SOT6 Podcast - Episode 94

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 94

"NO ONE’S SAFE"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • With the loss to Boston this past Tuesday evening, the Raptors have found their way out of 1st place, while maintaining a half game lead over the Milwaukee Bucks. With a current record of 35-13, the team is starting to find that they cannot (and should not) solely rely on Kawhi Leonard to be the guy to carry them to victory. With the season more than half way complete, the team needs to come to realize that the other members of the team are crucial to their success.

  • To tackle these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Kelsea O’Brien of Raptors HQ. Kelsea & Adam touch on numerous Raptors' centered topics such as:

    • The significance of the loss to Boston.

    • - Norm’s reawakening.

    • - Serge’s “no one is safe” comment.

    • - Closing out close games.

    • - Too Sweet Moment of the Week.

    • - Predictions.

It's a Raptors centered show that you won't want to miss!

Follow Kelsea O’Brien on Twitter: @kelsea_lately

Check out Kelsea’s Work HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Raptors Struggle Closing Games

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


After a tough loss in Boston on Wednesday night, the Raptors returned home Thursday to play the Suns, in what many considered to be an easy win. Despite Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby not playing, it still looked like this would be an easy home win to get back on track. After all, the Suns came into the game with an NBA-worst 11-35 record, and also a 4-17 record on the road.

But despite all of those factors, it was a really tight game and it went down to the very end. The Suns hung around all night long and it took a Pascal Siakam buzzer beater to win it for the Raptors. By looking at the final score of this game, it’s concerning that the Raptors couldn’t beat Phoenix without a buzzer beater, but in the long run, it might prove to be a positive for them.

This has been a trend for the Raptors recently; barely beating bad teams. Just over the past week, they beat Atlanta by 3, Washington by 2, and then Phoenix by 2. I would obviously prefer that they blow these teams out, but I also see a way in which these tightly contested games could help the team in the long run.

This is a team that, as we saw Wednesday in Boston, is still figuring things out in crunch time. They’re not playing as well as they should be down the stretch in big games, and one of the only ways to get better at that is by playing in tight games. Now, I know Kawhi was out Thursday, but he’s not the guy who needs to get better in crunch time. One of the guys who disappeared on Wednesday was Pascal Siakam (only 6 points), and for him to be put in a close game the very next day and perform shows me that he learned something from the Boston game, and that he can be trusted to play in big spots.

According to a tweet from Josh Lewenberg of TSN, the Raptors have played 102 “clutch minutes” this season, which is 4th in the NBA. To compare, they had only played in 73 clutch minutes at this point last year. So, clearly this team is getting more experience in big moments, and it should translate to the team being better down the road.

I know it’s frustrating to watch a team like the Suns or the Hawks somehow stay in a game against the Raptors, but in my opinion, the more minutes that this group can get in big spots, the better. And I’d rather the Raptors struggle to close out games now than in the playoffs, when it really matters.

That being said, if they could win these next few games my a bigger margin, that would be nice. The downside of having Phoenix play you close is that you have to play Lowry 40 minutes in a game in January. So if you can give Kyle and Kawhi some low-minutes nights, that would be helpful going forward.

Looking ahead, the Raptors’ next 2 games are at home against non-playoff teams. They host Memphis tomorrow, and Sacramento on Tuesday. Both of those teams are tough to play against. But, at the end of the day the Raptors are better than them, and they should come away with 2 more wins.


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Raptors Fall Apart in Final Minutes Against Celtics

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


After three days off, the Toronto Raptors were in Boston last night to take on a familiar opponent in the Celtics at the TD Garden. These two teams have met twice already this season, both splitting those games at one win a piece. Going into last night’s match up, the Raptors had won five in a row while, the Celtics have been heading in the opposite direction, with many rumors going around on social media about Kyrie Irving possibly leaving Boston at the end of this season. The Celtics haven’t exactly lived up to the hype just yet and seem to really be struggling as a unit from time to time as they sit fifth in the Eastern Conference.

Although the Celtics have lost three in a row, they have been absolutely dominating at home in their last six games, winning all six games and averaging 120 points per game. The Raptors looked to end that hot streak the Celtics had as Toronto would be without CJ Miles with a hip injury and OG Anunoby who left the team to be with family for personal reason. There was some good news as Toronto would welcome Fred VanVleet back Into the lineup after missing the double overtime thriller against Washington on Sunday.

It was a high-scoring affair to start the game as both teams came out of the gates rolling, both shooting 59 percent after the first 12 minutes as Toronto led 36-30 behind Kawhi Leonard’s nine points. Although Toronto led through the first quarter, the Celtics put up a total 13 bench points compared to Toronto’s 4 points, courtesy of Norman Powell. All looked good, until the second quarter.

Toronto struggled in the following 12 minutes. Easy and open shots were not falling for Toronto and the Celtics’ bench completely controlled the pace, out-playing Toronto as a whole. After shooting nearly 60 percent in the first quarter, that percentage dropped to 42 percent for Toronto at halftime, while Boston stayed right at 59 percent. Gordan Hayward was a big contributor off the bench for Boston as he carried the load, leading them to 24 bench points to Toronto’s 10. It’s also been no secret that Toronto’s three-point shooting has not been up to par recently; as a matter a fact, all season. That continued last night, not making one three-pointer in the second quarter, combining 2-of-15 from beyond the arc at halftime. This poor performance cost Toronto, which resulted in losing the second quarter 34-17 and trailed Boston by 13.

The third quarter was tremendously better for Toronto as they took better shotsr and played every defensive possession with high intensity. The Raptors shots started to fall as Toronto started feeding the ball into the paint to Serge Ibaka as he was the leading point scorer for Toronto with 22 points, 1 point ahead of Leonard. This dominate 3rd quarter from Toronto resulted in the Raptors only trailing Boston by 4 when they were down by as many as 16.

One thing many Raptors’ fans know and love is that this team never quits and always makes a case for a great comeback. Although they were down 16 at one point, it was no surprise they made another comeback, battling all the way back on the road and actually gained the lead over Boston late in the 4th quarter. But that’s when it all came crashing down. With Toronto up 4 with 4:22 to play, and all the momentum heading into the final minutes, they let it slip away and by a lot. At the 3:54 mark, Boston ended the game on a ridiculous 17-4 run to stun Toronto and end their five-game winning streak, while snapping their own three game losing streak. As a result, the Celtics also remain perfect at home over their last seven home games.

Kawhi Leonard finished the game with 33 points, meaning Leonard had now scored 20+ points in 20 straight games for Toronto. An incredible stat, as he is now three games shy of tying Vince Carter for the most consecutive 20 plus point outings for the franchise. Fred VanVleet had a dreadful night off the bench with 0 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. Also, off the bench, only two Raptors made it onto the score sheet: Norman Powell and Greg Monroe; both putting up 11 points. On a night without OG Anunoby, someone else needed to step up of the bench, but to no avail.

The fourth and final meeting of the season between these two teams will come February 26th in Toronto, with Boston leading the season series 2-1.    


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 93

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 93

"RECLAIMING 1st"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • The Raptors have reclaimed the top spot in the NBA, with a record (currently) of 32-12. They no longer have to flip-flop with the Bucks, as they now sit a game and a half ahead of them, securing supremacy in not only the Eastern Conference, but the entire NBA. Most of this has to do with Kyle Lowry returning from injury and operating as his old self. With him and Kawhi starting to click, it’s hard to view this team as anything other than unstoppable.

  • To tackle these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by South of the 6ix's very own Rodrigo Albizurez. Rodrigo & Adam touch on numerous Raptors' centered topics such as:

    • The significance of DeMar’s revenge game.

    • - The importance of Kyle Lowry being back.

