The Rap-Up: Toronto Raptors Games for November 28 – December 4

The Rap-Up: Toronto Raptors Games for November 28 – December 4

It feels like yesterday when we were all excited to start this NBA season.

Scottie Barnes would continue his meteoric rise up the Toronto Raptors’ franchise scoring chart (trademark Chris Walder). Precious Achiuwa was a trendy choice for sixth man of the year. Toronto would struggle offensively, but that would be negated by a top-5 defense.

As we hit the quarter-season mark (yes, already), it’s safe to say that none of these have happened for the Raptors.

Pascal Siakam has missed more than half the team’s games. Fred VanVleet has missed games on three separate occasions. Achiuwa hasn’t been able to recapture the form that had everyone excited about the off-season… and he’s also missed seven games (and counting). Gary Trent Jr. have seen a drop in shooting percentages. Barnes hasn’t looked good all season, despite some flashes of brilliance. With all of these injuries, it’s no surprise that the Raptors are currently outside the top-10 in offense and defense.

And yet, at 10-9, these Raptors are still a game ahead of last year’s pace!

Perhaps you’ll recall that last season’s team hit the afterburners after the All-Star break, jumping from lottery-bound to playoff contender (bypassing the play-in tournament altogether).

VanVleet’s triumphant return on Saturday may have been a sign of what lies ahead. Siakam is likely to return this week. When he’s back at full speed, watch out! Spicy P proved he is the top-5 talent he said he wanted to be in the pre-season. OG Anunoby has shown the rest of the league what Raptors fans already know — he’s not only worth All-Defense, but also Defensive Player of the Year. Chris Boucher has (again) inserted himself into the sixth man of the year conversation.

There is a lot to like about the first quarter of the season for Toronto. As healthy bodies return, it will be fascinating to see if the Raptors can break through the mess and climb up the East side.

November 28 vs Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers return to Scotiabank Arena, where they lost the season opener. Cleveland would then throw 8 straight wins and look like the cream of the crop. A consecutive 5 game losing streak would bring them back down to earth. Now the Cavaliers look like the Raptors as they try to weather a slew of injuries (more on that below).

Darius Garland is shooting 55% on catch-and-shoot threes, which trails only Yuta Watanabe and Christian Wood. Donovan Mitchell is everything Cleveland hoped for when they made the big trade before the season. His name is littered all over the NBA leaderboards: minutes, points, steals, win shares, BPM, VORP, PER.

While the Cavaliers are well on their way to having both guards represented in the All-Star game, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley may be more important to Cleveland as they anchor the 4th best defense in the league.

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The same question that plagued Cleveland before the season – who is their 5th starter? — has transformed into, what color is Cedi Osman’s blood???

Fun fact that might just interest me

Caris LeVert is the only Cavalier to go to Michigan. If I see him in the hallway, I’ll definitely congratulate him on Michigan’s upset of Ohio State in The Game. (I grew up idolizing the Fab Five. Let me get this one, people!)


Cleveland will play the second game of a back-to-back. Their list of injured players rivals the Raptors (as of recent weeks). Jarrett Allen, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Lamar Stevens and Dylan Windler are all OUT. Meanwhile, the Raptors will have an extra day of rest and may “just” be without Precious Achiuwa and Otto Porter Jr. Availability has been upgraded to QUESTIONABLE for Dalano Banton, Scottie Barnes, Justin Champagnie and, most importantly, Pascal Siakam.

Even if the Raptors get all of these players back, expectations should be lowered that they will be anywhere near 100%. Granted, Cleveland’s frontcourt will be thin, but Garland is looking for revenge after getting poked in the eye and missing most of the previous game. The Cavaliers sneak out of Toronto with a 103-102 win.

November 30 @ New Orleans Pelicans

Don’t let their record fool you – the Pelicans are legit! They are one of only three teams to rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense, along with Phoenix and Toronto’s former rival, Cleveland.

In his first full season with the Pelicans, CJ McCollum is having a career resurgence. His shooting numbers are down across the board, but he’s playing a different role than what he was asked to do in Portland. McCollum averages career highs in rebounds and assists while providing a steady veteran presence.

Brandon Ingram has also adjusted his role a bit. He’s shooting a lot less and his usage has also dropped, but his percentages have seen a significant increase. He averages career highs in true shooting percentage and three-point percentage.

Zion Williamson is returning to form after missing all of last season with a foot injury. He hasn’t approached the scoring levels he hit in his All-Star season, but still leads the team in scoring.

