Fleeting hope; the Raptors keep improving but still find ways to come up short

The High 5 – Week in Review – Week 3

The High 5 is where I review the last week of Toronto Raptors basketball including how the team did, who were the impact players as well as some news and notes from around the league.

The Thumb – How was the week?

The sky is falling!

The Raptors fan base have been inching closer and closer to the panic button as their team entered a difficult week. Articles were being written, the trade machine has been working overtime, and seeds of doubt were starting to sprout amongst the staunchest believers.

Coach Nurse continued to search for someone to step up, his team is ripe with opportunity. With a loaded week, the Raptors didn’t have too much time to dwell on a loss (or win) which may have been a blessing in disguise. The more reps the players have together, the better chemistry they can build.

Week Record (1 – 3) Season Record (2 – 7)

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors – L 126 – 114

The Raptors were in it tough against the Celtics on Monday night. They caught a break when Boston announced that notable Raptor killer, Marcus Smart, would be out of the lineup, but the Celtics still had Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to contend with. Toronto started blistering from deep, spearheaded by a red hot VanVleet and an ever-crafty Lowry. Unfortunately, they let the Celtics go on a run and suddenly the Raptors were looking at a 20-point deficit. Tatum was everything the Raptors hoped Siakam would be. Toronto spoiled an outstanding performance from VanVleet en route to another L.

Toronto Raptors v Phoenix Suns – L 123 – 115

The Raptors began their difficult road trip in the valley of the sun on Wednesday. The Suns have significantly improved with Chris Paul at the helm and for the first time in years, may actually be a viable playoff contender. VanVleet picked up where he left off, Lowry was Lowry, and Siakam had a strong game with decisive moves and aggressive takes. In fact, this was Toronto’s best effort to date, they competed wire to wire and showed some semblance of the team they once were. Unfortunately, Phoenix was unbelievably hot from distance, they rained fire on Toronto like the wrath of God. For all the good Toronto did, the 3-pointer was their undoing.

Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings – W 144 – 123

It’s difficult to focus on basketball with social issues dominating the zeitgeist of America, but amidst the disorder, the season continued. Coach Nurse mixed things up by starting Powell in place of Lowry and Len for the struggling Baynes. The absence of Kyle was felt early, within minutes the Raptors were down double digits. The Kings played with speed and were rewarded with open 3’s. Toronto clawed back and eventually blew the game wide open in the second half with Boucher, Siakam, VanVleet and Powell standing out as positives. This was a barnburner with the Raps outgunning the opposition.

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors – L 106 – 105

The Raptors continued their small ball experiment against the Warriors by starting with no traditional centers on Sunday night. This lineup lent itself to a faster pace of play which, unfortunately, suited the Warriors just fine. Golden State kept the ball moving and held a lead throughout most of the game, Toronto (again) struggled to manufacture offense. They may be reading the same playbook, but they are not on the same page. Golden State picked Toronto apart with unselfish ball movement; every player had a chance to eat. Toronto tried to change the narrative with incredible defence and an improbable late game run, but the Warriors did just enough to etch out a win.

The Index – The Leader – Player of the Week

Photo Courtesy: Sergio Estrada/USA TODAY Sports

Fred VanVleet

Steady Freddy has quietly reassumed his place as one of Toronto’s most dynamic weapons. He has taken another step as a player showing off the polish and poise of a number 1 option. He improved his ability to get to the rim and, when he is on, his jumper is so accurate that the net barely moves on his makes. He gave the Raptors a preview of life without Lowry and responded with one of his best games of the year.

  Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG 3PT FT
v Celtics 35 8 3 2 0 13/20 6/9 3/4
v Suns 13 4 7 2 1 5/12 2/5 1/2
v Kings 34 3 7 1 0 13/22 5/9 3/3
v Warriors 21 5 5 0 1 9/20 3/10 0/0
Weekly Avg 25.75 5 5.5 1.25 0.5 40/74 16/33 7/11
4 Games           54% 48% 63%

Season Avg

20.9 5.9 4.7 1.3 0.6 45% 41% 84%

Honourable Mention: P. Siakam

The Middle – The Enemy – Best Opposing Player

Photo Courtesy: Chris O’Meara/AP Photo

Jayson Tatum

Debating who is better between Siakam and Tatum was once a legitimate question. No longer, as Its pretty obvious that Tatum has forced himself into elite company. Tatum’s game was silky smooth, and his already deadly 3-point shot looked even more proficient. He did significant damage from the field and the charity stripe. Tatum did whatever he wanted with confidence, joy, and impunity.

  Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG 3PT FT
v TOR 40 6 2 0 2 11/19 5/8 13/13

Honourable Mention: D. Booker (PHX),

The Ring – The X Factor – Standout Performance

Photo Courtesy: @Raptors/Twitter

Chris Boucher v Sacramento Kings

Coach Nurse shied away from playing Len and Baynes and instead opted to give Boucher the lion’s share of minutes against the Kings. Chris played with an unending amount of energy and zero conscious. He put up shots without hesitation and used his unique physical abilities to make an impact on both ends of the floor. Boucher has impressed in this early part of the season.

  Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG 3PT FT
v SAC 23 10 2 1 3 9/12 2/4 3/5

Honourable Mention: Y. Watanabe v SAC, Siakam v PHX, VanVleet v SAC

The Pinky – The Unsung Hero – Key Contributor

Photo Courtesy: The Athletic

Pascal Siakam

After a handful of good games, it looks as though Siakam has shaken off his slow start to the season. He had a coming out party against the Suns and carried it over against the Kings, nearly picking up a triple double in the process. His defence and rebounding have been consistent, and he has learned to read defences better which helped him work through double teams. He is a couple of spin moves away from being the Pascal of old. He nearly stole the victory on Sunday at the buzzer.

Honourable Mention: K. Lowry

News and Notes

  • Point Production – The Raptors put up a franchise record 144 points in their win over Sacramento.
  • No Admission – As a further step to protect the league and the public from the virus, the Raptors have decided to no longer host fans at home games.
  • Bonded in Brotherhood – The Raptors and the Suns stood together, arm in arm, in a show of solidarity before their game on Wednesday night. This was in response to the chaos and social disruption happening within the United States. A few other teams did similar displays of unity.

    Photo Courtesy: @Raptors/Twitter

Around the League

  • Sweet Music – Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith will be giving away scholarships to underrepresented or minority students for every Jazz victory.
  • Going Viral – Team rosters have been decimated as players are forced to miss weeks of action due to COVID-19 and contact tracing. We’ve also seen our first postponement with the Sunday night Celtics and Heat game being put on hold due to a lack of healthy players. This will no doubt last the entire season and will likely impact league standings.
  • Mask On – Philadelphia Coach Doc Rivers was fined $10 000 for removing his mask during games. I expect to see this fine handed out more often in the coming weeks.

Up Next

The Raptors will need to forget about their Sunday night loss quickly because they will be at it again in Portland on Monday night. They will then face the Hornets in back-to-back games, both at Tampa, on Thursday and Saturday.

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