    • - Serge Ibaka’s improvements.

    • - The Patrick McCaw signing.

    • - Too Sweet Moment of the Week.

    • - Predictions.

It's a Raptors centered show that you won't want to miss!

Follow Rodrigo Albizurez on Twitter: @rodzyalbizurez

Subscribe to the Rodcast HERE


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 92

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 92

"MIDSEASON ROUND TABLE"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk!

  • As we reach the halfway point of the season, the Raptors currently hold the best winning record in the NBA at 29-12. We’ve seen the growth of Pascal Siakam, who many are claiming to be the sure-fire nominee for the Most Improved Player of the Year; we’ve seen the impact a player that Kawhi Leonard can have on a team that has otherwise coasted on repeat; we’ve seen how crucial and valuable resting can be for certain key players on the team can be (Serge and Kawhi, for instance); and we’ve seen how successful this team can be if they are running on all cylinders.

  • However, we’ve also seen how negatively impactful injuries can be and how it can mess with the team’s chemistry. Injuries to Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas have made the Raptors a bit more vulnerable and, at times, exposed to the competition. Is a trade on the horizon to mitigate these issues? How long can the Raptors go with such key players on the shelf?

  • To discuss these and other topics, we have our annual Midseason ROUND TABLE! Host Adam Corsair is joined by a familiar crew of Demar Grant of Tip of the Tower, Jordan Kligman of the 416 Basketball Podcast & Hash Tag Basketball, and Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views to revisit their respective preseason predictions and to review the half season that was. We get into detail as to what has encouraged us, what has us concerned, where we think the team is heading, and we revisit our win total predictions.

It’s a Raptors podcast that you won’t want to miss!

Follow Jordan on Twitter: @416Basketball

Subscribe to the 416 Basketball Podcast on iTunes: HERE

Visit Jordan's work: HERE

Follow Connor on Twitter: @TO_SportsViews & @connorchambers

Visit Connor's work: HERE

Follow Demar on Twitter: @DemarJGrant 

Visit Demar's work: HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Studio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


DeMar DeRozan and Spurs All Business in Anticipated Match-Up

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


“I wanted to break every record that was there and to be the first to do every single thing there. I always expressed that.” is what former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan, said to the media hours before going up against his former team where he spent nine seasons with. This was one of the most highly anticipated match-ups of the season for both teams. Not only was it the first time DeRozan was going up against the Raptors, but it was also the return of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to San Antonio.

Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard were a huge part of the San Antonio Spurs’ Championship run in 2014 and there’s no denying they were among the top fan favourites alongside Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan at the time. But times have changed. For the first time ever, Kawhi Leonard entered the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas for the opposing team. After spending seven seasons with the Spurs, winning a ring and multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards, this was just another game for Leonard.

“It meant a lot, I put blood, sweat and tears wearing that jersey, believing in something, I put a lot of work in.” Leonard said when asked about his time with the Spurs. He was ready for anything that was going to be thrown at him from the media or during the game. Although Leonard wasn’t asked about what kind of reception he’d think he’d receive from the Spurs’ faithful at game time, Green did. He said pre-game, “I think it’ll be loud, like a playoff game. There’s going to be a ton of emotion from the fans, especially towards Kawhi.” And there was exactly that.

The ovations from the crowd began earlier than expected. As the Raptors came onto the court for their shoot-around, the boos reigned down. But that wasn’t all. Every touch Leonard had during shoot around; whether it be a shot, or a lay-up, he would receive boos. Meanwhile every time Green touched the ball, he would get cheers. I think you know where this is going.

Shortly before the player introductions, a video tribute was shown thanking Leonard and Green for their time in San Antonio.. There were shots of Green looking up at the video tribute, while Leonard continued to do his pre-game stretch, not even taking a look. As the introductions occurred and the tribute ended, fans were heard chanting “Dan-ny.” A loud cheer and chant of “Danny Green” quickly went to loud boos for Leonard.

As the game got underway, and the Raptors won the tip, the boos immediately were heard as the ball got straight into Leonard’s hands as he fought his way to the rim for a strong And-1 to start. But that quick start didn’t last long. DeRozan and the Spurs came to play, quickly turning the game around. The Spurs went on a 15-5 run and head coach Nick Nurse was forced to call a timeout, but that didn’t help either. The Spurs were hot and didn’t let up. The Raptors were down by 19 after 12 minutes and allowed San Antonio to shoot better than 65 percent.

Not only were the Spurs hot straight out of the gate, but so was DeRozan. After 12 minutes he was on pace to record a triple-double, the first of his NBA career (a total of 764 games). The Raptors didn’t stop chipping away at that Spurs lead, but the Spurs never stopped applying the pressure, pushing the tempo and making Toronto feel uncomfortable with the pace they were playing. Toronto’s 3-point shooting woes continued as they shot 2-of-12 come halftime from beyond the arc and trailed the Spurs by 16. Coming out of the half, it was all Spurs, going on a 9-0 run growing their lead back up to 25. From that point on, it was basically over and all eyes were on DeRozan to see if he could notch his first ever triple-double.

Going into the fourth quarter, DeRozan was just one assist shy of the milestone. At the 7:10 mark in the final frame, DeRozan got his assist, and for the first time in his career he recorded a triple-double against his former team. Only fitting. Not only was DeRozan all business, so were the Spurs who dismantled Toronto 125-107.

Many now will be looking forward to the rematch on February 22nd in Toronto at Scotiabank Arena, including Danny Green. Green finished with zero points in 26 minutes of work on 0-of-7 shooting. OG Anunoby also finished with zero points in 18 minutes of work. The Raptors, as a team, also shot a combined 6-of-30 from 3-point range. Some sweet revenge is in the making. As for right now, Toronto cannot look in the rear-view mirror and must move on because they are no longer sitting atop of the Eastern Conference.

Toronto now sits beneath the Milwaukee Bucks in conference as these two powerhouse teams face off on tonight. 


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Projected NBA All-Stars

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


The fan voting for the 2019 NBA All-Star game recently opened, so i think it’s a good time for me to give my picks for this year’s event. In total, there are 24 players that make the game; 12 from each conference. The format is no longer East vs. West, but you still need 12 players from each conference to make the game. As for the positions of the players, you need 2 guards and 3 forwards in the starting lineup, and then I’ll also do that for 5 of the reserves, which leads 2 spots for players of any position.

Note: -Stats are as of January 2nd

         -Stats are in order of Points/Rebounds/Assists


Eastern Conference All-Stars

PG: Kyrie Irving, Celtics

Despite the Celtics underachieving to this point in the season, Kyrie Irving has been outstanding for them, and has gotten them a few wins that they probably didn't deserve. Kyrie normally takes the big shots late in the game for Boston, and he’s currently one of the most clutch players in the entire league.

23.1/4.9/6.6

SG: Kemba Walker, Hornets

The Hornets are currently in a playoff spot, with a record of 18-18, and most of those wins have come as a byproduct of Walker’s outstanding play. He’s the team’s main scoring option, and really their only reliable one, which should definitely be enough put him in this spot.

25.8/4.3/6.1

SF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks *Captain

The Bucks currently hold the NBA’s best record, and they’re being driven by the MVP level play of Giannis. He still hasn’t developed a jump shot, but when he drives to the paint, there’s really no one who can stop him. He’s also drawing more free throws than he ever has in his career, with 9.1 attempts per game.  

26.3/12.6/6.1

PF: Kawhi Leonard, Raptors

A lot of people say that Kawhi isn’t yet playing at his 2016-17 level - when he was a top-3 MVP candidate, -but when you look at his stat line, you can see that he’s actually playing better than he did that season. He’s averaging career highs in points and rebounds, while leading the Raptors to the 2nd-best record in the NBA. Kawhi has missed 9 games this season due to rest and a few minor injuries, but that really shouldn’t devalue his season. When he has played, he’s been absolutely dominant on both ends of the floor.