Jonas Valanciunas is still a rebound machine. Herb Jones is a future mainstay on All-Defense ballots. Jose Alvarado is easily one of the most fun players to watch (literally, sneak up behind someone and steal the ball). Trey Murphy has been a revelation this season. Suffice to say, this Pelicans team is DEEP.

This will also be the 9th meeting between the Hernangomez brothers. Juancho leads the head-to-head showdowns 5-3 over his older brother, Willy. Juancho won his first 4 games, all while with Denver. Willy has won the last 2, and 3 of the last 4.

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Fun fact that might just interest me

The Pelicans have a player who is No. 2 in FG%, 2-pt FG%, eFG% and TS%. This player also ranks No. 1 in offensive rating, he is the only Pelican to rank in the top 20 in win shares per 48 minutes, as well as defensive box plus/minus.

That player is Larry Nance Jr.

Like I said, DEEP!


The Raptors have lost 3 of their last 4 against the Pelicans, including the last two in New Orleans. The Pelicans are top-10 in collecting defensive rebounds and protecting the basketball. Those are bad signs for a Toronto team that thrives on both. The Pelicans beat the visiting Raptors, 113-102.

2. December @ Brooklyn Nets

Before Saturday’s game against the Mavericks, Nick Nurse mentioned that the Raptors had a “menu” of defensive tactics they could use on Luka Doncic. If such a menu existed – we’re 4+ seasons into the Nurse era to know it absolutely does – it’d probably be the Pickle Barrel of menus (or the Cheesecake Factory if you’re in the US), where it’s more like a novel. Regardless, I expect the strangest menu items to be served up to the Nets.

Box-and-one with OG Anunoby face shield Kevin Durant? Sure why not.

Random court pressure when Kyrie Irving sits? By all means.

Hack-A-Ben-Simmons? Go for it.

This will already be the third meeting between the teams, with the fourth and final game in exactly two weeks. Brooklyn has already won the first two games. Toronto has mostly “survived” Siakam’s absence and is still in the thick of the East standings. So why not experiment with your minimally used tactics to see what works? If these teams meet again in the playoffs, it is very likely that the rosters will look different and the tactics used will not be reused when the games matter. Have fun with this one, Nick. Maybe you’ll discover something worth spending more on!

Fun fact that might just interest me

The pre-season was filled with questions about which stars would return to Brooklyn. Would Kevin Durant’s trade request be granted? Does anyone want Kyrie Irving? Does Ben Simmons remember how to play basketball?

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In the shadows, another star has been quiet, waiting to plot its return. If you remember, there was a brief moment in NBA history when all 30 teams came to Orlando, Florida, and played the rest of the season and the playoffs. During that time, the only set of “All-Seeding Games” teams were announced. One of the five first basemen, who hasn’t played since shortly after the bubble, makes his triumphant return against Toronto: TJ Warren.


When the nurse starts going crazy, good things usually happen. With the roster nearing full strength again, I’d say the season series does the same and inches closer to being even. The Raptors steal one in Brooklyn and won 115-113.

December 3 vs Orlando magic

Only seven other players average as many points (23.2) and rebounds (7.9) as Paolo Banchero. He averages more free throw attempts per game than DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant and Jimmy Butler. Banchero has drawn more shooting fouls than Trae Young, Steph Curry and De’Aaron Fox.

The five Magic players averaging the most minutes per game (six if you include Cole Anthony, who has only played 4 games so far) are all younger than Gary Trent Jr.

Banchero is a superstar in the making. Franz Wagner thumbs his nose at the decline in the second grade and has improved his numbers across the board. Jalen Suggs shoots 42% on pull-up threes, which is good enough for eighth in the league. Wendell Carter Jr. is one of 6 players with as many points (16.6) and rebounds (9.1) as he does (Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Domantas Sabonis, Nikola Jokic and Bam Adebayo). There’s another rising star, but let’s move him to the next section.

Fun fact that might just interest me

Bol Bol is currently #2 in Block Rate (duh), shoots 83% at the rim (whoa), and nails 50% of non-corner threes (WHAT?).


Both teams enter this match on the back of a back-to-back.

Orlando is 0-2 when playing on zero rest days, 0-3 when playing on Saturday, and 0-3 against the Atlantic division. Meanwhile, Toronto has won 10 of its last 11 games.

Let’s not get cute with this. Toronto beats Orlando, 118-105.


Last week: 0-2

Season record for predictions: 13-6

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