Whatever the Toronto Raptors ultimately end up with in the post-Kyle Lowry era, during the first half of the uneven season there have been few indications of what they could be, and what they want to be.
They haven’t come in buckets, and they haven’t come easily, but they do offer some promise and some hope. Halfway through a difficult, transitional year, those glimpses have been welcomed in the form of Fred VanVleet’s All-Star quality season, or Pascal Siakam’s league reimagining that he was an All-Star and All-Star just two seasons ago. Why were NBA players.
You could see it for a good stretch in the second quarter of his first meeting with the Miami Heat as the two franchises coordinated on a deal that saw Laurie give Miami to Miami in exchange for the precious Achiuva and the contract that went to Goran Dragic.
With VanVleet—which has loaded quite a lot of Laurie’s shoes—on the bench for rest, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse rolled out a lineup featuring “backcourts” from Siakam and Scotty Barnes, along with Ozzy Anunobi, Chris Boucher and Achiuwa. Did. front line. No shorter than six foot-eight, no taller than six-foot-nine.
The Heat quite intelligently went the zone against a group of players who don’t shoot threes well collectively, and the Raptors played fine through it.
Siakam – who has excelled as a playmaker since becoming the team’s defacto backup point guard in recent weeks – went into the paint and delivered a laser out to the suddenly emerging Boucher, who knocked out a triple. Barnes galloped on the break and found Boucher going through the transition, and then hit a no-look pass to Siakam in the lane to score in the next possession. As the shot clock ticked into another possession, Siakam continued to spin from the left block into the lane and scored.
And while the shots didn’t fall, the Raptors’ length and movement earned them aggressive rebounds and extra assets. Defensively, the length of the Raptors Five caused all kinds of problems for Miami.
For that section of the second quarter — about five minutes with VanVleet on the bench — the Raptors were the better team, took a lead and you can allow yourself to imagine, hey, it might work: Toronto with its top six players. Five of them could lose a two-season spot from their championship team in 2019, only for Achiuwa to show up for it, and somehow transition back to their long-held place among the Eastern Conference elite, but a traditional center. Or playing a slightly unconventional lineup with standard point guards.
And they kept it up for most of what was a tight, tough, tight game—the third time in their Final Four Toronto faced off against the NBA’s elite and gave them everything they could handle.
He fell short this time after losing to Miami 109–104 after 48 hours to upset the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks on the road.
A deep three by VanVleet cut the heats’ lead to three after Toronto went nine with 5:33 to play, but Miami held back. The mix-up over the pick-and-roll coverage between Barnes and VanVleet – and a poor one read by Boucher – received a wide-open three from Jimmy Butler by PJ Tucker. Bam Adebayo sealed it off the line for Miami as he returned to his lineup for the first time since missing six weeks following thumb surgery.
The Raptors fell 21-20 on Wednesday before heading to Dallas to continue their five-match road trip. The heat improved to 28-16, good for second place in the East. For the most part, the Raptors went all out, playing only six players. They were led by Siakam on another great night, ending with 20 points, 10 assists and five steals, while Boucher had 21 points and 10 rebounds from the bench, VanValet had 22 points and six scored three and Achiuwa had 15 rebounds in 37 minutes. against your old team
But The Heat restricted Toronto to 41 percent shooting and himself shooting 47.4 percent, while Tyler Harrow scored 23 and Butler finished with 41 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the triple-double.
The Raptors fought and it didn’t come easily and as such, it was a fitting end to the first half of their season, and perhaps a jumping off point for the second half.
“I think we know what we need to do,” said Siakam, who records 10 assists for the second game in a row. “I think today it could go either way, like, some mistakes; some little things and it’s a different game. So, I feel like we know what kind of team we are. If we Play from our strength. A lot of teams wouldn’t want to play with us if we bring that intensity, if we have that mindset and come out aggressive, being aggressive and working hard every night.”
Injured, Kovid, his home market and empty building on lockdown. The post-Lowry era has started off less than ideal in Toronto.
“It’s been a tough guy, I must say,” said the nurse. “I think for the four seasons I’ve been as head coach, it’s going to feel the hardest. And I know that probably sounds weird, you know, played at the Bubbles, playing in Tampa last year tha. it’s kind of… there is [been] Some wacky lows, man.
“And to be honest it has been a battle to pick everyone or choose myself… I really have no explanation for it other than the fact that this wave [the pandemic] Maybe we all choked up and thought we were back to normal and we were ready to go and then we turned and there’s no fan in the building and, you know, we were all over the place and Everybody’s sitting those things back to a super high level. ,
The journey to the sunny south was well timed then, but the vibe at FTX Arena was a bit awkward. There were high hopes for the Raptors’ first visit to Miami and their first opportunity to play against franchise icon Lowry after nine wildly successful seasons in Toronto.
But a family problem meant she had to leave Miami to attend, and so there was likely greatest raptor of all time We will have to wait to face our old team for the first time, perhaps until the two teams are due to meet again in Miami on January 29.
But even without Lullaby in the building, the first meeting between the Raptors and a team that looks to be well connected between the top of the Eastern Conference—which happens to fall at the midpoint of the season—offers an opportunity to reflect. Is.
On paper, the Raptors are proud to reach the mid-point of the season with a record better than .500, given that the top eight members of their rotation have remained intact for only four games so far.
Naturally, the Raptors announced that Big Man Khem Birch would be out 10 to 14 days after surgery to fix his broken nose and that Gary Trent Jr. would miss a fifth game in a row with pain in his ankle. They got Barnes back, but the reality is the Raptors don’t have that many options when players are injured.
The Raptors did just that to keep the game on a razor’s edge through three quarters. The Heat responded with a 25-14 run lead in Toronto’s second quarter to take a 58-51 lead in the half.
The Raptors continued this, receiving contributions from as many locations as possible, noting that the nurse did not go deeper than seven in her rotation. VanVleet woke up the Raptors with a pair of deep triples, while the Raptors were able to hold the Heat for only 40.9 percent shooting in the third, with only Herro able to shake consistently loose as Toronto was able to keep in touch, 80–75. from behind.
The Raptors pushed the heats to the limit, but the better, deeper and more experienced team won even in Lowry’s absence. Still, in the Raptors’ will of war, he shows that a little bit of Lori’s spirit has stayed with him.
We’ll see where it all takes them in the second half of the most interesting year ever.