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Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 130, Oklahoma City Thunder 121 – RaptorsHQ

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Well, that ended up being a little more stressful that it should have been, didn’t it? The Toronto Raptors once again turned a strong first half into a discombobulated second half, only this time — unlike against San Antonio and Portland — they were able to hang on for the win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

If you were following this game on Twitter at all last night, you know where we’ve go to start, right?

Let’s Get the McCaw Slander out of the Way

The Patrick McCaw experiment continues, and man is it some weird science.

Look, it really wasn’t all that bad. The Thunder got Toronto’s lead to single digits late in the third quarter last night, and a McCaw-at-point unit (featuring Marc Gasol, Terence Davis, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell) went on a 10-0 bridging the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth; that group ended up outscoring OKC 27-14.

The lead stood at 21 when Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam came back. With Anunoby and McCaw still out there, the Thunder went on a sudden 22-4 run.

That, obviously, cannot all be on McCaw. Yes, McCaw was bad in this stretch; he had a brutal turnover in the backcourt that led to a three-point play, and he was almost inexplicably bad on defense, allowing multiple blow-bys. But, much like the case on Sunday, the Raptors offense really fell apart when both Lowry and Siakam were on the floor.

And maybe we can chalk that up to Siakam’s rust. I’m not too worried about that, yet.

The question really is, what is McCaw doing on the floor at that point in the game?

With Fred VanVleet sidelined, I get that McCaw has to play that playmaker role when Lowry and Siakam are off. Fine. What is his role in that closing unit, though? You don’t need him to handle the ball there, with both Siakam and Lowry on the floor. (Why he was bringing the ball up when he made that aforementioned turnover?) He can’t (and often won’t) shoot, so teams can leave him and crowd Siakam.

Surely Davis (who all the numbers favour at this point) is a more legitimate threat who opens up the floor for others? Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a better defender and rebounder if you want size. Marc Gasol needed a rest, but Chris Boucher was an option if the Raptors wanted to stay really big. Heck, if you want to really space the floor, Matt Thomas is on this team too.

Some of McCaw’s minutes and usage I can understand. Him spending four minutes on the floor with the starters in a close game when there are multiple options that fit better with that unit behind him on the bench? I just can’t.

Going Big

All right, let’s talk about the big lineup that started the game. OKC is one of the teams that employs a big traditional centre in Steven Adams, so it makes some sense. And outside of Adams, OKC is small, so it creates a mismatch somewhere on the floor at all times (see Chris Paul guarding Pascal Siakam). It also makes sense in a “play your best guys” approach, with VanVleet still out.

And it seemed to work! By putting long defenders on OKC’s perimeter players, the Raptors got their hands on multiple passes in the first quarter, creating several fast-break opportunities; the Raptors scored 14 points off of eight Oklahoma City turnovers in the first quarter.

Gasol looked great. He hinted before the game he might start being more aggressive on offense, and he delivered, taking nine shots in his 31.5 minutes, scoring 15 points. Welcome back Big Spain!

Now, I don’t think this should be a regular starting unit or anything, but I’m more than OK with Nick Nurse trying it out from time to time. If the Raptors end up facing Philadelphia in the postseason, you know it’s going to be necessary.

Start OG at the Two Every Game

OK, that’s not realistic, but OG Anunoby, who started at the shooting guard spot for the first time, had a sensational opening quarter. Anunoby (who’s “chiseled out of marble,” according to my wife) (hey, she has good taste!) did it on both ends, stealing two passes and deflecting at least two more, and preventing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander from getting what he wanted — all while hitting two of his three three-point attempts on the other end.

Anunoby finished with 21 points on 13 shots, along with five rebounds and five assists. Maybe he’s been a two-guard all along!?

Also, we can’t let this game go without acknowledging this winning smile:


Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 130, Oklahoma City Thunder 121, OG Anunoby smile

NBA.com

Welcome to the “No Lead is Safe” NBA

Even when the Raptors went up 30, I was not comfortable watching last night’s game. The Raptors have blown too many leads lately, and in today’s NBA, where every team employs multiple three-point threats, it really doesn’t seem like you can ever relax. And, hey, the Raptors themselves came back from 30 down this year.

(Thank goodness they didn’t become the first time to win a game after trailing by 30 and lose a game after leading by 30 in the same season.)

Even with that said, the game shouldn’t have been that stressful in the second half. The Raptors really need to figure out their fourth-quarter execution.

Prayers Answered

OKC does a pre-game prayer, which is a really anachronistic and somewhat offensive thing that I’m kind of surprised the NBA still allows.

That said… some prayers were being answered last night, and they were all on Toronto’s side of the ball.

First there was Norman Powell’s off-balance, double-clutch heave at the end of the third that dropped.

