4. Nick Nurse continues to try Pascal Siakam as the lone starter in an otherwise all-bench unit. Given that he is the team’s second-leading scorer, it makes some sense, but to my eyes, the lineup has not looked entirely effective. Well, it turns out that the Raptors have played 259 minutes with Siakam and none of Gasol, Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Lowry. They are allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions and scoring 102.5 points. The Raptors played the end of the first and third quarters with that lineup. Charlotte outscored them 15-8. Turnovers were a problem, as you might expect. I don’t think Siakam is particularly to blame, as bench-heavy lineups in all forms have struggled this year, even with Kyle Lowry. Still, Siakam is not exactly a steadying force. Despite Serge Ibaka’s 22 points, the Raptors bench was still outscored by its counterpart 59-40. Every Raptors reserve had a negative plus-minus, while every starter was neutral or better.
5. We have spent a lot of time talking about Siakam’s improvement, but not much of that has focused on his free-throw shooting. It makes sense: If Siakam is getting better as a 3-point shooter, it stands to reason that he would be getting better at the stripe, too. After shooting 62.1 percent last year, he entered Friday’s game at 78.2 percent for this season. Seeing as he has gone from 1.9 attempts from the line to 4.3 per 36 minutes, that timing is pretty auspicious. Siakam hit both of his free throws against the Hornets.
6. Continuation Watch: Again, we have no clue what constitutes continuation. Walker’s attempt late in the first quarter was dishonest and disingenuous, but absolutely was a shooting attempt. Walker was pretty much in shooting motion even before he touched the ball. Yet, the referees called VanVleet’s foul as being on the ground, not in the act of shooting. I’d love for referees to be able to call the game based on common sense, but that is obviously not going to happen. Unless VanVleet was grabbing Walker before the catch, which I didn’t see, I think that has to be a shooting foul.
7. OG Anunoby returned to the Raptors lineup after missing four consecutive games with concussion-like symptoms. It would have been nice to see him hit some 3-pointers, but Anunoby picked up where he left off defensively, which is by far the most important thing. In the second quarter, he stepped in so deftly to take a charge that Sportsnet analyst Leo Rautins understandably mistook him for Lowry. He also did some nice one-on-one work. Anunoby has to be a two-way player to get heavy minutes in the playoffs, but one of those ways is far more important than the other. Anunoby had four points in 16 minutes.
8. I have no way to prove this, but I really do think Leonard gets fewer calls when he attacks the paint than most wing superstars. I think it is his fault for being so sturdy. For his first bucket, he drove into the heart of the defence, creating a lane for himself, and then finished at the rim after a quick stop. During that stop, he clearly took some contact, because how could he not have? Miles Bridges was trailing Leonard and had to keep running to challenge the shot. Leonard let out some sort of scream to indicate he felt contact, but nothing. Dude is too strong — it just does not look like he is being affected by the contact, so it becomes less obvious to call.