27.3/8.2/2.8

C: Joel Embiid, 76ers

Embiid has put together a ton of ridiculous stat lines this year, which has lead to him averaging upwards of 13 rebounds per game at this point in the season. Embiid has had to adjust to playing with Jimmy Butler, but it hasn’t affected him that much, and it’ll only get better from here. Embiid’s two-way game is unbelievable, and in my opinion he’s on his way to becoming the best centre in the NBA.

26.5/13.4/3.5

Reserve 1: Kyle Lowry, Raptors

Just like his teammate Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry has been battling injuries this season. But, when Lowry has played he’s shown to be one of the best passers in the NBA and a nightmare to play against. Lowry went through a brief stretch of poor shooting but then bounced back by beating the Warriors on the road without Kawhi. Many people thought Lowry would struggle without his friend DeMar DeRozan, but his play has been just as good if not better without him.

14.4/4.5/9.8

Reserve 2: Victor Oladipo, Pacers

One of the most underrated story-lines in the NBA is that the Indiana Pacers currently have the 4th-best record in the entire league. Oladipo has regressed a bit from last season, but he’s still been very good for his team. His scoring is down about 4 points per game from last year, but he’s made up for it with career-highs in assists and rebounds.

19.6/6.3/5.5

Reserve 3: Jimmy Butler, 76ers

Butler has turned around the 76ers season since being traded there, and a lot of that has to do with his defensive intensity and ability to take and make big shots. Philly wasn’t going anywhere with just Simmons and Embiid, but with Butler now in the mix, they’ve got a guy who can take over a game at any given time. Butler’s 3-point shooting has also improved this year, as he’s shot a career best 36% this season.

19.1/4.8/3.6

Reserve 4: Blake Griffin, Pistons

After Blake Griffin was traded from the Clippers to the Pistons, it was hard to imagine him getting back to his previous form. But this year under Dwane Casey, Griffin has excelled, putting up a career high in points. Griffin has also began to shoot the 3 more, averaging 6.2 attempts from deep per game, which is also a career high.

24.8/8.7/5.1

Reserve 5: Nikola Vucevic, Magic

In my opinion, Vucevic is one of the most underrated players in the league right now. He’s quietly put up 20 point per game and 12 rebounds per game, while also shooting at the most efficient rate of his career. In fact, Vucevic’s total field goal percentage is up 7% from last season. He’s also shooting a career-best 38% from 3, to go all along with the other improvements in his game.

20.3/11.9/3.7

Reserve 6: Ben Simmons, 76ers

It seems unjust to give the 4th-seeded team in the East 3 All-Stars, but there really isn’t that much competition in terms of star players in the conference, so I decided to just give it to Simmons. I could’ve gone with Bradley Beal here, but his team is the 12 seed in a pretty weak conference, so I decided to give it to Simmons because his team is actually in contention. Simmons is clearly the 3rd scoring option on his team, but he’s still put some put up some pretty good numbers. Despite not having any shooting ability, he’s still averaging 16 points per game. He’s also seen a slight uptick in rebounds this year, with just over 9 per game, as the second-leading rebounder on the 76ers, behind Embiid of course.

15.9/9.2/7.9

Reserve 7: Dwyane Wade, Heat

Normally I wouldn’t go for the sentimental pick for the All-Star game, but since there’s no one that really jumps out to me as a potential snub, I’ll give the last spot on the roster to Dwyane Wade, who’s going through his last NBA season. Wade has had a Hall-of-Fame career, winning 3 championships and making 12 All-Star Games. Wade’s play won’t put him in this year, but I’m sure whoever the coach is will honour Wade’s great career and select him to play in the game. He’ll probably defer most of his minutes to the other guys, but it’ll be nice to see the fans give him a proper send off, similarly to how Kobe Bryant was treated at the 2016 All-Star Game in Toronto.

14.1/3.6/3.9- Not the reason he’s getting in

Western Conference All-Stars

PG: Stephen Curry, Warriors

Curry’s scoring totals went down in the seasons after he won 2 straight MVPs, but this season, he’s averaging 2 more points per game than last year, and shooting the 3 better. If not for an early season injury, Curry would likely be one of the favourites for MVP, and he could still get back to that point. There’s a lot of great point guards in the NBA, but Curry is still the best in my opinion, and that narrative has only gotten stronger from his performance so far this year.

28.7/5.2/5.3

SG: James Harden, Rockets

Recently, many people have been complaining about James Harden’s uncalled travels, as well as how many free throws he’s being given. But, the reality of the situation is that while Harden may get a lot of calls, he’s currently having one of if not the best season of his career. Harden won the MVP last season, but is still putting up 3 more points per game than he did last season. The Rockets are currently without Chris Paul, but Harden has stepped up in a big way to keep the team afloat.

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SF: Paul George, Thunder

George is currently averaging career-highs across the board. Not only is he scoring at the highest rate of his career, but he’s also getting more rebounds and assists than he ever has before. If the Thunder continue to play well and win games, I could easily see George being in the MVP conversation.

26.4/8.2/4.1

PF: LeBron James, Lakers *Captain

At this point, it’s expected that LeBron is an All-Star starter. He’s already been to the game 14 times, and this year won’t be any different. LeBron is currently out with a groin injury, but he should be back in time for All-Star weekend. He’s lead this young Lakers team to a record of 21-16, and that’s only good enough for the 7th seed, but with how close the west is, a 4 or 5 game winning streak could put them near the top.

27.3/8.3/7.1

C: Nikola Jokic, Nuggets

Quitely, the Nuggets have put together the best record in the West so far, and while Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap have been great this year, the main reason for their success is Nikola Jokic. Jokic can do everything on the court; he can score, rebound, and also pass at a very high level. He’s probably the best passing big man in the league, with 7.6 assists per game, which is 3 more than his own point guard Jamal Murray. The starting centre spot was between Jokic and Anthony Davis, and I went with Jokic just because his team has been much more successful than Davis’.

18.0/9.9/7.6

Reserve 1: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers

Lillard has been snubbed from the All-Star Game many times in his career, but that shouldn’t be the case this year. He’s averaging more than 26 points per game for the 3rs straight year, and he’s also shooting 3’s at the best rate of his whole career. Lillard’s team is also in a playoff stop, and just like the Lakers, they could make a run to the top of the conference if they go on a winning streak.

26.7/4.8/5.8

Reserve 2: Russell Westbrook, Thunder

Westbrook is having an off season by his standards. His shooting percentages are down across the board, and he’s especially struggled from 3, where he’s only shooting 24%. The crazy thing is despite what appears to be a “bad” season for him, Westbrook is still averaging a triple double and playing the best defense of his career. Westbrook is currently averaging 2.8 steals per game, which is 1 more than his average from last year, and good for 1st overall in the NBA. (His teammate Paul George is 2nd with 2.2)

21.0/10.7/10.1

Reserve 3: Kevin Durant, Warriors

It was fun to watch Durant be the clear #1 scorer for a few weeks there when Curry was out. It was like he was back in OKC, where he was always the best player on the floor. KD has put together some great performances this season, and while most of the news around him is about his upcoming free agency, it’s important to recognize how good he’s playing right now as well. Durant is averaging his most points per game since coming to Golden State, while also dishing out the most assists per game of his Warriors tenure.

