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Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 17

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Kyle Lowry isn’t done impacting meaningful NBA games – The Athletic

O.G. Anunoby is a monster. He had a season-high 32 points, as well as 10 rebounds. I could pick out any number of plays to highlight his excellence, but it was really just the space he was creating for his jumper, and the balance which he had, that most impressed me.

“I think he’s gone to more power and balance than skill,” Nurse said of Anunoby’s offensive skill set. “I think he was (previously) doing a lot of Euro-stepping and trying to avoid (contact).”

The easy thing to do when your teammate gets doubled on a drive is to stay, unguarded, in the corner. If you aren’t a knockdown shooter, however, it might be wiser to cut along the baseline. Chris Boucher did the wise thing to save a rough possession in the final two minutes and was rewarded with a corner 3 on the next possession.

VanVleet returned after a two-game absence with a non-COVID illness, finishing with 23 points and eight assists. He had a pass to Barnes out of a trap that was sublime.

“I think everyone I’ve talked to in the world (says) this is the worst cold (that) we’ve had, right?” said VanVleet, who added he still isn’t feeling entirely better. “Nobody’s really had a cold in two years. Everyone’s been wearing masks. So it was my turn. I hope that everybody can avoid it because it wasn’t fun.”

Before the game, Nurse defended Barnes’ recent play, praising his defence and playmaking. He did say he wanted him to get into the paint more often. Barnes played 20 minutes in the first half, taking six shots, none of which came from the paint. His first paint shot came on a short hook shot early in the third quarter. He persevered through this one, working hard to finish with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists in 41 minutes. He might have lacked some force at times, but he played a really nice game. For what it’s worth, Barnes said his ankle isn’t bothering him “at all,” despite it looking like he is favouring it a few times per game.

Little things, but I’m not sure why the Raptors would have VanVleet take the foul to give at the end of the first quarter. It wasn’t catastrophic, as it was just his second foul. With so much game left, though, I don’t think any players bound for crunchtime minutes should take that foul. He played with three fouls at the end of the second quarter and five at the end of the fourth

Gary Trent Jr. missed his second consecutive game with a sore hip. Otto Porter Jr. was also out with a dislocated toe he suffered Monday against Detroit. Nurse said before the game that Porter, like Trent, is considered day to day, but the forward will have more testing done. Banton started for a second straight game but exited in the third quarter with a sprained ankle. Nurse said the medical staff told him the injury “wasn’t too good.”

Anunoby, VanVleet step up against former mentor Lowry in impressive Raptors win – Sportsnet

It was a good night for Scottie Barnes too. The second year forward has been slumping of late but broke out with 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting while adding six rebounds and six assists. Thad Young offered 12 points and 7 rebounds in another start for the 16-year veteran, while Chris Boucher had 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

VanVleet was a factor too, as he helped turn the game around as he took command in the third quarter on his way to a 23-point, eight-assist night.

The Raptors did their thing as they won the offensive rebound battle 16-4 and the turnovers 23-14. Toronto shot 51.2 per cent while taking 86 shots and the Heat shot 54.5 per cent, but only managed 66 field goal attempts.

“They played their game to a T today,” said Lowry afterwards. “That’s what good teams do. They found a way to impose their will on the game tonight.”

Lowry finished with 19 points and has been playing better this season for Miami than he did last year, when injuries and a health issue within his family cut into his availability and his preparation time. His numbers were actually better than most might think – his 60 per cent True Shooting was the second-highest mark of his career – but he shot the ball poorly in the playoffs when the No.1 seed Heat were eliminated in the second round Lowry took his share of the blame, his 29 per cent shooting making him an easy target.

The pressure mounted this year as the Heat started 2-5 and Lowry was shooting just 35.4 per cent from the floor, but as Lowry and Miami hit the floor in Toronto, things were beginning to shift. The Heat had won three straight and five of their past seven to even their record at 7-7. Lowry was scoring 13.9 points while adding 6.3 assists and 5.7 rebounds on 43.8 per cent shooting. Not exactly peak Lowry (did we properly appreciate 22.4 points and seven assists a game with a 62.3 True Shooting in 2016-17?) but certainly well within the range of ‘very effective Lowry’ that he punched in with like clockwork during his nine seasons in Toronto.

He wasted little time serving notice of his intentions against his old team on Wednesday night as he pulled up for a triple on his first touch. But mostly he looked to make plays in the flow, but there were some vintage moments, as when he pulled up for a long three in transition after a Barnes turnover and then blew up a Raptors pick-and-roll with Barens on the sidelines, took the ball the other way and threw a perfect alley-oop to a sprinting Caleb Martin as the Heat were on their way to building a 10-point lead before a pair of Fred VanVleet free throws and Anunoby tip dunk trimmed the Heat lead to 60-54 before intermission.

