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Welcome to Orlando. After a global pandemic and the continuing social upheaval in the fight for equal rights the NBA is back, and so are the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Getting there early looks like it helped the Raptors, as they are playing like they’re in front of a packed Scotiabank Arena (most of the time). In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the Raptors first four games.

Week Record (3-1) 

Overall Record (49-19)

Saturday, August 1st – Lakers vs Raptors – W (107-92)  

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Sweet move. Spicy finish.

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In the first game back from the NBA’s hiatus, the defending champions they played an on brand defense-first game. They held the Lakers to 35 per cent shooting from the field as well as LeBron and Anthony Davis to 22 shots. Kyle Lowry’s hustle was a key factor in this game. He had 33 points and a career high 14 rebounds, with six assists. OG Anunoby had 23 points on 8-9 shooting, including three makes from downtown. The Raptors only shot 41 per cent from the field but shot the same percentage from three. They made 14 compared to the Lakers’ 10. They beat the Lakers in most of the team comparison stats, except blocks. 

Monday, August 3rd – Raptors @ Heat – W (107-103) 

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Today’s game was a 1:30 start, and it was evident from the start that neither team was ready, with the Raptors leading 23-17 after the first. The Raptors would eventually lead by 17 in the third quarter but would blow it from strong play for Goran Dragic (albeit at times dirty). But in the battle of the guards it would be Fred VanVleet who would come out on top. He had a career-high 36 points, including seven threes. Pascal Siakam also had 22 points and seven rebounds. For Miami, Dragic and Kelly Olynyk combined for 42 points off the bench. Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson were in single digits but the rest of the starters hit double figures. What cost the Miami Heat this game was two costly turnovers from Dragic at the end of the game. Dragic passed the ball to Jimmy Butler but went off his hands out of bounds. After Marc Gasol split the free throws, Fred VanVleet stole the ball from Dragic.  The Raptors shot better from the field and three, but didn’t lead in rebounds, assists, and blocks. They also beat the Raptors in points in the paint, 36-22. 

Wednesday, August 5th – Raptors @ Magic – W (109-99) 

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Right foot up, left foot sliiide

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The Raptors held the Magic to 11 points in the first quarter, and they were never really able to go on a run afterwards to chip at the deficit. Some of the guys that were struggling in the earlier games were able to find somewhat of a groove, especially Norman Powell and Serge Ibaka. When the offence stagnated Fred VanVleet became the go-to opinion with Kyle Lowry struggling even though he had 21 points and 10 assists. In a potential playoff preview this was a good sense of what the games could look like. 

Friday, August 7th – Celtics vs. Raptors  – L (122-10) 

The Raptors did not practice after the Magic game, and it was clear from the beginning with the effort on offence and activity on defense. They seemed a step behind all game. The Raptors leading scorer was Fred VanVleet again, but with only 13 points. The Celtics were locked in defensively and exposed Marc Gasol on the other side multiple times. That was shown with Daniel Theis’ play, he had 11 points and 11 rebounds. Even if Nick Nurse was trying not to show what he may use in a Celtics-Raptors series, that doesn’t excuse the slow start and lack of effort. 

Player of the Week – Fred VanVleet 

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Open Gym: Moment presented by Bell

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Especially in these four games, Fred VanVleet has had a calming presence on the court. When the Raptors half-court offence has stagnated, it’s been him tasked to get a bucket. Against Miami this was evident, dissecting their defense consistently. With Pascal Siakam struggling and the variance in Kyle Lowry’s game, having Fred performing well as a third option is vital if the Raptors want to make it far. 

Key Contributor – OG Anunoby

The biggest thing for OG Anunoby this week was his ball handling. We saw it in the scrimmage games, but it’s still been important to the Raptors offence in these seeding games. His three point shooting has also been good. He’s been making the most of his opportunities when open, and his stroke has looked clean. In a playoff series he can schemed against, so this is an important aspect to his game. 

Standout Performance – Marc Gasol against Orlando

Since the Raptors played the Magic in the playoffs, Marc Gasol has had Nikola Vucevic’s number. He only allowed 12 points and 9 rebounds on 4-10 shooting. He wasn’t hesitating on offence, and moved crisply when he was on the court. Hopefully more games like this are in the future for Gasol, as the Raptors will need his interior presence. 

Best Opposing Player –  Goran Dragic 

Goran Dragic is one of those players that just seems to kill the Raptors when he’s on the court. Memories of the 2016 playoffs come to mind in particular. With Miami’s guards struggling in this particular game Dragic came into the game and Toronto could not stop him until the end. This play wasn’t cool though.

To Note 

  • Raptors President Masai Ujiri and General Manager Bobby Webster talked to Terence Davis about the hole in his mask shown before a game
  • Raptors guard/forward Patrick McCaw left the bubble to get treatment on a benign mass on the back of his left knee
  • Head Coach Nick Nurse was named a finalist for Coach of the Year with Mike Budenholzer and Billy Donovan

Upcoming Games

  • Sunday, August 9th – Memphis Grizzlies vs. Toronto Raptors
  • Monday, August 10th – Toronto Raptors @ Milwaukee Bucks
  • Wednesday, August 12th – Toronto Raptors @ Philadelphia 76ers
  • Friday, August 14th – Denver Nuggets vs. Toronto Raptors

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