Then in the fourth, Marc Gasol fired a three-pointer in, high off the glass, from straight away.

And finally, a few plays later with the shot clock winding down, OG Anunoby threw a deep ball into the rafters, and it came down through the net:

The Raptors shouldn’t have needed divine intervention after being up 30, but it sure seems like they got it.

********

It may not have been the second half we wanted after that great opening 20 minutes, but hey — it’s still a quality road win against a good Western conference opponent, and not for nothing, but those 20 minutes are a reminder — this team is pretty damn good when it’s healthy.

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Mirtle: This may very well be the last stand for this Maple Leafs core – The Athletic

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Kyle Dubas stood in front of a small group of reporters on the NHL’s trade deadline day and offered some serious honesty about his Maple Leafs.

He swore. He called their play embarrassing. And he offered a firm “I don’t know” when asked why they were so inconsistent — or “Jekyll and Hyde,” as he put it at one point.

“The truthful answer is we don’t know,” Dubas said. “That might draw some criticism to say ‘I don’t know,’ but I’m not gonna bullshit and tell you I have some magical solution. I think we have to go through this.”

Dubas spoke for nearly 18 minutes on Monday afternoon, with long answers that followed a now familiar theme. The tale he told was about how his team still has lessons to learn and that this adversity, these brutal losses, are the path to getting there.

It seemed some came away from the speech believing it was another rousing…

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Trade grades: Oilers acquire 2020 version of Mike Green – ESPN

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Edmonton Oilers trade for Detroit Andreas Athanasiou

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This in from Gord Miller of TSN, that the Edmonton Oilers have traded for Andreas Athanasiou and Ryan Kuffner from Detroit. The Oilers gave up Sam Gagner and two second round picks to get Athanasiou, who will be a Restricted Free Agent this summer.

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My take

  1. It looks like Oilers GM Ken Holland wants his team to take a run at the Stanley Cup. Can you blame him? Not me.
  2. Athanasiou, 25, is a major pick up for the Oilers. He’s having an off year but he scored 30 goals in 2018-19.
  3. When it comes to even strength scoring, Athanasiou ranks 238th out of 393 regular NHL forwards this year, with 1.57 points per game.
  4. Sam Gagner ranks 284th for even strength scoring with 1.38 points per game. But Gagner lacks the wheels to play with Connor McDavid. Athanasiou has got them. Gagner was moved for cap reasons, so Edmonton can fit Athanasiou under their cap.
  5. Kuffner, 23, is a struggling AHL player.
  6. Athanasiou kills penalties and plays on the power play in Detroit. This year he’s at 1:37 per game on the PK and 2:21 per game on the PP. But his big number is that -45 NHL plus-minuus in 46 games. That’s a wretched number but it’s a number earned by the entire Detroit Red Wings team when Athanasiou is on the ice, it’s not an individual stat. We’ll see how well Athansiou plays defence when he gets here, though there are doubts about him in this regard.
  7. Athanasiou has been on the ice for 21 even strength goals for this year and 60 against.
  8. Brian Burke of Sportnset said: “All I can tell you about Athanasiou is: he makes both teams dangerous. This is a guy who has speed for sure, but he is not a fanatic about defence. I can tell you that. This one, I’ll give Kenny the benefit of the doubt. They definitely got faster but this guy is not a defender.”
  9. Former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau of Sportsnet said Athanasiou would help push NHL defenders back with his speed. “I think it’s going to work out. If Connor is skating full speed and this guy can keep up to him, how do you check them”?
  10. Louie DeBrusk of Sportsnet said: “This is going to be the first time that Connor McDavid has a running mate that can actually keep up to him and be right there with him and be right on the door step waiting for those back door tap ins.”
  11. Scottie Upshall on TSN said, “I like the move. They need speed. He’s one of the fastest players in the league. And Connor needs that. He needs a guy who is going to step up and keep the pace of play and be able to move the puck, be able to create some space.”
  12. TSN’s Ray Ferraro said: “Certainly Ken Holland knows him from Detroit. He’s seen the ups and downs of AA as he’s gone from Grande Rapids to a part time pro in Detroit to a full time guy. Seen him score 30 goals. He’s there to watch him -42 this year. So I think there be a pretty direct line of communication of what’s expected from Athanasiou. He can skate. He can score. McDavid is on a line right now with Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner. That doesn’t fit. They need more there. And I think the Oilers… they’ve got a player that can play with McDavid. Will it be successful. We’ll see…. It feels like this is the type of player who has had such a crappy year that can hit lightning here playing with a guy like McDavid.” Ferraro said he’s intrigued by this for Edmonton. “I think that what concerns me is that he likes the puck. Athanasiou likes the puck. He likes to rush it. He likes to carry it. The guy he’s going to be playing with should be carrying the puck all the time.”
  13. TSN’s Craig Button wondered if Athanasiou would get to the right places at the right time on the ice. “He plays with blinders on… He’s like a drag racer. He’s not a formula one racer. He’s just straight ahead. And if you’re going to play with Connor McDavid, you better be thinking, ‘Where’s Connor so I can get him the puck?’ I don’t think Athanasiou will be a good fit for Connor McDavid. I don’t.” Buttons suggested playing Athanasiou with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and putting Drasaistl back with McDavid.
  14. TSN’s Jeff O’Neill said: “It’s going to be nice to see him in a competitive situation too. There’s not a lot of fun going on in Detroit right now and I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of fun. That would be a player who would just be drowning in that year after year.”
  15. TSN’s Mike Johnson said: “Even if it doesn’t fit perfectly, if they’re not a perfect blend, Connor McDavid is talented enough, if you have any kind of offensive instincts, or even enough to know just get out of the way, go to the net and let him do his thing, you’ll pick up points, you’ll pick up goals, you’ll feel better about yourself. There is an element of truth that if you just keep it simple even it’s not exactly your style of game, if you just keep it simple and go to to the net and get out of the way, Connor McDavid is great enough for you to have a little bit of success just like that.”
  16. I like this deal. Edmonton has a great chance to both win the Pacific division and to make the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Second round picks are valuable, but they have about a one in five chance of turning into a good NHLer.
  17. Athanasiou makes $3.0 million this year. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, so Edmonton will have to make a call on him then. For now, we’ll see how he does this spring in Edmonton.

