Raptors head back up on the early-season roller coaster in win over the Sixers
It is the nature of this Raptors beast that things are going to be good and then bad, good and then bad, good again, bad again.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
There will be ups and downs from game to game, hiccups that disrupt play from quarter to quarter. The Raptors will look like a great team for a string of possessions at one point and like five strangers at others.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Things should improve over time, when the rotation gets settled and the roster is consistent game to game. But until that time, the trials and tribulations will have to be dealt with.
“Guys come in, guys go out, (it) happens with injuries and such,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said Thursday night. “Maybe with the youth of our team, that gets disrupted a little quicker. We’ll have to kind of smooth it out as we go here.”
Thursday’s 115-109 victory over the Sixers in Philadelphia was the season in microcosm; The Raptors were inspired in stretches, only adequate in others and struggled at times. But they still snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 7-6 on the season.
“You see we played really hard, we were flying around, and when we grab that energy and sustain it for a while, then we’re going to be in the game and we’re gonna have a chance,” Nurse said.
“I think the ball was going in a lot more tonight than it was (in Boston on Wednesday) and that fed that energy, I think. (We had) a lot of offensive rebounds again, another good sign of our energy.
“Lots of good stuff just off hard play.”
A tremendous third quarter, sparked by Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes, followed a so-so first half. And Chris Boucher, who had been underwhelming all season, exploded for a 17-point, six-rebound night that kept Toronto in the game.
“Eventually I had to get in a little groove,” Boucher said. “It’s just a mindset … I think today was a big step for me in finding that confidence again and realizing the way that I have to play.”
Three-pointers by Gary Trent Jr. and Fred VanVleet in the last 40 seconds — after Toronto had gone nearly three minutes without a point — were the daggers the Raptors threw. Both came off assists by OG Anunoby, whose passing abilities have vastly improved this season.
VanVleet finished with 32 points to lead Toronto and Tyrese Maxey led Philadelphia with 33.
The Raptors were full measure for the win, particularly because they ended the game on an 8-0 run to complete back-to-back games in Boston on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Thursday.
It has been a rather uneven start to the season, a great weeding-out period for all but the best NBA teams, and an especially hard time for a group that has been as disrupted as the Raptors have been.
Pascal Siakam missed 10 games, played two and sat out Thursday to rest his surgically repaired shoulder. Precious Achiuwa, still very much a young player learning the game, started for the Raptors, then came off the bench, then started again against the Sixers. Scottie Barnes has been one of the top rookies in the league but he’s still learning the extent of his talents. Dalano Banton has won the backup point guard duties — “I should play him more, he seems to play good every time I throw him out there,” Nurse said — but he’s a rookie who, by definition, will have ups and downs.
It’s not been exactly chaotic but it’s been odd, and it takes time for it all to shake out.