The Toronto Raptors proved that a win-is-a-win on Monday night as they defeated the Orlando Magic in a slugfest. What were the game’s biggest takeaways?
ALL Toronto Raptors wins are beautiful. Some just happen to be more beautiful than others. If the Finals wins were a Chris Hemsworth or Mila Kunis level of pretty, tonight looked more like…. well me or you.
Both teams shot below 40-percent from the field, shot a combined 28-percent from 3, and turned it over 16 times each. Neither team posted an offensive rating above 100, and we saw less than 200 combined points despite the game being played at a relatively blistering pace — the game’s pace of 104.50 would have slotted in as the second-fastest team in the NBA last season.
After watching 45 minutes of the two teams fight for points as if they squeezing blood from a stone, the game came down to the final few possessions. The game was tied with 3:04 remaining; the Raptors managed to outscore the Magic by nine from that point forward.
Oh, I can’t believe I went this far without mentioning the court or uniforms…. those had all the beautfy which this game lacked.
So what did we learn from an ugly backyard-brawl type victory?
OG is making an All-Defensive Team case
With Kawhi Leonard gone and OG Anunoby back in the starting lineup, we expected to see offensive growth from the third-year small forward. What we didn’t — or at least I didn’t — expect is for him to take a leap like this defensively. Anunoby has always been a good defensive player; this season, he’s making a case for an All-Defensive Team.
Anunoby finished last night’s contest with five steals and two blocks. He’s averaging 2.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per 36 minutes, up from .6 blocks and 1.2 steals last season. Last night, Anunoby displayed prime Kawhi-levels of, “just don’t dribble around that guy.”
Aaron Gordon had the unfortunate role of matching up against OG. He finished the game with three times as many turnovers as field goals. With Anunoby and Pascal Siakam manning the two power forward spots, Toronto is able to suffocate opposing wings with an unfair amount of athleticism and energy.
But OG’s always been an impressive individual defender. This season’s growth is less about his ability to lock opponents up and more about his increased off-ball awareness. The clip above shows great explosion at the rim, sure, but what’s more important is his ability to recognize his rotation and have faith in the team’s ability to cover his man.
Anunoby is flying around the court, defending at an elite level both individually and as a help defender. Last night was the perfect encapsulation of that.