Moments that Mattered: Raptors' D, Gasol Post-Ups, Anunoby's Spin Move
Kyle Lowry deserved his own Moments that Mattered after his stellar 33-point, 14-rebound performance last night, but there were a few more things that suck out from the Toronto Raptors' 107-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night.
Here are a few more things to zero in on:
1: Raptors Defense
The Raptors held the Lakers to a paltry 35.4% shooting Saturday night, their worst shooting performance of the year.
They played the kind of defense that Raptors coach Nick Nurse said earlier in the week makes his team so special. Raptor defenders whizzed around the court, making open shots appear contested and forcing the Lakers out of sorts.
Early in the third quarter, the Raptors forced the Lakers into a shot clock violation after a ridiculous nine Laker passes.
OG Anunoby did a phenomenal job defending LeBron James, surrendering just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting in the almost nine minutes he defended, while the rest of the Raptors locked down Anthony Davis, double-teaming him almost every time he got the ball.
After the game, James had nothing but praise for the Raptors.
"They won a championship for a reason," James said. "It wasn't just all solely because of Kawhi [Leonard] and obviously you see that. They've got the two-headed monsters in Fred [VanVleet] and Kyle [Lowry] that set the tone. Their wings are extremely good in Pascal [Siakam] and OG [Anunoby]. They've got experience in the frontcourt at the center position in Marc [Gasol] and Serge [Ibaka] and then they've got a bunch of complementary guys. That's why they've been the team they've been all year.
“That’s a great team. No ifs, ands or buts," James continued. "Exceptionally well-coached and championship DNA. You can never take that away from a ballclub when you win a championship. And even before that, they’ve got playoff-tested guys. Guys that played not only here in the NBA in big games, but also in FIBA games as well. Marc has been in big games throughout his whole life, pretty much it seems like. They’re just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi is gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are."
That's high praise coming from one of the NBA's best.
2: Gasol's Post-Ups
Few teams in the NBA post up as infrequently and as badly as the Toronto Raptors. They post up on just 4.5% of their possessions this year and are in the 20th percentile in post-up scoring, according to NBA Stats.
With the NBA moving away from the post-up game, it's totally OK that the Raptors don't use post-ups much and struggle when they do, but it's a handy tool to have when things get difficult in the half-court.
Marc Gasol turned back the clocks twice last night when he had guards switch onto him in the post and showed off his old school post moves.
In the third quarter, Gasol set a pick for Fred VanVleet, getting the 6-foot-6, 225-pound J.R. Smith onto the 6-foot-11, 255ish-pound Gasol in the paint.
Easy peasy for the Spanish big.
If Gasol can continue to punish guards down low, opposing teams will have to think twice before they switch onto him, making the Raptors' offense that much more effective.
3: Anunoy's handles
I wrote about Anunoby's development immediately after the game, but it's worth taking another look if only because that spin move he pulled on Davis was really impressive.
Anunoby's apparent ball-handling improvement was the big storyline coming out of the Raptors' scrimmage series and in Toronto's seeding game opener he showed no signs of slowing down.
But it was more than that one move that was impressive from Anunoby. He made the Lakers pay whenever they lost track of him, nailing three corner 3-pointers in the game and making a pair of dunks when he slipped behind L.A.'s defense.
"He was very good. He shows us, every now and again he shows us these glimpses of where he can go, and as we all talk about all the time," Nurse said Saturday. "It’s doing those kind of games a little more consistently, right, and again, you don’t go for a game like that every night but, you know, I always like to pack ‘em in five, ‘if you played five games how many out of five can you play that way?’ Well, it’s probably two or one, and then you gotta take that number from two to three and then, you know, four to five, and then you’re there. You’re not gonna do it five out of five, hardly anybody does that, so that’s it, we just wanna keep it positive, he did great, he did a little bit of everything, cut, shot, guarded, he was good."
If Anunoby can produce offensively with more consistency, opposing teams are going to have a really tough time finding the weakness in the Raptors' offense.