A quick Raptors blog today, following too quite different Raptors games. The team should be encouraged by its split against Milwaukee and Philadelphia because not only was there a stunning blowout of the Bucks, but also a much better Raptors performance in the team’s rematch with the Sixers, this time in Philadelphia.
The Bucks game was one of the best Raptors performances in ages and showed what the team might be capable of, while they hung around with the Sixers for most of the night Thursday, sunk only by horrible closes to both the second and third quarters.
We’ll touch on this several times this season, but is Scottie Barnes ready to make his first all-star game?
He’s been nothing short of fantastic this season, even if I’ve apparently been a hard marker for his performances, handing him only second star of the game in four of six games so far, along with one third star pick. That speaks to Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby both having a near flawless game so far once and Joel Embiid dominating the Raptors in two other outings, earning first star for those ones.
If you look at regular stats, advanced stats or the eye test, it would be impossible to leave Barnes out of the all-star game if the players were picked right now. Heading into Friday’s games Barnes ranked eighth in the NBA in win shares (tied with teammate Dennis Schroder and Boston’s Derrick White), ninth in box plus/minus, first in defensive win shares, tied for second in value over replacement player.
It’s been a huge leap, even from the dominant player Barnes was when he was the rookie of the year. He’s averaged 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.8 assists and shot a surprising 39.3% on three-point attempts.
The league has gone back to East vs. West for the all-star game, and there’s arguably less superstar talent in the conference. If Barnes keeps going at a level anywhere close to this, he should be a lock.
AROUND THE RIM
– Siakam has struggled against former coach Nick Nurse’s schemes. In the two games this season against the Sixers, Siakam has taken eight and then 11 shots. He’s average 16 shots against everyone else. He’s combined for 21 points against Philadelphia, but averaged just shy of 21 a night against everyone else. He also didn’t get to the free throw line even once in the game on Thursday. Interesting. Is it Nurse’s schemes, the presence of Embiid, something else, or some combination?
– Tyrese Maxey is a great player and has also taken a huge leap, averaging 27.2 points per game this season. But he’s always given the Raptors all kinds of trouble. Even in only scoring 18 against them on Thursday, Maxey still pretty much did what he wanted. The defence was better against him compared to the first meeting, but he never seemed too bothered. Three of Maxey’s seven highest-scoring games have come against Toronto. He’s averaged 21.9 points against Toronto in 10 meetings, his second-most against any team (22.5 vs. Denver).
THREE STARS VS. PHILADELPHIA
1- Joel Embiid
2- Scottie Barnes
3- Kelly Oubre Jr.
THREE STARS VS. MILWAUKEE
1- Pascal Siakam
2- Scottie Barnes
3- Dennis Schroder