Toronto Raptors: Three Takeaways from Friday’s loss to OKC

Toronto Raptors - Serge Ibaka (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Serge Ibaka (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Toronto Raptors 116-109 on Friday night. What were the main takeaways from the Raptors’ eighth home defeat of 2018-19?

The Toronto Raptors appeared to be on their way to a home-and-home sweep of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, but the visitors continued to chip away as the night wore on, and eventually, Westbrook, George, and Co. would hand Toronto a rare home loss, pulling away late in the fourth quarter.

Toronto led for the majority of three quarters, but relinquished the lead late in the third quarter and never recovered after that. Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 37 points, followed by Pascal Siakam who finished with 25 points. Rounding out Toronto’s top three was Danny Green, who made six threes and a free throw to finish with 19 points.

Many of the same positives seen over the recent stretch were apparent even in defeat — Toronto shot and moved the ball effectively, finishing the night shooting 44 percent and registering 30 assists on 42 made field goals.

When all was said and done, the Thunder were simply too good in this one, able to beat a Toronto team that was once again missing Kyle Lowry, who remains out with an ankle injury.

Bench struggles an “annoying” problem (especially this time of year)

Outside of Kawhi Leonard (+7) and Marc Gasol (+2), every other Raptor player finished with a negative net rating on Friday. The three worst culprits were Norman Powell (-12), Serge Ibaka (-14), and Jeremy Lin (-12). All three, on this night, were members of Toronto’s sporadically shaky second unit.

Friday’s loss saw Nick Nurse’s bench mob outscored 31-18. Dennis Schroder led the way for Oklahoma City with 26 points, outscoring Toronto’s bench by himself.

It’s easy to dismiss the bench’s struggles, especially considering the proximity to the postseason. The playoffs bring tighter rotations and teams are less reliant on second units to spell starters when the schedule affords more days off; managing loads becomes a non-issue in games 83 and beyond.

Still, Toronto’s “second wave” must play better. VanVleet’s eventual return will help, but that won’t solve all the problems plaguing the second unit. Overall, Nick Nurse needs more collective consistency from his reserves.

Oklahoma City’s “uncharacteristic” shooting

The Thunder have struggled from beyond the arc for most of the season, ranking 18th in three-point field goals per game (11) and 24th in three-point percentage (35%).

On Friday, they made 20 on 43 attempts.

Toronto went 13-25, led by Danny Green, who made six of 11 threes and continues to be scorching out from downtown. Don’t look now, but Green is shooting 54% from three over his last five games, making nearly four per game over that span.

Back to the Thunder – Paul George hit five of 10 threes and was aided by Jerami Grant (5-8) and Dennis Schroder (4-7). Combined, the OKC trio sank 14 of Oklahoma’s 20 made threes on the night.

Oklahoma City’s bench also outscored Toronto’s second unit 15-3 from distance.

Finding shots for Gasol

Marc Gasol attempted one field goal in Friday’s loss. He made it. Numbers, at least on this night, suggest he would’ve never missed. Unfortunately, his shot chart Friday was a single green dot…

Toronto’s offence has been sensational since Gasol arrived, but Nurse can’t forget to give the big man touches and let him operate in the post against what’s likely to be inferior competition most nights. Perhaps Steven Adams wasn’t the best matchup, but to limit Gasol to one shot seems like gross mismanagement, both on the part of Nurse and Gasol’s teammates.  It’s no easy task divvying up shots when your roster features so many quality options, but on Friday night, Nurse flat out forgot to feature one of his prime offensive weapons. He can do more than just pass.

Fortunately for Toronto’s bench boss, Pau’s younger brother wasn’t about to let a lack of shots take away from the other areas of his game. “Little” Marc, in 28 minutes of action, finished with two points, on 1-1 shooting, five rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and two steals.

Look for the Raptors to get Gasol more involved in future games. One shot for a player of his caliber is not a recipe for success, and that was proven Friday night, even as several of Gasol’s teammates had excellent nights.

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