The Toronto Raptors finally got their 2022-23 campaign kicked off with a home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, one of many Eastern Conference foes who took a massive step in the right direction following some big offseason moves. Cleveland and Toronto will both be fighting to escape the randomness of the play-in.
The first quarter was classic Raptors basketball, as the defense held Cleveland to just 22 points while the offense had enough timely shot-making to head into the second quarter with a six-point lead. Unfortunately, the Cavs were able to slice right through Toronto’s bench and enter the second half with a lead.
After another strong third stanza by Cleveland, a hot shooting performance by the Raptors tied the game minutes into the fourth quarter. Preseason standout O.G. Anunoby and the rest of the starters scored at least 15 points each in the win.
Tonight was a bit of a mixed bag for Toronto, as the starters performing sensationally well as a unit was once again let down by a bench that couldn’t get out of their own way. There were a few poor showings, but many more positive days at the office to discuss.
Pascal Siakam was the driving force for the Toronto Raptors.
On a court that was filled with current and future All-Star players, it became clear very early on that Siakam was the most impactful force on the floor. Siakam is going to be the maypole around which Toronto build their roster, and he proved to be more worthy of that title than ever before, thanks to an extremely sharp opening night performance.
Siakam recorded a double-double just a few ticks after the second half started, finishing with 23 points and 11 rebounds on the night. With four steals on the evening, Siakam played a huge role in making sure that Toronto was able to operate against Cleveland’s tough defense.
There were times when Toronto just let Siakam do whatever he wanted in the half-court, and that strategy appeared to be the only consistent way that this team was scoring for large chunks of the second and third quarters. Another All-NBA season can be in the works.
Pascal just beat out Anunoby and Fred VanVleet.
Thad Young didn’t play great for the Toronto Raptors.
Is it fair to put someone who only played 11 minutes in this spot? For tonight, yes. Young didn’t see a ton of time in the preseason, as Toronto wanted to make sure that they didn’t overwork the aging veteran. While he is normally a quality, versatile defender, he was giving up drives into the paint with ease in this game.
If you’re going to be a net negative on defense, supplementing that with solid shooting would be one way to make up for it. Rather than shoot the lights out like he did last year, Young made just one of his three shot attempts, which was an open 3-pointer. This looked nothing like the invaluable glue guy and connector we saw last season.
Young is obviously going to have better nights than this, but the fact that rookie Christian Koloko saw more minutes than Thad was a sign that Nurse was not happy with his performance. With a meat-grinder of a schedule coming up and Otto Porter Jr. out, the veteran Young will likely do everything he can to get back in a groove.