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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 25, 2020
And so it ends. Not the way the Raptors wanted, but at least the bubble worked and they got to see their NBA title defence through to the end.
I would contend that Toronto is the better team on paper with Pascal Siakam playing like he did during the non-Orlando portion of the regular season, but Boston would have had an upgrade with Gordon Hayward healthy, so who knows? The Celtics clearly were the better team in this series and were full marks for the win. It really shouldn’t have even gotten to six or seven games. Toronto was on the ropes several times, but this team is as tough as I’ve seen and never gave up. It was a fun group to cover.
Siakam was awful offensively in the bubble, there’s no getting around it, but save me the “he didn’t shoot a basketball for a couple months and should have broken quarantine” BS that many are trying to spout. You can’t rip on our American friends for the nightmare going on there because people didn’t follow COVID-19-fighting protocols and also rag on Siakam for not breaking his mandated quarantine to shoot a ball (keep in mind the Raptors’ practice facility was not open at the time for him to use). That’s hypocritical.
Highly doubt Siakam not shooting for a few weeks caused this to happen. It sure seemed like a mental thing with so much going on around the world, particularly with the NBA, not a physical issue. And it’s perfectly understandable, even if he’s about to get paid a ton of money and is expected to be the new face of the franchise. He’s human. This year is not like any other. If it happens again, then the Raptors need to panic.
And if you do what you need to to truly contend again — add a superstar to the mix somehow — you’ll be just fine. Siakam will go back to being a solid No. 2, with Kyle Lowry acting as a 2A for however long he stays a Raptor. Pushing Fred VanVleet back a notch too would also help, offensively speaking. VanVleet made some mistakes late in the series. He tried to do too much, tried to force the issue, and made bad decisions that cost the Raptors. He also hit some huge shots and defended at an ultra-elite level though.
VanVleet held Kemba Walker to 31% shooting in the series as the primary defender (unfortunately VanVleet only shot 28% himself against Walker). Jayson Tatum shot 50% against VanVleet, but had five turnovers against eight assists.
Siakam’s defensive numbers were strong, despite one terrible defensive game against Boston: Jaylen Brown shot just 34% against him; Jayson Tatum 39% (with 10 combined turnovers from the pair and just six assists); Marcus Smart had a field day against Siakam (an unsustainable 63%), but Brooklyn’s top player Caris LeVert shot just 29% when Siakam was his primary defender.
Weird series for Norman Powell that showcased the best and worst of the mercurial guard: He won Game 6 for them with his overtime heroics, but faltered with two season-ending gaffes late in Game 7. First, Powell made the mistake of trying to complete a one-man fast break against two Celtics. Yes, Marcus Smart made a fantastic block, showing why he is one of the best defenders in the league, but even a lesser player would have had a tough time converting that play. Far more damningly, Powell forgot to box out Tatum with the season on the line. The Celtics missed two free throws, meaning Toronto would have had a chance to tie or pull ahead with 35.4 seconds remaining had they done the usual and secured the defensive rebound. Instead, Powell’s huge mistake nearly let Tatum put it away (he missed one of his free throws so the lead was three). Toronto would then execute quite poorly, forcing VanVleet to launch an airball and that was that.
OG Anunoby was one of the brightest lights for the Raptors in the playoffs and served notice that he is an important piece moving forward. He was awesome defensively and his 43% three-point accuracy over 21 career playoff games is fourth in Raptors history behind only Jason Kapono, Dell Curry and Chris Childs.
With their returns uncertain, here are the stats of VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol as Raptors:
VanVleet: 231 GP 82 STARTS 10.5 PPG 6.6 APG 1.0 SPG .393 3PT%
All-time Raptor ranks: 6th DEF BOX +/- 7th APG 8th 3PM 9th 3PT% 10th BOX +/-
Ibaka: 228 GP 177 STARTS 14.2 PPG 7.4 RPG 1.2 BPG
All-time Raptor ranks: 6th REB/BLKS 9th PPG 4th EFG%
Gasol: 70 GP, 62 STARTS 8.1 PPG 6.4 RPG 3.4 APG
Interesting note from ex-Raptor DeMarre Carroll:
1 — Jayson Tatum
2 — Jaylen Brown
3 — Fred VanVleet
For the series I rated Lowry the top Raptor with eight points (two first starts, two third stars). OG Anunoby had 4, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell two apiece. Pascal Siakam was not a star in any of the games, and that was a huge reason for the loss.
And finally, thanks for reading my work all season.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020