28.5/7.5/6/2

Reserve 4: Anthony Davis, Pelicans

Just like with Durant, most of the news and discussion around Anthony Davis has to with his future and whether or not he’ll be traded. But, what’s also important is to look at how well Davis has played this season, putting up some Shaq-like statlines. On offense, Davis is almost unstoppable. He’s averaging the most points per game of his career, and has now begin to shoot the 3 more than he ever has. He’s also setting new career highs in rebounds and assists. Then, on the defensive end, Davis is 2nd in the NBA in blocks with 2.6 per game and 10th in the league with 1.7 steals per game. Unfortunately for him though, his team sits 14th in the Western Conference, and most of his efforts go unnoticed.

28.5/13.0/4.5

Reserve 5: Karl-Anthony Towns, Timberwolves

Since Jimmy Butler was traded aways, Karl-Anthony Towns has excelled. Now that he’s back to being the #1 scoring option, he has been able to settle in and put together more consistent outings. He’s also averaging the most steals and blocks of his career on defense, while still putting up 22 points and 12 rebounds.

21.7/12.1/2.9

Reserve 6: De’Aaron Fox, Kings

This is a tough one because Fox’s statline doesn’t really jump out as being All-Star level, but what he’s done to put the Kings in playoff contention can’t be overlooked. Fox has also clearly made a big stride from last season in pretty much all areas of his game. Not only is he getting more points and assist this year, he’s being much more efficient shooting the ball. His 3-point percentage is up 8% from last year, and his overall field goal percentage is up 6%. Fox’s playmaking and leadership can’t be ignored, and I think he’s done enough with this Kings team to warrant an All-Star spot.

18.1/3.6/7.5

Reserve 7: Tobias Harris, Clippers

The Clippers are another team that has surprised some people with how good they’ve been. They don’t yet have a true superstar, but the closest thing to that is Tobias Harris. Harris’ scoring ability has improved in every way this season; not only is he averaging a career high in points per game, he’s also shooting more efficiently than he has before. He’s shooting 42% from 3, has a total field goal percentage of 50%, and if he was a bit better at the free throw line, he’d be a part of the 50/40/90 club.

21.0/8.1/2.2


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 91

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 91

"Kawhi vs DeMar Rnd.1"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • Although it hasn't been pretty, the Toronto Raptors are still a half game ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks for 1st place in the Eastern Conference and best record in the NBA. Moreover, the team finished with the best combined regular season records for the entire year of 2018. With the shooting slumps and the offensive woes making us a bit uncomfortable as fans, there is still a lot to be hopeful for.

  • Moreover, this week marks the first of two meetings between the Raptors and the Spurs which, thus, means Kawhi Leonard & Danny Green are heading back to San Antonio. What kind of reception will each get? How will former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan, treat this game? We can't forget about Yak & Skillz! One game brings so much drama and excitement at a time where it's desperately needed.

- Injuries that are piling up for this team
- Whether or not we as fans should be concerned
- The importance of the game in San Antonio
- Too Sweet Moment of the Week
- Predictions for the upcoming week, and so much more!

Follow Jay Rosales on Twitter: @Rosalesaurus

Visit Jay’s work HERE

Subscribe to the That's A Rap Podcast HERE


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Toronto Raptors Escape Miami With Clutch Win

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Fresh off the Christmas Holiday where the Toronto Raptors were snubbed a Christmas Day game yet again. the team celebrated their holiday in South, Florida where they would take on the Heat in Miami on Boxing Day.

Going into Wednesday night’s match-up, the Raptors would have back the likes of Serge Ibaka and Danny Green - who missed the past two previous games before the Christmas break due to injuries. Although, Toronto would be without Kyle Lowry once again when it was reported that Lowry wouldn’t be in the lineup due to reaggrevating his lower back and wasn’t cleared to play. With Lowry out, this meant Toronto has now played two weeks of games – a seven game stretch – where they haven’t played a game with their regular starting lineup of Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam and Ibaka. All five of which have missed time over that span of games.  

Fred VanVleet started at the point guard position due to Lowry’s absence as the four other positions were filled by the aforementioned regulars. The Raptors got off to a horrible start in Miami, looking sloppy and discombobulated at times. It just wasn’t the 25-10 Raptors many knew and watched night in and out. There were also early signs of Heat center Hassan Whiteside who looked to be a problem all night without the presence of Jonas Valanciunas to match his size and strength at the 5. Miami went on to take the first quarter 31-23.

Toronto had a little spark of offensive to start the 2nd quarter, going on a 10-3 run to only trail the Heat by 1 only four minutes into the quarter. After a great timeout called by Miami, Toronto’s offensive came to a halt and Miami went on a run again and ended up leading Toronto 58-44 at halftime. A very frustrating half for Toronto only meant better things were to come in the 2nd half with 24 minutes of basketball left to be played.

The third quarter was all Toronto. After a physical play at the rim where Whiteside caught a knee to the hip, he was forced to leave the game for some time which deemed to be a huge difference maker in what mounted this Toronto comeback. At the 6:46 mark in the 3rd quarter, and Whiteside on the bench with Toronto down 13, they quickly turned the game around. Fred VanVleet put up 11 points in the quarter along with making three 3-pointers, helping Toronto put on a 25-10 run from the time Whiteside was subbed out at the 6:46 mark all the way to the end of the quarter.

That massive run from Toronto all of sudden gave the Raptors’ team life. After a horrible first half, all it took was 12 minutes for Toronto to have a shot at a win. Leading the Heat by two to start the 4th quarter meant Toronto had all the momentum after that huge run. Although, it wasn’t long until Whiteside was subbed back in for Miami at the eight-minute mark in the final frame where the game was tied at 86. It stayed close until the very end. Yet, at the 2:27 mark, Miami extended their lead to six; a two-possession game. However, a clutch three-point shot from VanVleet and strong And-1 from Siakam saw that six-point Heat lead erased and both teams were deadlocked at 99.

The Heat responded with their own clutch defensive possessions and shots until the very end. On the last Raptors’ possession where Toronto was down two with 30 seconds to go, Miami was doing everything right to protect their slim two-point lead. That is, until, they left Danny – Ranger – Green wide open in the corner as he nailed the go ahead three-point shot. As a result, Miami was now down two with 22 seconds to go with the final possession, and they were going for the win. As the ball was in the hands of veteran and future Hall of Famer, Dwayne Wade to try and win the game, his shot was just off. As was a Justice Winslow three-point shot after an offensive rebound and final tip-in effort from Wade was also missed. Just like that, Toronto escaped.

Toronto found a way to battle back after their comeback in the 3rd quarter. It was a short-staffed roster for Head Coach Nick Nurse, who only played four players off the bench, - Delon Wright, Greg Monroe, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby. Those four combined for 26 points, while Leonard had 30, Green with 18 and VanVleet with 16. It’s also worth noting that CJ Miles did not see any action in that game due to his struggles all season long. He doesn’t have much time to find his mojo again, as it seems Powell has taken back his rightful role off the bench.

With Toronto escaping Miami on a Boxing Day thriller, they now look forward to Friday night in Orlando as they take on the Magic. Last time Toronto was in Orlando, they won at the buzzer courtesy of Danny Green.

Happy Holidays, Toronto!


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 90

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 90

"CHRISTMAS EDITION"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk

  • The Raptors are STILL at the top of the NBA and the Eastern Conference with a record of 25-10. Although the team is a bit depleted due to injuries, they are certainly showing how resilient they are, letting the entire NBA that there is no quit in them despite the roster holes. Can this pace continue?

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Connor Chambers of Toronto Sports Views. Connor and Adam break down a bunch of topics, such as:

- Kawhi going to LA.

- Are the Raptors one piece away?

- 3 point shooting woes.

- Too Sweet Moment of the Week.

- Predictions.

It's a Raptors centered show that you WON'T want to miss!