It was all expected. Lowry wasn’t his most bothersome, chaos-causing self, but the outlines were there.

“There’s nothing he could do to frustrate me,” said VanVleet, who was taken under Lowry’s wing as a rookie and has stayed close since. “It’s annoying when he tricks the refs but other than that, it’s just fun watching him do what he does. I thought he was old three years ago, to see him still kicking and making an impact and putting pressure on the defence, you could just see the greatness in him.”

Miami Heat grapple with traveling calls vs. Toronto Raptors – Sun-Sentinal

Amid all that went wrong for the Miami Heat in Wednesday night’s 112-104 road loss to the Toronto Raptors, from the lack of available bodies, to the 19-rebound deficit, to allowing a 21-0 third-quarter run, one question certainly not raised was why traveling isn’t called in the NBA.

In the first game of the Heat’s four-game road trip that continues Friday night against the Washington Wizards, traveling was called 11 times, including seven times on the Heat. It was a key component in the Heat closing with a season-high 23 turnovers and finishing with 20 fewer shot attempts than the Raptors.

“I don’t know,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of what practically came off as an officiating foot fetish. “On any given night, you can call some of those, but not six or seven of them. But that’s neither here nor there.”

Actually, they were everywhere, including two apiece on the Heat’s Kyle Lowry and Max Strus, as well as one apiece on Nikola Jovic, Dewayne Dedmon and Caleb Martin.

“In high school or college, I might have seen that many,” Strus said. “It did feel like a lot.”

As is typical during most NBA seasons, officials tend to work closer to the letter of the law early in seasons to set a tone.

That tone arguably was set Wednesday night, as the Heat’s three-game winning streak came to an end, with their road losing streak extended to four.

“I guess it’s a point of emphasis and it’s been a point of emphasis,” Lowry said, “and I guess that’s what they’re looking at during the beginning of the season.

“But there were a lot of them called. So we’ve got to figure out getting the pivot foot solid.”

Three on the Heat were called during the Raptors’ game-turning 21-0 third-quarter surge, with the Raptors yet to lead until that rally.

“Some of the ones that were travels,” Spoelstra said, “I think they would have led to open shots at key moments.”

For the Heat, there has to be a fine line about any gripes, considering Tyler Herro’s game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the Sacramento Kings was later ruled to have been a travel, and with the Charlotte Hornets’ Kelly Oubre Jr. last week called for a key late-game travel in what turned into a Heat overtime victory.

The NBA in recent years has somewhat eased traveling violations when it has come to the definition of a “gather,” but has remained steadfast on the positioning of the pivot foot, which was at the crux of Wednesday’s calls.

Heat fall to Raptors 104-112 – Hot Hot Hoops

Jimmy got things started for the Heat to start the half after a slow start, and Miami showed improvements in their transition game. Still, the Heat appeared choppy in its halfcourt offense after such a strong showing in the first half. With the offense stagnant, the Raptors would close the distance and get within two and eventually tie things up on a 12-0 thanks to strong shooting from Fred VanVleet and others. Just like that, the momentum had shifted entirely. The Raps extended this run to 18-0 with OG Anunoby absolutely feasting on the Heat defense. It didn’t stop with Fred VanVleet quickly extending the run to 21-0 and leaving Miami reeling.

With Toronto eating, Miami unable to buy a bucket, and setting its season high in turnovers things weren’t looking good. Gabe Vincent stopped the bleeding and kept Miami within striking distance bringing them back within two on a 10-4 run with help from Dedmon. With the game still in reach, Jimmy would come back early in the fourth but every time it seemed the Heat could make up ground, the Raptors would respond in a big way. The Heat pulled back within two with just under five minutes remaining with Jimmy and Max doing work. But with the Raptors severely outrebounding Miami, and continuing their assault on the Heat defense Miami was unable to steal back the lead. Miami would go scoreless for the final minute despite opportunities, and let this one slip away.

If there’s such thing as moral victories, this might qualify given the number of injuries Miami is facing and the resilience they showed trying to claw back after sacrificing its initial lead.

Recap: Toronto Raptors defeat Miami Heat 112-104 behind big games from Anunoby, VanVleet – Raptors HQ

After the game head coach Nick Nurse praised O.G.’s ability to get in the right situations, and said these were things they specifically worked on pre-game. Even with the Heat moving their coverage, Nurse said, O.G. did a great job adjusting. “He wanted the ball, he controlled it, he passed it and that’s what you want from a number one guy.”