In case you’re wondering about the value of draft picks, Brad McPherson has dug into this a this website, the Blue Bullet Report:

Essentially, he’s found that a forward taken in the various rounds has the following average career value:

  • 1st overall: 102 value
  • 10th overall: 26.2
  • 20th: 13.2
  • 30th: 8.9
  • 40th: 4.8
  • 50th: 4.2
  • 60th: 3.6
  • 70th: 3.4
  • 80th: 2.2
  • 90th: 1.8
  • 100th: 1.5
  • 110th: 0.9
  • 120th: 0.9
  • 130th: 0.8
  • 140th: 0.8
  • 150th: 0.8
  • 160th: 0.8
  • 170th: 0.6
  • 180th: 0.6
  • 190th: 0.5
  • 200th: 0.5
  • 210th: 0.5

The first overall pick has an average career value four times greater than the 10th overall pick and more than 10 times greater than the average 30th overall pick, and more than 20 times greater than the average second round pick.

Sometimes lower round picks turn into fine players, like Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones. Most often, they do not.

Major recent trades:

  • Edmonton gets Athanasiou for two second round picks and Sam Gagner.
  • Pittsburgh gets Patrick Marleau for a third round pick.
  • Carolina Hurricanes get Vincent Trochek for forwards Erik Haula and Lucas Wallmark and two prospects (Chase Priskie and Eetu Luostarinen).
  • Washington Capitals acquire Ilya Kovalchuk for a third round draft pick.
  • New York Islanders get Jean-Gabriel Pageau for first round draft pick in 2020 (lottery protected), 2nd in 2020 and 3rd round pick in 2022 if Islanders win the Cup.
  • Colorado gets Vlad Namestnikov for a fourth round pick in 2021.
  • Boston Bruins get Ondrej Kase, traded for a 2020 first-round pick along with David Backes and defensive prospect Axel Andersson, Bruins retaining 25 per cent of Backes’ contract.
  • Vegas Golden Knights get Alec Martinez, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 2nd-rd pick
  • St. Louis Blues get Marco Scandella, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 cond. pick
  • Washington Capitals get Brenden Dillon, D – Traded for ’20 2nd-rd pick, ’21 cond. pick
  • Winnipeg Jets get Dylan DeMelo, D – Traded for ’20 3rd-rd pick
  • Vancouver Canucks get Tyler Toffoli, RW – Traded for Tim Schaller, Madden, picks
  • Tampa Bay Lightning get Blake Coleman, LW – Traded for Nolan Foote, ’20 1st-rd pick
  • New Jersey Devils get David Quenneville, D – Traded w/ ’21 2nd-rd pick for Andy Greene
  • Pittsburgh Penguins get Jason Zucker, LW – Traded for Alex Galchenyuk, Addison, ’20 1st-rd pick
  • Los Angeles Kings get Trevor Moore, LW – Traded w/ picks for Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford
  • Buffalo Sabres Michael Frolik for 4th -round pick (2020)
  • Montreal Canadiens Marco Scandella for 4th-round pick (2020)
  • Arizona Coyotes Taylor Hall and Blake Speers for 2020 conditional first-round draft pick, 2021 conditional third-round draft pick, Nate Schnarr, Nick Merkley Kevin Bahl

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