Was loss to Suns a statement game for Raptors?

The Toronto Raptors almost pulled off an impressive win against the defending Western Conference champions without Scottie Barnes and Gary Trent Jr. Amit Mann and Yasmin Duale break down the game and if this particular loss has any significance.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Anyways, things are positive in Raptors land I would say. I mean, they lost yesterday 99-95 to the Phoenix Suns, a really entertaining game. High spirits. I think Monty Williams after the game was saying it was one of the weirdest and coldest games he's ever experienced because obviously the Suns are coming off games upon games of playing in front of fans. And in this one, 20K not there, obviously the atmosphere that they're used to.

So there was a bit of a, I guess, transition period for the Phoenix Suns kind of getting acclimated to playing in front of zero fans again. But at the same time, what was your takeaway from this game? What was your thoughts on it? Because it was highly entertaining.

YASMIN DUALE: Yeah. The Raptors had control for, I'd say, 60%, 70% of the game. But it's hard to be upset at this loss because win streaks have to end eventually. But I thought considering that they were shorthanded missing Scottie Barnes, Gary Trent, really important pieces to both ends of the floor. Gary Trent has really established himself as a defensive threat. And what's interesting is that you see how important he is in games like this because the amount of attention Fred was getting, it was really hard to shake off the length that the Suns presented and threw at him.

Dealing with those doubles, it was really hard for him to get those wraparound passes. The Raptors had so many turnovers. The Suns are such a great defensive team. And they were hanging in there literally until the last moments until the final minute really. But yeah, it's hard to be upset with this loss. I feel like at full health, it would have been a great competition. And it was a great litmus test of a game to see where this team is looking at this point in the season.

Yeah, but it also just kind of emphasizes that their margin of error is really small. They need everyone to be healthy in order to be at their best. They can't really afford to have even their rookie out. This is a game where I think they could have used a little more playmaking, a little more ball handling, and some more floor spacing. And that's exactly what you would have gotten with Gary and Scottie.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, definitely. I mean the vibes afterwards were very positive on the Twitter timeline. People were like, OK, so we hung with a very good team. I mean, you give us a few more free throws, Pascal Siakam, we're going to get into this in a second. But he gets that fifth foul. Very questionable call I must say. But a few things didn't go their way. But overall, a very positive game for the Raptors. They just they hung in there and they kind of did some things that were really interesting against the Phoenix Suns. And they gave them fits overall. They made things really, really tough.

And that's all you can kind of ask for, especially for the Raptors when they're-- every single game feels like a stepping stone to some degree. And their winning streak has gone away. But and they got this stretch coming up now. I believe it's 16 of the next 22 games are on the road. So that's going to be kind of season defining for them. But Pascal and Fred, like you mentioned, they were under heavy, heavy attention throughout. Yes, they were missing Scottie. But I mean, the Raptors, you and Iman talked about this on Friday Views last week is that they're so shallow when it comes to guard depth.

Because they don't really want to put Malachi and Delano out there. And then Svi is kind of, I don't know. You're going to get Marco Belinelli en fuego version of him or someone who is complete opposite of that? You don't really know what you're going to get. Yesterday was obviously not the best version of Svi. And then what do you do then? They really needed Gary's shot making. There was a few of those kick out passes from Pascal, or just overall in their offense. They were just loading up, we're talking the Suns, loading up on Fred. And just he had nowhere to go, absolutely nowhere to go.

And it would have been nice to have that outlet, that kind of release valve. I love using that term. The release valve of a Gary Trent Jr, who can do a little bit of playmaking, but obviously his scoring is just so crucial. Other than that though, where do you think the Raptors lost this game specifically? What was the moment where you felt kind of felt like things really switched?

YASMIN DUALE: It was actually quite early. When I saw that they were missing free throws, I'm like, OK, tonight might not be their night. So that was early on in the game when they were consistently missing their free throws. Because that's kind of uncharacteristic. They tend to make those easy shots. So when I saw that they were missing those, I'm like, I don't know if they can handle-- and they seemed tired. So I don't know if they can handle late fourth quarter back and forth shot making. And yeah, they kind of faltered in the final minute of the game when they weren't making-- they weren't creating the best shots.

