The Toronto Raptors have had a very solid start to the season and one should come to expect that as they are one of the top teams in the league. It is not the fact that they are winning that’s impressive, but how they are doing so that is. I would love to say it is because of their fluid offence as they outscore opponents with a high-flying attack similar to the Steve Nash led Phoenix Suns once upon a time, but that isn’t the case. Those Suns teams were so entertaining to watch and they did manage to win a number of games too. Problem was though, they were never able to make it to the finals or win a Championship. The Raptors as we know don’t have that flowing offence, in fact not only is it stagnant at times, but it is tough to watch too. It is ugly basketball not because it is ineffective as they have averaged 102.4 pts per game (19th in the league) but because they run so many isolation plays that it is just boring to watch. Hand the ball to DeMar DeRozan, wait 15 seconds then he either shoots, drives or drives and kicks. For a little variety, they sometimes let Kyle Lowry (a rebound away from a triple double vs OKC) hold it for 15 seconds and then he does the same thing. Now before you get critical, I am not saying they do this all the time, but they certainly do it more than enough. It really isn’t until they are on a fast break or when the second unit is on do we see more ball movement and more entertaining basketball, at least from my perspective.
Russell Westbrook (36p, 7r, 7a) & DeMar DeRozan (37p, 6a, 4r, W) duel in OKC! pic.twitter.com/Mmqjmdrpt3
— NBA (@NBA) November 10, 2016
Truth of the matter though is it doesn’t really matter how boring it is to watch because as long as you win, you will be watched. It doesn’t hurt that DeRozan is leading the league in scoring (34.1 points) this early in the season as he bounced back in Oklahoma with a 37 point effort. That bumps him up to 6/7 games this season when scoring 30 or more points. But the Raptors record is not based solely on the huge chip DeRozan has on his shoulder (thank you Sports Illustrated once again) it is because they have been playing much better team defence as they are ranked third in the league allowing 96.4 pts per game. It may not have seemed apparent though during their 112-102 victory over the Thunder. One can state that OKC scored 102 points and that Russell Westbrook had 36 of them, so contrary to my statement, that isn’t good defence at all. But like everything else in life, you have to analyze it with perspective. Before anyone could even get settled into their seats OKC was on fire, jumping out to a 12-0 lead and then with three minutes left in the first quarter, the Raptors were still trailing by double digits 23-10. Jonas Valanciunas and Jared Sullinger out were both out with injuries leaving Coach Dwayne Casey with little choice other than to start rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl. Needless to say they were a little over matched at the beginning and despite struggling this game; they did provide a combined 31 minutes of play. Thankfully Lucas Nogueira filled in nicely with 10 pts but it was on defence with his 7 boards, 2 blocks and 2 steals that kept him out there (28 min) as long as he was.
The Raptors overcame their early struggles and had a monstrous second quarter scoring 42 to take a 7 point lead into halftime and even extended it to 13 by the end of the third. There is a reason however why OKC had a 6-1 record heading into this game and they started the fourth on a 9-1 run, cutting the lead to 5 and then to 4 soon after. However the Raptors’ defence started to take over with Norman Powell, getting some extra minutes with the absence of Terrance Ross (sprained finger) and Corey Joseph stepping up on D as well. The Raptors extended their lead back to double digits and comfortably closed out the game in a difficult road arena to earn their 5th victory in 7 games. This is a good sign for the Raptors as the old adage says, defence wins championships. I’ll even forget how boring the offence looks… as long as continue to win.
» Sports » Raptors win with team defence and...