Follow Connor Chambers on Twitter: @connorchambers & @TO_SportsViews

Visit Connor's work: HERE


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Will The Real Raptors Offense Please Stand Up?

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Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@rodzyalbizurez)


The Raptors are 23-9, which is good enough to earn them the right of having the best record in the NBA. But, do I really have the audacity to ask if Kawhi really fits in with this current Raptors team? Someone has to ask the tough questions, and to be honest, it’s the right question Raptors’ faithful should be asking themselves. Raptors fans are already full of self-doubt, why not fuel the fire a little more and take on this hot topic? As a fellow who has been following this team avidly since ‘95-’96, I’ve earned the right to tell you that you’re insane in the membrane for thinking that the Raptors would be better off without Kawhi in the lineup. Now I would be considered crazy if I told you that they have the perfect formula boiling on the NBA Bunsen burner, and I’m here to point out the missing ingredients. These Ingredients are going to help develop the Raptors from a science fair winning offense into the NBA’s offensive version of the Nobel Prize.

Again, I’m going to reiterate that the Raptors are 23-9 with stellar offensive weapons in place already, but sometimes you can’t bring a knife to a gun fight. By “knife” I mean pure Iso-ball that relies on your superstar to carry you and also relies on refs to make tough calls when Leonard is taking it to the hoop. So far, Leonard has been able to carry us through ball games without the support of the refs’ whistle which isn’t ideal, but it says how tough-minded Leonard really is. Now, with that being said, he also hasn’t been efficient in late game situations. During these situations, he ends up coughing up the ball trying to take on 3 defenders or forces up tough contested shots which turn into easy transition buckets for the opposing team in crunch time. You won’t win a lot of ball games taking on 3 defenders, but in his defense, the other Raptors players haven’t been very efficient from deep, which is the ideal look in those close/late game situations when your superstar attracts double and triple teams. It’s no secret that the Raptors are struggling from the 3-point line, which is the reason they need to find a way to pound the ball inside consistently until they can fix their shooting woes.

The Raptors have honestly done a great job at exposing teams with their pick-n-roll, whether it’s Lowry or Leonard handling the rock. But they haven’t utilized it enough as of late. Lowry runs the pick-n-roll great with Ibaka either rolling to the hoop for an easy bucket or hitting him for an open 16 foot jump shot. This is why the Raptors were able to expose the Warriors last Wednesday night because the defending champs had no response for Serge and Jonas’ size and versatility in and outside of the paint. Now, whenever the Raptors run the pick-n-roll with Leonard, he exposes teams with his midrange early on in the game. But in late game situations, they are throwing double teams at him in which he puts up a tough shot or turns the ball over. Leonard needs to recognize the double team earlier and find Serge or Pascal on the roll to the hoop. If they defend that pick-n-roll properly, Nick Nurse needs to find a way to properly identify the open shooter with a well-designed play. If that fails, the open offensive player needs to be able to identify himself to Leonard with a quick cut to the hoop before the double comes. Eventually, this will become second nature to the Raptors once they start executing this offensive prowess and ease the pressure off Leonard in those clutch situations. You can also argue that the Raptors have done a great job in most of the losses through 3 quarters, and their bench has coughed up comfortable leads quicker than Usain Bolts 100M time. You won’t win a lot of games in this league if your bench isn’t going to exceed or match the opposing teams energy from their second unit.

The Raptors’ bench has been spotty all year and that might be the understatement of the year. Last year, they were able to take leads and run away with them, but we cannot live in the past and we can only focus on the present. Other than Jonas and VanVleet at times, the Raptors’ bench players have been really inconsistent.  They end up taking tough contested lay-ups or late clock jump shots that result in zero movement during the 24 second possession. They need to do a better job of moving the ball and finding open guys in their spots. VanVleet needs to take the reins and run his sets consistently or push the pace during a transition possession. The Raptors have problems when they are stuck in their half-court offense. Nick Nurse has to simplify their offense for now and pound the ball inside with Serge or Monroe. By establishing the bigs inside, it’ll eventually open up looks for struggling shooters like Miles and OG. Also, Delon does a great job of getting into the paint, but his decision-making has been sub-par this season so far. He either takes a tough lay-up or ends up making an errand pass which probably resulted in him jumping before making the decision to pass or shoot. At the end of the day, if the Raptors’ second unit wants to establish themselves as the Bench Mob again, it’s going to have to start at the defensive end. As long as they can stop the opposing team’s run in those crucial moments, their offensive swagger will come back. There’s no easier bucket then a transition 3 or layup, and to execute those, they are going to have to punish teams on the glass. They have the athleticism and the talent to execute all of the above and it’s going to come down to whether or not they want it enough.

“It’s a make or miss league” as Dwane Casey once said, and that’s always going to be the tale of the tape. Now, if the Raptors want to make it easier on themselves to win ball games, they are going to want to simplify their offense by taking better looks, executing their late game offense, hitting open 3 point shots, and have their bench hold onto leads and runaway with them if possible. If they can execute those easier then said tasks, they will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the NBA during the regular season and in the playoffs as well.


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How This Past Week Went for the Toronto Raptors

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


The Raptors opened up last week’s set of games on the road to start a 4-game Western road trip. After a tough loss to one of the NBA’s weakest teams – the Brooklyn Nets – more than over a week ago, the Raptors looked to bounce back and hopefully sweep this four-game road trip vs the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and the Denver Nuggets.

It all started on Tuesday night with the Raptors in LA against the Clippers at the Staples Center. It was Toronto’s first meeting with the Clippers this season, and just an hour before tip-off it was confirmed that Toronto would be without All-Star Kawhi Leonard due to a hip injury. It was heard that this injury was minor and that he would be taking the night off to fully heal and to be 100 percent ready for the defending champions in the Golden State Warriors in just 24 hours time. With the absence of Leonard, this turned into a tricky game for the Raptors, going up against a tough Clippers team who have shocked many; sitting with a 17-9 record on the year so far. This forced head coach Nick Nurse to start Fred VanVleet and slide Kyle Lowry to the shooting guard position. It’s also worth noting that earlier in that day, it was reported that Nurse had lost his mother – Marcella Nurse – at the age of 94.

Nurse was in attendance to coach the game that following night when many thought he should stay back home in Iowa with family after his loss. Nurse was asked before the game why he wasn’t at home and he simply said, “I’m here because my mother wouldn’t want it any other way.” The Raptors were all business that night, playing with toughness and courage for their head coach after such a tough family loss. They dominated the first quarter, putting up 36 points against the Clippers 23. After that, they never looked back. Walking out of LA with a 123-99 victory with big performances from Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry - combining for 46 points. In which many saw a great danger to this Raptors team against the Clippers without Leonard, it didn’t seem too bad, as Toronto took care of business getting a big win for them and their head coach.  

And so, it was off to Oakland, California. Coming fresh off their win over the Clippers, they now faced an even tougher task against the Warriors. To make things worse, they were once again without Kawhi Leonard. As this game was being televised on ESPN and nationally around North America, fans were treated to another “Finals preview.” Without Leonard, many thought the Raptors were in deep trouble, but that wasn’t the case. The Raptors, just like less than 24 hours prior, got out to a hot start, shocking the Warriors and holding Golden State to just 41 halftime points.

The Raptors came out of halftime protecting their double-digit lead and never looked back. Playing every possession with great fundamental basketball and playing every defensive possession with high intensity, forcing the Warriors to take tough shots; Steph Curry and Klay Thompson especially. With all odds stacked against them, the Raptors ultimately took charge and walked away from Oakland with a professional 20-point victory over the Warriors; 113-93.

