For Raptors fans, it has been a rocky start to the newest NBA campaign, in fact the start was so rough that I previously wrote that it should prompt a roster reset for the team. It appears as though the Raptors themselves read my article and decided to fight back, handling the Milwaukee Bucks 130-111 in a game that was never close Wednesday evening. This brings forward a question that I was afraid of: did I write my initial article one game too early?
The Raptors are now sitting at a regular season record of two wins and three losses, having been upset by an underwhelming Chicago Bulls team, yet easily defeating the league’s newest dynamic duo in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. Against Milwaukee, the Raptors were dominant, throwing body after body at Giannis to keep him out of the paint while shooting 56% from the field and 39.5% (but I’ll round it to 40%) from three, according to NBA.com. As I previously mentioned yet feel the need to mention again, this game was never close, with the Raps dominating from the opening whistle right through to the end of garbage time.
Two points of view exist regarding the Raptors shooting from November 1st. One would state that this is the Raptors returning to the average after some dire shooting nights to start off the season, while the other would say that this is an anomaly of a team with little shooting getting hot on the right night. Now guess which point of view I’m taking: that’s right! The Raptors had an incredible shooting night that is a one off, at least for the next little while.
Basketball is a game of runs, and when a team gets rolling, it’s easier to put the ball through the hoop. If you’re making shots, the other team is forced to inbound off the baseline and go up against your set defense. Since scoring against a set defense is more difficult, you have a higher chance of getting a stop and then get to face the non-set defense of your opponent. Since facing a scrambled defense is easier, you get a good look and hit the shot. Rinse and repeat. This cycle was further exaggerated by a great Bucks team on paper that could not throw a beachball in the pool last night.
Once a game starts to get out of hand, it becomes very tricky to reel it back in. This rains true from the NBA to your local pickup basketball game. Players get more confident when they see the ball go through the net while opponents who are not hitting shots become frustrated and take increasingly more difficult shots, even when they’re struggling to score in the first place. An NBA game just further exemplifies the situation in which you can lose to your friend in one vs one 42 times in a row, and then beat them 11-0 one time. We witnessed this first hand yesterday, with the struggling Bucks squad starting to play “hero ball” in the third quarter before eventually pulling their starters midway through the fourth.
To be clear, none of this is to discredit the Raptors. They played phenomenal defense against two of the most lethal scores in the league and most importantly, they hit shots. To quote many ESPN analysts and others in the basketball community, the NBA is a make or miss league and on November first, the Raptors made… a lot. Shot making results in winning in our league and if you are shooting 56% from the field as a team, you will do a lot of winning. I just don’t feel the Raptors will be able to sustain this shot making long (or even short) term.
This is really just a long way of saying that I still feel the same way I did when I wrote my article a few days ago. The Raptors are primed for a reset. The next chance for the Raps to prove me wrong comes against a newly Harden-less 76ers squad on November 2nd, 2023. As a Raptors fan, I truly hope that Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby shoot a combined 75% from three-point range, just like they did on Wednesday night. With an opportunity to even their wins and losses on the year, the Raptors might be pressing the reset button in a different way than I predicted.