The Toronto Raptors have not got the start of the season they wanted.
The Toronto Raptors start their season 0-2, as they were unable to overcome the San Antonio Spurs on Boxing Day. Being the first time the Raptors are two games below .500 since December of 2013. Although it has been a disappointing start to the season, there are some valuable takeaways from the Raptors’ loss on Saturday night.
#1: Great initial bounce back from Wednesday’s loss
The Raptors were coming off a game against the Pelicans. which wasn’t the best of performances for Toronto. The Pelicans outplayed them in every aspect of that game, and with 2 days to prepare for the upcoming matchup against the Spurs, it was certain that Toronto would have adjustments made.
The Raptors played stellar basketball in the first quarter. The offense was clicking on all cylinders, as the team in white and red, were able to get whatever they desired offensively. The play of the big men, Aron Baynes and Chris Boucher were vital to Toronto’s success in the first quarter.
Toronto put up 39 points in the opening period, which is the most points the Raptors have ever scored against the Spurs in a quarter. The play from the Raptors displayed that they are more than capable of putting the ball in the basket. However, that wasn’t the case for the rest of the game.
#2: Chris Boucher is exactly what the Raptors need
Fred Vanvleet might’ve had a team-high 27 points, but the play of Chris Boucher was otherworldly. Boucher finished with an incredible stat line of 22 points, 10 rebounds, and an absurd 7 blocks. Without Boucher, the bench play of Toronto would’ve been non-existent, as the rest of the second unit combined for 10 points.
The productivity from Boucher is amazing, but the energy he brings to the game is what the Raptors desperately need. Whenever Toronto finds themselves in a drought, the life of the team drifts away the longer the slump. The energy Boucher brings, provides the Raptors with a resurgence to get out of that drought.
This performance is only going to fuel Boucher’s confidence, which is the best thing for the Raptors. However, the rest of the bench has to provide alongside the young center. Norman Powell can’t have scoreless games as the sixth man off the bench. It will be essential that the Raptors find consistency from the second unit, hopefully, Boucher provides just that.
#3: Defense has been a weakness so far
Looking back at the 2019-2020 season, the Toronto Raptors led the league in opponents’ points allowed at 106.5 points per game. Throughout the first two games, the Raptors rank 16th in points allowed at 113 points per game, which should be a red flag.
The San Antonio Spurs were carving up the Raptors defense from the second quarter onwards. Lack of communication led to rotations being slow. Mistakes that can’t be made against a Gregg Popovich coached team.
The Spurs were getting right to the basket, on what seemed like every other play. For the times they weren’t getting to the rim, they would kick it out to shooters like Patty Mills, who was 5-6 from three.
The reasoning behind the Raptors’ inability to play effective defense is unknown but change will need to happen quickly. The eastern conference is much more competitive than it has been in recent years. Toronto doesn’t want to find themselves in a situation where they are fighting for a playoff spot.