Nearly 48 hours later, the Raptors landed in Portland to take on the Blazers for game 3 of 4 on this Western road trip. Going into that game, the Raptors were without Kyle Lowry who was suffering with minor back soreness and Jonas Valanciunas - who will be out for at least a month after suffering a dislocated left thumb by the hands – quiet literally – of Draymond Green. The Raptors did get some fire-power back from the likes of Kawhi Leonard, returning after a 2-game absence. But that wasn’t enough. Leonard and the Raptors looked sloppy early in the game, and were trailing the Blazers 58-50 at halftime. Without the likes of Lowry and his quickened pace and playmaking ability, the ball was in the hands of Leonard a lot late in the game with the Raptors attempting to take the lead, but the Blazers didn’t let that happen. They bent, but didn’t break and defeated the Raptors 128-122.

Onto last night, game 4 of 4 on the Western road trip. With Toronto looking to close out this trip on a high note, they would once again have to do it without the likes of Lowry. News also broke out that the team would be without Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. A total of five players were out of the lineup for Toronto, including Norman Powell and Valanciunas. Toronto wasn’t the only team dealing with injuries as the Denver Nuggets also had five players out, one big name being Paul Millsap.

Ultimately last night’s game was a show of which team had better depth and who wanted it more. Toronto didn’t, at least in the 4th quarter. Toronto looked sluggish and went into a huge shooting slump, They had a slim 4-point lead heading into the 4th quarter, but then it all came crashing down. Denver opened the quarter on a 12-0 run, and they didn’t look back. Toronto missed key opportunities to get back into that game late but failed to cash in on great and open looks from beyond the three-point line. Toronto shot 7-of-35 from 3-pt range, collectively, and a total 35-of-88 (39.8%) from the field.

It was a rough night for Raptor fans and the team. Head Coach Nick Nurse criticized NBA officials in his post-game comments on the fact that All-Star Kawhi Leonard isn’t getting the fouls calls he deserves. Nurse could expect a fine of $25,000 from the NBA.

It was a tough road trip as the injured-prone Toronto Raptors can now get some rest until they return home on Wednesday to take on the Pacers and hopefully get some fire power back.


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 88

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 88

"STATEMENT WIN"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Podcast

  • Well that was quite the turnaround, wasn't it?

  • The Toronto Raptors finished the week going 2 for 3, with victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors - WITHOUT KAWHI LEONARD! Kyle Lowry has bounced back just fine from his slump and the team - for lack of a better way to put it - is humming. They are still an Association best 23-8 with no signs of slowing down. Is there anything that will stand in this team's way?

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Peter "HB" Kaye of Life In Repeat to break down the week that was. Peter and Adam touch on a variety of topics, including:

- The impact of the Golden State win(s).

- Why would Kawhi want to leave?

- JV's injury and the impact it'll have on the team.

- Too Sweet Moment of the Week.

- Canadian praise!

- Predictions.

It's a Raptors podcast that you won't want to miss!

Follow Peter Kaye on Twitter: @lifeinrepeat

Visit Peter's work HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Jim Johnston - "Sexy Boy"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Rebounding: The Key to Unlocking the Next Level for the Raptors

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Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@rodzyalbizurez)


As game #29 was being played without the Raptors superstar, Kawhi Leonard, I thought to myself “How have the Raptors lost 7 games already”? This thought stuck around my head for most of the first half and I quickly pieced the answer together towards the end it. Most basketball fans and experts would blame Lowry’s scoring output during those games, or even the lack of 3 point shooting throughout the year. You wouldn’t be wrong if you mentioned those two facts, but I wouldn’t say those are the keys to our losses. In fact, it would be the Raptors’ rebounding that has hindered them during those 7 losses. If the Raptors want to the keys to drive the NBA finals bandwagon, it’s imperative that everyone on the team focuses on getting those 50/50 balls and boxes their man out.

The Raptors have had an impressive start to the season, there’s no doubt that. They have the best record in the NBA. Now, if you still have your doubts at this point in the season, then that’s perfectly normal because every loss feels like the Sunday scaries and they’ll haunt you until it’s over. Every Raptors’ win feels like a Friday night due to the fact that you feel loose and ready to put on the dancing shoes and cut a rug. For the Raptors to minimize the Sunday scaries, they’re going to have to keep their rebounding in check. The Raptors have done a decent job, at best, during their wins and have done an atrocious job during their losses. It doesn’t even come down to them being out-boarded by 15 like they did vs the Pelicans, but it comes down to the timely rebounds that hurt you the most. For example, the Raptors during those losses kept themselves in those games for the most part by playing lights out defence. But what’s the point if you’re not going to finish the possession and give the opposing another opportunity? That has to hit a nerve with the Raptors’ coaching staff because you can fight as hard as possible on the offensive end to stay in a game, but if you’re not going to hit the boards on the defensive end, you might as well pack your things and head to Mexico for an early vacation.

The Raptors have gotten away with their lack of rebounding vs .500 teams because the opposition just doesn’t have the talent to execute down the stretch. But when it comes to elite teams, the Raptors have to make a conscience effort to hit the boards with force. To be honest, the Raptors’ defence has been lights out all year during the opposing team’s first possession. But when they cannot grab the defensive board, it ended up opening up so many great looks for the opponent. If the Raptors could finish their defensive possessions, it’ll open up many more good looks for them on the offensive side of the court. They’re already one of the best transition teams in the NBA, and that’s scary considering how many defensive rebounds they leave on the table. Imagine seeing more of Pascal Siakam on the fast break, either finishing the play with a rim rocking dunk or a pass out to an open shooter like Danny “Money” Green! They did a great job as a team rebounding against the Clippers because they forced them to take tough shots like they have with every other team. By committing to finish their defensive possessions, they were able to attack the ball in the air and run the fast break. The Raptors were able to play with a lot more freedom, which translated in open 3 pointers and rim rattling dunks.

The Raptors have more than enough offensive talent on their team to take them to a certain stage of the playoffs. But if they plan on taking the Eastern Conference and dethroning the reigning NBA champions, they have to commit to the rebounds. It’s also true that they will only go as far as Kyle Lowry takes them, but he’s a Pitbull and he will do whatever it takes to put the Raptors in a possession to win, and that includes going into the trees and rebounding the rock. To dethrone someone who has dominated the NBA kingdom takes more than talent, it takes grit and nonstop effort. If the Raptors are serious about making a serious title run, you’ll see a lot more Raptor players fighting for rebounds and loose balls, because that’s what it takes to be the best. It’s the little things that define your true character and we will see what the Raptors are made of.


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


SOT6 Podcast - Episode 87

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 87

"THE TRUE TEST"

TORONTO RAPTORS talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk!

  • Although things have been rough for the Raptors lately, there are still some things that we can look upon with a positive light. Despite dropping 3 of their last 4 games, they are still at the top of the NBA with the best record, still 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks (who have proved to be their biggest obstacle), and still gathering production from Kawhi Leonard. Can we count on the team to bounce back? Or are we in for more unfortunate outcomes?

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Jay Leung of the That’s A Rap Podcast. Jay and Adam break down the week that was and hit on topics such as:

- Kyle Lowry’s struggles and if he can break out of it.

- The team leaning on Kawhi and if this may dissuade him from staying.

- The trouble with closing out games.

- Have we overestimated this squad and their potential?

- Too Sweet Moment of the Week.

- Predictions.

It's a Raptors podcast that you won't want to miss!

Follow Jay Leung on Twitter: @JayLeung20

Follow the That’s A Rap Podcast: @ThatsARapPod

Subscribe to the That’s A Rap Podcast HERE

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Audio - "Blue Bloods"


Follow South of the 6ix on Twitter (@SouthOfThe6ix)


Kyle Lowry's Recent Struggles

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


Over the past 4 games, Kyle Lowry has struggled shooting the ball, and uncoincidentally, the Raptors have struggled over that stretch. Lowry had been playing some of the best basketball of his career up until recently, and considering how much he means to this team, his recent production is concerning.

