Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 112-110 overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets.
One — Determination: This game was supposed to be a loss. It doesn’t matter that the Hornets are 10 games under .500 because the Raptors barely have enough healthy players to fill a minivan. This contest was the second of a back-to-back, it was on the road after arriving from a late flight, and the team was without four starters. It also followed a heartbreaking loss to Carmelo Anthony the night prior and the Raptors were down 10 in the fourth quarter of this one after a miserable dry spell. The Raptors had no business winning this game, but that’s been the story all season. Despite all the adversity and against all the odds, the wounded champions soldier on as a team that plays every night like it’s Game 7 again, even though it’s just Charlotte in January. They are a group that you can be proud of no matter what.
Two — Redemption: Nick Nurse took his frustrations out on Terence Davis after losing to Portland. Not only did the undrafted rookie only play eight minutes, but Nurse went the extra mile to say that it was five minutes too many. Nurse then traded tough love with trust as he gave Davis his first career start. So how does Davis respond? He delivers a career-high 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists, while making huge plays in overtime. He nailed back-to-back threes to give the Raptors the lead, then found Serge Ibaka streaking ahead for the game-winning free throws. Was it an ill-advised pass that could have cost Toronto the game? Sure. But one of Davis’ best traits is his youthful exuberance. He’s never afraid of the moment and he’s certainly not backing down from a bit of finger-wagging from Terry Rozier.
Three — Accountability: Davis backed Nurse in the post-game interview. He agreed that he wasn’t at his best in recent games, took Nurse’s comments as a challenge, and rose to the occasion. Nurse seems to boast this reputation of being a straight shooter which causes players to respond positively to his criticisms. He famously called out Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for his defense in the preseason and a few weeks later, Hollis-Jefferson was shutting down Kawhi Leonard at Staples Center. Nurse barked at Pascal Siakam for committing silly fouls and it suddenly stopped being an issue. These responses are a sign of a healthy organization, where everyone can take criticism so long as it’s contributing to the common goal of winning.
Four — Hero: Serge Ibaka had a redemption arc of his own. Ibaka was instrumental in the Raptors’ fourth-quarter comeback, but he spoiled that effort with a needless foul before overtime. Ibaka tugged on P.J. Washington’s jersey as the Hornets tried to inbound while down one in the dying seconds. The followed allowed them to force overtime. Ibaka didn’t hang his head, however, as he hit two layups, found Davis for three, and drained the game-winning free throws in overtime after keeping his pivot foot on a tough catch in transition. Ibaka is averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds on 54 percent shooting over his last seven games, and although he is prone to mental mistakes, the 30-year-old has been clutch in Marc Gasol’s absence.
Five — Confident: When it seemed as if OG Anunoby had hit a wall, he delivered this 19-point performance that included a driving dunk in overtime. Anunoby was aggressive with his offense from the jump as Nurse called his number on the first play of the game on a post-up. Anunoby was steady throughout as a secondary option as he would either catch-and-shoot without hesitation or read the defense and attack the closeout to obtain a better look inside. Anunoby even drained a heavily-contested buzzer-beating three in addition to sparking the comeback with a three from the corner. His showing leaves you asking the following question: why can’t he consistently perform this way?
Six — Enigma: Speaking of confusing, who is the real Pat McCaw? On most nights, he drives fans crazy with his passivity and unwillingness to shoot. And then there are performances like this one where he scores 13 points and delivers 11 assists while making heads-up plays on both ends of the floor. Aside from a pair of overzealous turnovers in transition, McCaw was arguably the Raptors’ best playmaker. He split defenders with precise bounce passes (where was this against Portland?) and pushed the break to give the Raptors easy baskets. He also showed great awareness in slipping behind the defense for a pair of layups.
Seven — Reality: The difference in this game compared to the last one was the fact that the bench unit couldn’t hold their own. The G-League lineup of McCaw, Stanley Johnson, Matt Thomas, Oshae Brissett and Chris Boucher simply couldn’t get the job done — and they nearly cost the Raptors a win. The starters built a 12-point lead with three minutes left in the third, only to watch Cody Zeller of all people bully his way into a 10-point swing. The collapse forced Nurse to plug in his starters early in the fourth to stop the bleeding, placing undue miles on their already-strained bodies. But then again, what else can you really expect from a group that would otherwise be the Raptors’ garbage time lineup? It is what it is.
Raptors have missed 18 of their last 19 shots & are also 0-for-2 from the line over that stretch. Went from up 10 to down 10.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) January 9, 2020
Eight — Unusual: The Raptors are running the most unorthodox pick-and-roll in the league with Lowry and Hollis-Jefferson. The play calls for Lowry to screen, except he’s stationing deep in the paint because nobody guards Hollis-Jefferson beyond five feet of the rim. This fact allows Hollis-Jefferson to gain a head steam going downhill, and typically speaking, he’s a good bet to collect his own miss since he’s a quick and tenacious leaper. It’s ugly, but it works.
Nine — Mentorship: Davis made two plays that were reminiscent of Lowry. First, he took a charge in the second half after sliding under the driver, which is a staple of Lowry’s game. Then he found Ibaka with a daring hit-ahead pass in transition — another go-to move for Lowry. The veteran also had the rookie’s back as he came to Davis’ defense on several foul calls.
Ten — Finally: The Raptors have three days off to recoup, which is key for several reasons. First, it gives them time for two practices which should help the third-stringers develop chemistry as a group. Second, there’s a chance that Norman Powell (and perhaps even a few others) can use this time to shake off rust and return to the lineup. Honestly, even if they use all three days to simply nap and put their feet up, it will be worth it. They’ve earned a break, especially Lowry and Ibaka.
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