA experience under his belt, Caboclo would have to approve any G League assignment, and the Raptors were unsure during the summer whether or not they'd ask. Following the G League Finals, Caboclo quietly felt like he had graduated from that level, eager for the chance to start contributing in the NBA.

The preseason went as it did, though, and on Tuesday, Caboclo showed what may be the best sign of his growth as a prospect yet: He requested an assignment to the 905, taking a tough conversation out of the hands of the Raptors' brass.

"I just think I need to play," he said. "So if I stay on the bench, I'm going to the 905 so I can have playing time. I think it's better for me, so there I can have a chance to show myself and maybe coach can see I can play and maybe help the team. I'm excited."
9 days ago
Raptors can't close out game or possessions | Toronto Star
That’s what the defence was far too often and in particular the big men, who simply have to be better at getting out to shooters.

Lucas Nogueira, who certainly didn’t have himself a good day by any stretch of the imagination, had a couple of slow, lazy closeouts when the Celtics were taking control in the third quarter.

He was two steps too slow getting out on Marcus Smart one time and then gave a half effort trying to contest a Jaylen Brown three-pointer not too long after.

This is not to pick on Bebe entirely but it’s an example of the inconsistencies that make it frustrating to watch him sometimes. He did have seven rebounds and that’s good but slow reaction and missing all the shots he took make it one of those days.
10 days ago
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