Lowry sat out the game last Saturday in Cleveland with a back injury. Most people assumed it was as a precaution, because the Cavs aren’t very good, but maybe it was something more than that. In the game prior to him sitting out, as well as the three games following it, Lowry has had some ugly shooting nights. He still leads the NBA in assists per game, with 10.1 per game, but his scoring ability hasn’t been the same since the game in Memphis on November 27th.

Since that win in Memphis, Lowry has put up the following stat-lines: 10 points on 4/14 shooting, 5 points on 1/7 shooting, 7 points on 2/8 shooting, and 3 points on 1/8 shooting. There have also been moments where Lowry has looked passive to shoot the ball because of a cold night from the field. For example, during the last play of the game on Friday night against the Nets, Lowry could’ve shot the ball, but instead he passed it to Fred VanVleet who ended up missing the potential game-winner.

The Raptors usually rest Kawhi Leonard for one of the games in a back-to-back, and they keep saying that he’s getting close to playing in both games. So maybe when that happens, they should rest Lowry in one of the two games. Lowry is 32 years old, so he could probably use a rest day anyway. Especially when you look at his recent struggles, I would definitely give Lowry a few games off in order to rest and regroup.

The Raptors are pretty deep at point guard with Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet both available to start if Lowry were to sit. Lowry’s obviously better than both of them, but I’d be fine with giving one of those guys a start or two if it means Lowry gets more rest over the course of a long season.

Looking at the upcoming schedule for the Raptors, it’s going to be a very tough stretch. They play Milwaukee at home tonight before heading out West to play teams like the Clippers, Warriors, Nuggets, and Trail Blazers. Those will be tough games to win regardless, but they’ll be even harder to win if Kyle Lowry continues to score in the single digits. We know Kawhi will show up to those games, but he’s going to need some help if the Raptors are going to have a successful week coming up.

I think Kyle Lowry will eventually get back to his early season form. I hope it’s just a cold shooting stretch and not a serious injury so that he’ll eventually just get hot and get his confidence back. Like I said earlier, he’s still sharing the ball enough to be an effective point guard, but now he’s got to start scoring himself and hitting the shots that we all know he can consistently make.


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Raptors Suffer Disappointing Loss with Tough Schedule Ahead

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


The Raptors’ slow struggles continue in Friday night’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets in their attempts to win their second game in a row. After a tough loss to the Denver Nuggets earlier in the week, Toronto was looking to bounce back and keep the winning momentum going forward after a statement win on Wednesday against Philadelphia. But that wasn’t the case.

The Raptors continue to have slow starts out of the gate in the first quarter of games and having trouble shooting the three ball. Friday was a case of both of those issues. A slow start to the game against Brooklyn saw the Nets extend their lead to 14 in the second quarter. After that, Toronto slowly clawed their way back into the game, ultimately tying it up at halftime and keeping it that way until the very end. It came down to a nail-biting finish, but the Nets came out on top to defeat the NBA leading Toronto Raptors in overtime.

It was a game where Kawhi Leonard shined once again and had to put the Raptors on his back late in the 4th quarter and in overtime. Although Jonas Valanciunas put up 24 points and eight rebound in his 26 minutes of playing time, he managed to find his way on the bench for the whole 4th quarter. This meant Leonard had to take over, which he did. Leonard put up 32 points on 10-of-21 shooting in 38 minutes including game tying and go ahead buckets, along with an emphatic eye-opening dunk that surprised many. Despite their efforts, Toronto couldn’t get the job done.

But a few fingers are being pointed to head coach Nick Nurse, indicating that this may be one of his worst coached game of the season. As mentioned, he didn’t play Valanciunas until the overtime period where JV didn’t see playing time for a whole 15 minutes until starting the overtime frame. Fingers are also being pointed at All-Star point guard, “the Bulldog,” Kyle Lowry, and he knows it. After Nurse had rested Kyle Lowry on December 1st against the Cavaliers, Lowry hasn’t been the same. Over the stretch of four games, Lowry has played an average of 35 minutes and only averages 6.3 points, shooting 21.6 percent and 18.5 percent from three, also averaging 3.3 turnovers throughout this four-game stretch. Over the span of three games, Lowry has put up a total of 15 points, 4-of-23 field goals and 3-of-20 from beyond the arc. Lowry is a veteran player in this league, someone who will bounce back. When asked about why he hasn’t been playing up to par lately post-game after the loss to Nets, Lowry said, “no excuses, I just have to play better. I know I’m better.

Although the Raptors maintain the best record in the NBA still to date, their schedule doesn’t get any easier. After taking tough defeats to the Nuggets, and now the Nets this week, Toronto could be handed their 3rd loss of the week in four games and could be handed more later in the week and coming days. It starts on today as the Raptors travel back to Toronto to take on the Milwaukee Bucks at home; the team who handed Toronto their first loss of the season when both teams were undefeated. It gets worse from there. Toronto then heads out on the road for a grueling four game road trip against the Los Angeles Clippers, and then the Golden State Warriors the day after on a back-to-back.

Back-to-backs only mean one thing: Rest. Raptors fans are now used to seeing Kawhi Leonard’s name not shown in the lineup on a second night of back-to-backs, but maybe we don’t have to worry about that much longer. After a strong week’s performance from Leonard where he has averaged 32 points in four games, I would say he is close or possibly even feeling at 100 percent again. After the match-up with the Clippers, the Raptors once again face-off with the defending NBA Champions, The Golden State Warriors. Their previous meeting against the Warriors saw Golden State without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Well, they’re back, and you bet they’ll be in the lineup looking for revenge when these two teams meet again in less than a week. Only time will tell if Leonard is fit as he once was to take on back-to-back games again.

But the road trip doesn’t end there. After those two grueling games with the Clippers and Warriors, the Raptors face-off against the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets once again. After this stretch of games are complete, the Raptors will have only 16 games out of their remaining 55 regular season games against Western Conference opponents, including two match-ups with former Raptor, DeMar DeRozan.

Being the top team in the NBA isn’t easy. Every night you go out onto that court with a target on your back, knowing that every game won’t be easy, that you have to dig in and get the job done. It’s obvious the Raptors have been struggling, that is no secret. But for Nick Nurse and his team, they all need to better than what they have shown over this past week. These few losses Toronto has been handed to recently can go from bad to worse in just a week’s time.

Things need to turn around, and quick.


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SOT6 Podcast - Episode 86

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Follow Host Adam Corsair on Twitter (@ACorsair21)


EPISODE 86

"DAD SHOES"

TORONTO RAPTORs talk

Weekly Toronto Raptors Talk!

  • The Raptors are STILL on top of the Eastern Conference, and STILL the best team in the NBA in terms of wins and losses. To put it simply, this is a team that hasn't energized its fanbase before, and it's still just the beginning. With wins over the Memphis Grizzlies on the road, as well as the defending NBA champions in Toronto, the Raptors are cooking and we may be able to set aside our regularly schedule paranoia and put our full faith in this team

  • To discuss these and other topics, host Adam Corsair is joined by Marshall Vic. Marshall and Adam break down the week that was and hit on topics such as:

- Kawhi Leonard signing with New Balance.

- The comeback win in Memphis.

- Defeating the NBA Champions - Golden State Warriors in OT.

- What to do with JV?

- Too Sweet Moment of the Week.

- Predictions.

It's a Raptors podcast that you won't want to miss!