The Raptors looked just a slight step slow through the early part of the game, and although they’d surge forward in spurts, they couldn’t quite catch up the Heat. A couple of unforced turnovers, a couple of forced shots, a poor defensive transition effort and a Lowry corner three gave Miami their largest lead, 70-59, partway through the third.

But then: The Raptors starting getting stops. A lot of stops. 7 in a row. 10. 13! The strong rotations and smart close outs that weren’t there earlier finally caught up.

Thad Young continued his strong, veteran, Marc Gasol-like role, getting his hands on pretty much every ball in play. He grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted on an Anunoby three that cut Miami’s lead to two, and then set a screen that freed Fred VanVleet up for a jumper that tied the score at 70.

VanVleet picked things up after a ghastly first quarter; after his 2-for 8 start, he hit three of his next five and notched three more free throws as well, as the Raptors made their run back. He finished with 23 points and eight assists.

After the game, VanVleet admitted he “still felt like shit,” and that he felt better earlier, but after about three minutes he realized he was nowhere near 100%.

After a VanVleet free throw gave the Raptors a 71-70 lead, Anunoby went on a personal 6-0 run — all drives to the hoop, plus a sensational back door alley-oop from Fred.

VanVleet then capped the run with a three, giving the Raptors a 10-point lead, 80-70, with two minutes to go in the third.

Yeah, you can double heck the math, but that’s a 21-0 run!

Barnes bounces back in win over Lowry and Heat | TSN

Recently, Barnes has played a lot closer to his floor than that lofty, limitless ceiling. While he and the team have downplayed the impact of his lingering ankle injury – which he suffered in a workout ahead of training camp and has tweaked a few times since – there’s a reasonable possibility that he’s been playing hurt. That would be the simplest explanation.

Still, provided he’s healthy enough to suit up and play, the Raptors need more from him, especially with multiple rotation players out of the lineup. They finally got it in Wednesday’s game, a 112-104 win over Lowry and the Miami Heat.

Barnes started off hot. After Lowry opened the scoring with a pull-up three-pointer in transition, a familiar sight in that building, Barnes put the Raptors on the board with a step-back jumper.

He hit four of his first five shots, each coming from beyond 17 feet. Although you would’ve preferred to see him get into the paint, something that Nick Nurse wants him to do more of, he wasn’t settling. With Jimmy Butler going under on screens, Barnes took what the defence was giving him, and it was nice to see him shoot the ball with confidence.

“It feels really good when some shots start to fall,” said Barnes, who came in shooting 35 per cent from the field, including 5-for-27 from three-point range, over the previous seven games. “It gives you more energy and more juice.”

From there, he made a concerted effort to attack the rim. Four of his five second-half buckets came in the paint. Early in the third quarter, Barnes took Heat forward Caleb Martin off the dribble, posted him up and hit a hook shot over the smaller defender. Early in the fourth, he drove downhill for a layup. Later, Fred VanVleet found him cutting to the basket.

O.G. Anunoby led the way with 32 points in a brilliant two-way performance and VanVleet scored 23 in his return from an illness that kept him out for a couple games earlier this week. But with a two starters – Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. – sidelined, Barnes’ 19 points, six rebounds and six assists were much needed. It was the best he’s played in weeks.

Barnes’ recent shooting slump coincided with a stretch where, for whatever reason, he had not looked like his usual energetic self on defence and was settling for too many outside jumpers. Generally, once his effort and intensity levels dip so does his impact, whether his shots are falling or not.

Last season, Barnes would have a bad quarter or an off half here and there, but he would almost always rally and salvage the night by closing the game out strong. He never had to overcome a prolonged rough patch like this during his excellent Rookie of the Year campaign. But with his early success come expectations, and with expectations come pressure. It’s all part of the learning process. Development isn’t always linear. There were always going to be bumps in the road, and if Barnes didn’t understand that before, he’s coming to accept it now.

“I feel like my rookie year went kinda smooth,” Barnes said. “You can see that I’m in the middle of a shooting slump – I realize that, I recognize that. But I’m just trying to stay confident, get through it, keep trying to be aggressive, trust your work, trust your craft. I feel like that’s what’s gonna get me through it.”

Raptors’ O.G. Anunoby beats the Heat with his offensive game | The Star

O.G. Anunoby is becoming a force at both ends of the court for the Raptors. Already one of the NBA’s elite defenders, Anunoby is showing an offensive game that is more polished than ever before.

He had his most prolific scoring night of the season Wednesday, pouring in 32 points as the Raptors beat the Miami Heat 112-104 at the Scotiabank Arena. Toronto took over the game with a 21-0 run in the third quarter and sealed it with five straight Chris Boucher points in the final two minutes.

