Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 94-83 win over the Houston Rockets in the first of three scrimmage games ahead of the 2019-20 season restart.
One — Solid: It’s foolish to read too much into the details of a scrimmage. The Raptors played something close to their normal rotation, and there were no obvious conditioning issues. Execution was lacking for both teams, but that is to be expected. Birthday boy Nick Nurse did well to keep minutes down (only two Raptors played over 20 minutes) and to showcase his reserves by emptying the bench.
Two — Leadership: Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka look to be in mid-season form, as the two veterans combined for 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Lowry was up to his old tricks — he took a charge on James Harden like it was the All-Star Game — while Ibaka’s finishing was clinical. In this difficult and unfamiliar bubble environment, the teams that will rise to the top are the ones with solid structure and guidance. Lowry and Ibaka have obviously maintained their training despite the four-month layoff, and that sets the tone for the rest of the group.
Three — Decent: Pascal Siakam’s jumper comes and goes, but he’s a monster around the basket. Houston’s small-ball tactics played right into his hands, as Siakam feasts off size mismatches. On his best play of the night, Siakam faked one way, then spun back to the middle for the layup while Robert Covington was busy chasing his shadow. Siakam’s life will get exponentially harder in the coming weeks, as teams will look to deny his touches in the paint in the playoffs. How he adjusts to that — whether it’s by scoring reliably from the perimeter or by playmaking for others — will determine how far the Raptors advance.
Four — Rust: Three-point shooting and offensive execution will come along the slowest. The two sides combined to shoot 29 percent (24-for-82) from deep, and some of the misses were nowhere near the mark, and much of that is a reflection of the lack of execution. Everything right now is a few beats slow, which favors the defense. The Raptors opened the game with a split cut where Siakam was open at the basket, and yet he moved the wrong way as Lowry found him with the high-low pass and the ball squirted out of bounds. Expect a lot more of that in the coming weeks.
Five — Absent: Despite much praise and anticipation for the trim and slim version of Marc Gasol, the Big Spaniard did not feature in this game. Nurse explained after the game that it was a planned rest day for Gasol, and that he would play in Sunday’s scrimmage versus Portland. It will be interesting to see if Nurse slots Gasol right back into the starting lineup given Ibaka’s productivity in the starting five. Nevertheless, it will just be refreshing to see Gasol healthy and rested following his “frustrating” season of inconsistency.
Six — Shine: Rookie guard Terence Davis was a standout with 15 points off the bench. He was…