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshalVic

Music:

Drake Stafford - "Casets"

Auxl Audio - "Blue Bloods"


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Raptors Defeat Warriors In What Could Be An NBA Finals Matchup

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Article Written by Jacob Pacheco (@JacobPacheco6)


Going into Thursday night’s most anticipated game between the 18-4 Toronto Raptors and 15-7 Golden State Warriors, it was set to be a high scoring and entertaining battle between two powerhouse teams in their respective conferences.

The defending NBA Champions coming to Toronto is a rare sighting, only happening once a year. Ticket prices sky rocketed for last night’s contest as the cheapest price for tickets were going for as low as $170. But nonetheless, a sold-out crowd in Toronto was in attendance in a jammed-packed Scotiabank Arena to watch their beloved Raptors go up against the Champs.

The Warriors entered the game without the likes of All-Star point guard Stephen Curry and All-Star forward Draymond Green both due to injuries. But there was still a ton of buzz surrounding this game. After all, they are the champs no matter how you put it.

Head coach of the Raptors, Nick Nurse, went with his go-to starting lineup; Lowry, Green, Leonard, Siakam and Ibaka. This is the lineup Nurse has gone with for the most part of the season. As the game tipped-off, it didn’t take long for the fans to get into it as well as the Raptors themselves. The team was playing at a high tempo, pushing the ball up the court, and playing solid defensively. An early 10-0 run by Toronto forced head coach of the Warriors, Steve Kerr, to call a timeout only four minutes into the contest with Toronto shooting 8-of-10 and 4-of-5 from three-point range.

The Raptors continued to apply all the pressure in the first quarter. Leading the way for Toronto after 12 minutes was Kawhi Leonard will 13 points and only missing one shot. The rest of the Raptors were also getting good looks themselves to shoot a combined 72 percent.

The second quarter was a bit more even; a quarter of runs. The Raptors were up by as many as 18 to begin the 2nd quarter. But Golden State battled back and cut that 18-point deficit to just 9 at the half. The Warriors struggled behind the arc, shooting a total 2-of-10 and a combined 47.9 percent from the field, while the Raptors had no problem behind the arc shooting 7-of-17 and a team combined 64 percent. This proved to be a real difference maker as the Raptors led the Warriors 67-58 behind Kawhi Leonard’s 22 points. Pascal Siakam had 15 points to go along with Leonard’s 22, shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from three as he is slowly evolving his skills each and every game and could be making a realistic case for Most Improved Player of the Year. Siakam finished the game with 26 points playing 42 minutes. This kid needs the recognition he deserves.

Coming out of the half with a 9 point lead, the Raptors knew their lead wasn’t safe. The 3rd quarter consisted of the Kevin Durant show. To their credit, though, the Raptors dug deep and still stayed in the game showing a ton of composure, which is a great sign. Golden State won the 3rd quarter by only 1 point; 30-29 to trail the Raptors by 8 heading to the 4th. Durant and Klay Thompson combined for 26 of the Warriors 30 points in the quarter. Thompson had 8 while Durant had 18, including a ridiculous half-court three pointer late in the quarter that shocked all 19,000 inside Scotiabank Arena - including Drake who was sitting courtside in his usual seat.

The Warriors carried that momentum into the 4th where Durant started the quarter on the bench. The bench was getting it done for Golden State, getting key stops and open looks as they cut the Raptors lead to just 4 with 6:50 to get in the final frame. The intensity raised as well as the nerves, and the Scotiabank Arena began to roar as it was starting to feel like Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

As Kevin Durant checked back in with just under seven minutes to go, the Raptors would go on a run which included some breaks with the Warriors missing open shots and the Raptors capitalizing on theirs. Leonard hit a contested shot in Isolation over Thompson, and Danny Green hit a tough heavily contested three-pointer to extend Toronto’s lead to 10 with 4:41 to go as Scotiabank Arena erupted. Without a doubt, the loudest it’s ever been this season - hands down.

But the Warriors didn’t give up just yet. They’re the champs, and Durant was on a mission with 44 points already. With under four minutes to go, that 10-point lead was gone, and it came down to the wire. With the shot clock turned off and a defensive rebound by Durant with the Raptors up three, Toronto just needed a stop to put the game away. It came down to Durant and Leonard in isolation. Durant was cut off by Leonard driving to the rim which forced Durant to go to the left corner to shoot a game-tying three in unbelievable fashion over Leonard. Just like that, the game was tied at 119 heading into overtime .

A nervous Scotiabank Arena looked on, but the Raptors didn’t look nervous at all. Staying calm and composed, they battled to the very end. Leonard and Lowry came up with two clutch steals late, as free throws from Pascal Siakam put the game away for Toronto. They ultimately defeated the defending NBA Champs, 131-128, to improve to an NBA best 19-4.

Although the Warriors were not 100 percent in their lineup, neither was Toronto. Fred VanVleet, CJ Miles, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas all struggled mightily, only combining for 17 points. It may only just be a “regular season game” as Kyle Lowry stressed to the media before and after the game, but it was certainly entertaining no matter what type of game it was and who was playing. NBA fans would love to see this in the NBA Finals in June later in 2019, as this Raptors team has their eyes on the championship in hand.

The Raptors, Warriors, and NBA fans won’t have to wait until June to see this match-up again, as these two teams will face off in just a few weeks on December 12th.

Round two is coming up shortly, so stay tuned. 


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Possible NBA Finals Preview?

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Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)


After a big comeback win in Memphis that extended their win streak to 6 last night, the Raptors will return home for a game with the Golden State Warriors. Toronto still holds the best record in the NBA at 18-4, and now sit 2.5 games ahead for first place in the Eastern Conference.

As Klay Thompson said earlier this week, this could be a preview of what’s to come in June. The Warriors are only 15-7 right now, but they’ve had injuries to key players, and once they’re healthy they should run through the Western Conference. As for the Raptors, they should be the favourite in the East right now. That doesn’t mean they’ll meet in the finals, but it’s definitely a realistic possibility that we see a Golden State vs. Toronto Finals.  

Many people were speculating that Thursday’s game would mark the return of Stephen Curry, who has been out since November 8th with a groin injury. However, Curry isn’t expected to play tonight, and neither is Draymond Green, who’s dealing with an injury of his own.

Those injuries definitely give the Raptors a better shot to win the game, but honestly, I would’ve rather seen the Raptors take on a full-strength Warriors team so that we could really see how they stack up. Golden State is still a well above average team with just Durant and Klay Thompson in the lineup, so it’s not going to be an easy win for the Raptors by any means. But I still would’ve rather seen Curry and Draymond in the lineup tonight, even if it meant a loss for the Raptors.

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Kevin Durant will play tonight though, which sets up one of the best one-on-one matchups of this NBA season; Durant vs. Kawhi. Durant is currently averaging just over 29 points per game, while grabbing 8 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists per game, while Kawhi is averaging 24/8/3. Both of these guys can obviously score at will, either driving to the rim and shooting from anywhere on the floor, but they’re also playing great defensively. Durant is getting a steal and a block per game, and Kawhi is averaging almost 2 steals and 0.5 blocks per game.

As for Klay Thompson, the Raptors will probably guard him with Danny Green, who not only has experience guarding Klay from their rivalry with the Spurs, but is also their second best defender behind Kawhi. With Curry and Draymond out, the Raptors need to make the Warriors depth players like Andre Iguodala and Quinn Cook take more shots and force the ball out of KD and Klay’s hands. If those guys beat you, I’d be very surprised, but you can’t let their stars beat you single-handedly because they have relatively no support behind Durant and Thompson.

One of the best parts about having Kawhi Leonard on your team is that he guards the other team's best player, and tonight we’ll see him on Kevin Durant. I’m looking forward to that back-and-forth throughout the game.

The Raptors don’t get on national television all that much, but tonight they get to show the basketball world that they’re legit, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.


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