Pascal took a mid-range, I think, 40 seconds left in the game or something where I think that he could have gotten to the basket. He was making all his 2s all game. So it would have been nice to see him finish there. But at that point, when they're making decisions like that in the final minute, you know that they're not in it. So yeah. I think that's when they lost it when they were kind of missing all those free throws. Because yeah, I just-- those are easy buckets. I was like, they're going to lose this by 2, 3 points.

AMIT MANN: And of course, here we are. Even Fred, he went 3 of 5. He shoots like 88%. So I think they went 15 of 25 overall in the game. So a lot of missed points. I think the Suns were 18 of 21. So big discrepancy there. The fifth foul for Pascal seemed to be pretty pivotal. Questionable call. Nick Nurse has already used its challenge. So there was nothing he could really do there. And Pascal was like pleading to the ref like, please, please take a look. Just for some reason. Just take a look.

Because at that moment, I mean the Raptors are up 79-73. And when Pascal came back in the game three minutes later, there was an 11-4 run. And now they're down by 1. So--

YASMIN DUALE: Yeah, every time he was on the floor, they were on a run. So having to bench him for so long, he was on the bench until five minutes left in the fourth, and then it was kind of like they're playing from behind after that.

AMIT MANN: And then outside of that, the late game execution, a bit of a talking point. Obviously Pascal is kind of centered around it. But some questionable decisions. And they had one possession where it was like a Fred and Pascal pick and roll. And actually Pascal called for it. Ken Birch was around the perimeter. And Pascal is like, get out of the way, go to your dunker spot, and Fred and I are going to do a pick and roll. And they got a great possession out of it. Pascal got a hoop. And they didn't run it again.

And that was at three minutes left. And I felt like, I mean, why don't you do it again? Obviously the gravity of Fred is a 3-point shooter. Now you've got to cover him behind the 3-point line 5 feet back because he's got that range. It was working. And they were all over him throughout the game. And that was a point in the game where you kind of had something that worked. And Pascal got so much room off that possession. They didn't run it again. I was kind of disappointed actually. Because that was a time where, I mean, Raptors don't always do this.

I feel like they get kind of a little bit too creative sometimes with their offense, especially late in games when they have something that really works is that Pascal and Fred pick and roll. It's right there for you. Just use it especially against the Suns. Because there was mismatches being created off of it. And they just didn't do it. It's a shame.

YASMIN DUALE: Yeah. Yeah. I think it just, again, speaks to the absence of Gary and Scottie. I think that the floor looked really crowded at times, whereas their starting lineup, everyone is capable of shooting 3's. But when you remove those two guys, then you have to insert people like Precious and Khem which crowds the floor a little more and kind of makes running those pick and rolls again and again maybe a little intimidating because people can just collapse and it can turn ugly quickly.

So I guess they didn't want to rely on it because they had some success just driving straight for the basket. I feel like today was, that game was a lot of isolation and possessions. And the kick out 3's weren't working at one point. So you saw OG trying to get his, Pascal trying to get his, Freddy trying to get his, whereas usually when the Raptors play, the ball is zipping around, they're passing up good shots for better shots. So we didn't really get a lot of that.

AMIT MANN: I believe-- I'm looking at it now just so I can get the number right. Between Pascal and OG, they shot four of 18 from 3. So not a great percentage. OG was 4 of 13. And lot of those passes and a lot of those attempts were off Pascal kickouts. And it didn't work out unfortunately.

YASMIN DUALE: It was a bad night. You had great looks, too. It was just not a good night for that.

AMIT MANN: It was a terrific look. So he did a great job with Devin Booker. Devin Booker, he got six fouls. He fouled out late in the game. And he frustrated him. He was into him. We saw that last season actually that how effectively OG can kind of keep Devin Booker at bay and also attack him on the other end of the court. And that was working just a little bit. But then yeah. DeAndre Ayton also, he was a factor I think late in the game, like you'd mentioned, with the crowding of the paint because you had Khem Birch out there, you had Chris Boucher out there.

Now DeAndre Ayton, he's already a pretty imposing figure when it comes to guarding Pascal. And he's had some success in recent games or prior matchups. And now that the space isn't there, now Pascal is kind of going up against Ayton. And that's not a great match-up necessarily. I think that's one of the players that I think Pascal might have a little bit of issues with because he's got that mobility in the length. And he blocked him once and then he had that miss late in the game as well. So but also Ayton, I mean shouts out to him. I think I heard the Monty Williams and Devin Booker, they were saying after the game that at halftime, they kind of got on a little bit because they only had one rebound, saying, big fella. You got to step it up here.

