Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from sloppy win vs Hawks

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors didn’t play their best game of basketball Tuesday night, but they found a win to earn a victory. What did we learn from the game?

There are no moral victories in sports, and there is no such thing as a bad win. Good thing, because if a bad win did exist, Tuesday night’s game would be a prime example of one. The first place Toronto Raptors squeaked out a victory against the lowly Atlanta Hawks at home.

The lead switched hands 16 times, and neither team had an advantage greater than nine. It was an exciting, close game throughout, although close doesn’t necessarily mean well-played.

If it wasn’t for Kawhi Leonard, this game wouldn’t have been much of a contest. He scored 31 points on efficient shooting and carried the Raptors offense for long stretches. Other than him and OG Anunoby, no-one played up to their normal expectations.

What did we learn from the win? Here are my three big takeaways.

1. Shield your eyes

If you’re reading this because you weren’t able to watch the game last night, lucky you. Nothing about this game was on par with typical NBA basketball. Toronto looked as if they didn’t care, constantly committing lazy turnovers and giving up backdoor layups. Atlanta was trying; they just aren’t very good.

Multiple times throughout the game we saw a frantic, fast-paced back-and-forth where neither team seemed to have control of what was going on. The game felt like a 3-seed against a 14-seed in the NCAA tournament. Atlanta junked up the affair just enough to throw the Raptors off their game.

2. Zone against bad teams

I’m a fan of the zone. I don’t think it can ever be the primary defense for an NBA team, but to throw teams off rhythm and mess with their typical sets, it can make sense game-to-game.

Nick Nurse implemented a zone which made Atlanta look like a high school team. The 3-2/1-2-2 has to be on every Raptor scouting report at this point. The Hawks looked as if the Raptors invented zone in front of their very eyes.

There is no public data about Toronto’s zone defense against good teams vs bad teams, but from what I’ve seen, it’s more effective against bad ones than good ones. So far this season it’s made the biggest impact against Atlanta, Miami (without Goran Dragic), and Cleveland. None of those teams had a point guard. It’s not time to give up on Collin Sexton and Trae Young, but at the present moment, they’re poor NBA point guards (Like nearly every rookie).

Milwaukee and Philly tore it up in limited time, and Nurse feels more hesitant to employ it against the best teams. That doesn’t mean the zone isn’t still a weapon, and perhaps the lack of success against the best teams is just a fluke. However, it’s important to note what is translatable to the playoffs and what isn’t. I’m not quite as sold on the zone come Spring as I am right now.

3. Vince Carter‘s last game in Toronto?

Was this game the last time Vince Carter ever suits up in Toronto? It’s hard to say. It would make a great storyline for one of the greatest players in franchise history to make a return to Canada. I’m not sold it makes complete sense.

He likely wouldn’t be able to find his way into the Toronto rotation, but if he is happy being an end-of-bench guy and an insurance option,  the Raptors could do a lot worse than the old vet.

PS: Dear every broadcast ever. We understand Vince Carter is old. He’s been in the league for 20+ years. WE KNOW. It’s almost like every broadcast is paid on a commission each time they mention his age.  Is anyone watching the game thinking, “Wait, who is this new up-and-comer, Vince Carter?”

Next. Ranking every contract on the Raptors roster based on value. dark

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