“I think, and (Anunoby would) probably agree with me here, he’s played OK (offensively),” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game,

The sixth-year forward was more than OK against the Heat, going 13-for-18 from the field while grabbing 10 rebounds and guarding Miami all-star Jimmy Butler for most of the night. The double-double was Anunoby’s second of the season.

Kyle Lowry, playing his second game in Toronto as a member of the Heat, had 19 points.

Fred VanVleet, returning from a two-game absence, had 23 points and eight assists as the Raptors went to 9-7 on the season.

Scottie Barnes Breaks Out of Funk in Victory Over Heat – Sports Illustrated Toronto Raptors

Against the Heat, Barnes did look aggressive, opening the game with a barrage of mid-range jumpers, the kind he’s been struggling so mightily with lately. He connected on a pair early in the shot clock, first over Jimmy Butler and then over Kyle Lowry. A miraculous off-balanced three-pointer in the dying seconds of the shot clock got him to nine points in the first quarter before that dreaded passiveness set in as he failed to attempt a single shot in the second quarter.

“He came out feeling good about his jump shot obviously and they were giving him space,” Nurse said.

Nurse traditionally hasn’t been a fan of mid-range shots, preferring more efficient looks at the rim or behind the arc, but he didn’t complain post-game about Barnes’ shot selection.

“I want him to have some freedom to be aggressive,” Nurse said. “When he’s feeling good like that and hit one or two, you’re going to probably let him go on those. If he doesn’t hit them, he probably needs to attack the paint or do something else but I’m OK. I’m glad he came out aggressive.”

Barnes began attacking in the second half, putting his shoulder into Caleb Martin before flipping in a floater to open the third quarter. He did the same in the fourth, driving past Martin for another bucket deep in the paint.

“First thing is taking on the challenge, you can see that I’m in the middle of a shooting slump, I realize, I recognize that, but, just trying to stay confident, get through it,” Barnes said. “Trust your work, trust your craft, I feel like that’s what’s gonna get me through it every single day.”

Barnes is going to go through ruts this season, next season, and for however long he plays in the NBA. It happened last year too, even in his Rookie of the Year campaign. The key is responding to them and dealing with that pressure because, as the adage goes, develop is never linear.

Raptors find another gear in the third to overcome Heat | Toronto Sun

It was the Raptors’ second win in a row after consecutive losses on the road.

The run was sparked by the duo of Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby,

Anunoby was the constant in this game, setting a season high for points with 32, while going 13-for-18 from the field in his best shooting game of the season.

Without Pascal Siakam in the lineup and with VanVleet still feeling the effects of a week-long cold he called the worst of this life, Anunoby was the Raptors focus on offence and he didn’t disappoint.

“He wanted the ball, he controlled it, he made moves, he made pass outs — all the stuff you have to do when you are the go-to guy,” Nurse said of Anunoby.

“I think he’s gone to more power and balance than skill,” Nurse said. “I think he was doing a lot of euro stepping and trying to avoid, you know, and I think he’s just going in there and gotten big and strong and I think it’s enabled him to get clearance, a really good two foot jumper, as we know.”

On top of his offence, Anunoby spent the majority of his night shadowing Jimmy Butler and held the Heat star to just 13 points and five assists.

Anunoby also had 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the year as the Raptors improved its record to 9-7.

Chris Boucher, who has been on a tear since the Raptors went on the road, enjoyed a 15-point night with 10 rebounds for his second double-double. It included a three-pointer that put the Raptors up by eight with 1:29 left and basically sealed the game.

VanVleet, after a tough night to start the game — he joked it took all of three minutes to realize the cold he thought he was fully recovered from wasn’t quite done with him yet — found the range and finished with 23 points and eight assists.

VanVleet, though, was most excited about the game he saw from Anunoby, and really what he has been seeing from him lately.

“If he can do what he did tonight, we’ll be alright,” VanVleet said of Anunoby’s breakout. “It’s about time man, it’s what everyone’s been waiting on, so you know string them together, now the next step is just consistency, and that’s what I think we’re all chasing to be, great every night, every other night basis.

“So, he’s been incredible,” VanVleet said. “It’s great to see and just keep encouraging him and keep pumping him with confidence, we’re going to need that for the rest of the year.”

Injuries ensured this game was lacking in plenty of star power with the Raptors down regulars Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr., not to mention Precious Achiuwa and Otto Porter Jr.

The Heat were without reigning Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro and standout centre Bam Adebayo.

The absences were felt as the normal up-and-down play between these two teams was missing for a lot of the game, at least it was until the final quarter and a half.

The Raptors added one more to the injured list when Dalano Banton, who got the start in place of the injured Gary Trent Jr. Banton left midway through the third with a left ankle sprain.

The post Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 17 first appeared on Raptors Republic.

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