And then after that, he had eight rebounds in the second half. And late in the game, he corralled the ball, he had a screen assist with that Devin Booker bucket and just being an absolute just disruptor for the Raptors. So a couple of factors there. Obviously Jae Crowder somehow someway, I can't believe what he did in that second quarter. Man, he was just hitting non-stop 3's. And if he wasn't doing that, Raptors could have got off to a huge lead. But--

YASMIN DUALE: He kept them afloat definitely. He was making contested shots. It was-- when role players go off, it kind of like, I want to see the stars battle it out.

AMIT MANN: I know. Jae Crowder, he's either going to go 4-4 or 0 of 8. But--

YASMIN DUALE: Yeah. I love when people show a shot of his last like 10 games and it's like the Raptors one sticking out of the bunch. Of course. Of course.

AMIT MANN: Of course. That's how she goes. That's how she goes. Was this a statement game for the Raptors? What are your thoughts on that?

YASMIN DUALE: If they were at full health, it definitely would have been whether they won or lost. I feel like it would have been that litmus test game where you could be like, OK, what does this team at full health look like against the best of the best? But because they were injured, it kind of makes it hard to use it as a statement game, especially if it was a loss since it was a loss. But at the same time, it's very hard. A lot of people are saying no moral victories. But it's the regular season. We can have moral victories. We could take things from losses as well as wins.

Because ultimately, it doesn't matter. It matters in the postseason. No, there are no moral victories in the postseason. But we can have as many as we want in the regular season. And then, yeah. It's hard not to walk away. It's hard not to walk away encouraged courage from this. I feel like they just played their best. They were playing so hard. That's why I love this game. And that's why people were saying they had a playoff atmosphere.

Everyone was putting in their full effort. There was no slacking. There was no-- they could have very easily had every reason to get run out of the gym. But they did not. They stood their ground, they looked like they had it at many times. They got it up to a nice lead right in the beginning. And yeah, it's hard not to walk away encouraged seeing Fred and Pascal still play well despite all of the attention focused on them.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. I think as a Raptor fan, I mean, we kind of talked about it a little bit already. But there should be a lot of positivity from this game, a statement game. I mean, who knows. Like you said, in L is an L. You didn't win the game. And I mean, the Suns, they're one of the best clutch teams in the NBA. So--

YASMIN DUALE: Did you see their clutch record during the broadcast? I think it was like 13 and 3 or something when it comes to close games. And I'm like, oh God.

AMIT MANN: As soon as Chris Paul came around that screen and was going to take that shot from around the free throw line, I'm like, man. That's going on in. It went around the rim, he had like four bounces or whatever. It was Kawhi Leonard-esque. But I'm like, that's going to go in. Because that's his shot. That's like you see him do it. Yeah, he does that night and day. And that's a gimme for him. But I think when it comes to just kind of implementing their vision and doing it against a very good team, and afterwards, I mean CP was saying like, man, they're a tough team to--

You got to fight to keep up with them. And I'm like, on a night by night basis, if the Raptors are able to do this night in night out, obviously you need to have your healthy team. But when a Khem Birch and a Chris Boucher [INAUDIBLE] and just being physical, and being a problem on the offensive boards, and using their size, and being able to guard guards on the perimeter so you can avoid having to get into kind of those mismatches and things like that, they're are very, very, very hard team to score against.

And they got to play physical. And I think with this game, if they're able to kind of hone in on this, this effort that they showed, it's going to help them be a really, really tough team to play against night in, night out. Right now, we're going to get into it a little bit. But they're 20th in defensive rating. That's not a Raptor team. What the hell? Right? That game against the--

YASMIN DUALE: Deceiving. Yeah.

AMIT MANN: Yeah, the game against the Cavs giving up 144 points when they were COVID riddled probably didn't help. But they're still trying to figure out who they are on the defensive end. And once they're able to figure that out, hopefully they do that over the next 16, 20 games, which are mostly on the road, I think you're going to kind of figure out who they're going to be. And it's kind of just about focus. Focus. How can you sustain the effort?

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