PHOENIX – The Raptors’ offense should have been the thing that has sunk them this season.
There isn’t a lot of natural flow to it because there aren’t a lot of trigger-happy decision makers around. All five members of the regular starting line-up love to dribble and sweep. While Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Scottie Barnes are all gifted passers, none of them are natural conductors in such a way that they get the ball flying around the ground.
This was true through most of the first half of the season. The Raptors’ offensive rating was hovering around average, hit only by the strength of frequent transfers and second chance chances.
Who would have thought, then, that the Raptors would define their offense before their defense? The latter was supposed to be their calling card, and it wasn’t. Despite this, the crime has been committed.
The one constant in the Raptors offense, good and bad, is that it features few turnovers. It’s a byproduct of the birds of prey playing too much in isolation. That went a long way on Monday, as the Suns upset the Raptors in the paint consistently, resulting in a 114-106 loss. The Suns shut down the Raptors in the first half, playing a long length, and the Raptors had trouble getting into their sets. Combine that with very few rushing jumpers, the first time this happened in a while, and a rough time and it was a rough outing for an offense that was thriving.
Heading into Monday night’s game, according to Cleaning the Glass, the team has its seventh half-court offense since the Jan. 6, game after a brick-throwing contest against the Bucks. Since then, VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher shoot better than 39 percent of the 3. They had all been well below that limit before then. Vanfleet and Barnes had more possession of the ball; VanVleet leads with 7.2 assists per game, and Barnes trails Siakam (six per game) with 5.7.
For the season, the Raptors are up to No. 11 in the offensive rankings heading into Monday’s game.
Anecdotally, Vanfleet and Barnes have had the ball in their hands too often in the past month. VanVleet’s drag threes no longer feel like trials. Barnes has at least one or two assists per game Stop in place. His vision was unleashed. Van Fleet and Barnes Chemistry in the actions of two menespecially with Barnes as a movie, was excellent.
Pull up, splash 💦 pic.twitter.com/iX1BjilkSN
– Toronto Raptors (@raptors) January 31, 2023
“The problem that kept the offense behind, first and foremost, was shooting,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game. This is definitely an improvement, and a lot of that is directly related to health. It’s just. There wasn’t much we could do about it – we were making great shots (for) our best shooters, and they just couldn’t make them. But they can now. …get better at that. The improvement is in our other positive offensive properties of stopping, sorting, passing, and cutting. We get more chop baskets, too.”
Aesthetically, things look much better. Unfortunately, because of the way they started, they go beyond taking anything from a good process that doesn’t yield results. They don’t have time for that.
“It is not time for us to try for moral victories,” VanVleet said. “We need real victories.”
• The Raptors announced that Anunobi will miss at least the rest of the trip due to a sprained left wrist. This means that in addition to the game in Phoenix, he will miss games in Utah, Houston and Memphis.
The team did not say whether additional imaging revealed damage beyond what the Raptors coaching staff initially believed. An X-ray of his wrist on Friday, when Anunobi was injured against the Warriors, was negative. Anunobi will be examined further by medical staff when the Raptors return to Toronto, a team spokesperson said. Of course, the trade deadline looms, with only one more game — Wednesday at home against San Antonio — between the end of the trip and the big day.
“We still have a long way to go,” said the nurse before the game. “It’s not like this journey ends around the corner. So it kind of surprises me a bit. We know what we have now from this journey.”
• The Raptors put Barnes in place of VanVleet over Chris Paul when possible, presumably so they can swap more comfortably with Deandre Ayton. It was a good idea Barnes succeeded in Ayton’s attempt After switching with Precious Achiuwa. Barnes also did a great read of the ball. With VanVleet having to switch to Ayton, Barnes knew Paul’s pass would go to the big man, and Rush to steal.
• Monday’s sign that Siakam is tired: You can choose between him and not finishing layup through contact In transition and don’t control the jump ball with the suns brick house (though brick house with long arms) ish wainwright. He handled his first unassisted game since May 1, 2021 before Score him only one in the fourth quarter.
• Uchiwa torture chamber? Uchiwa torture chamber! Still my heart.
• Not the inside lane you want: With seven-tenths of a second left, VanVleet passed it to Achiuwa, who had his hands on his knees, in the corner. That was a shot clock violation, folks.
• If none of the coaches call a time-out, there will be an official time-out for the officials at the first whistle after the seven and three-minute marks. What happens if there is no whistle (and no time called) after the three-minute point, though? Well, we were 15.2 seconds away from figuring that out before Boucher wrecked it by getting an offensive rebound, and then made a mistake in traffic. So close!
(Photo by Fred VanVleet: Joe Camporiale/USA Today)