Fred VanVleet was sorely missed in loss to Cavaliers
The Raptors guard will likely return to the team this week after stepping away for the birth of his third child. Toronto has missed him, to say the least, and that was evident in their loss to the Cavaliers. Listen to the full episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.
IMMAN ADAN: --think when we're looking at who the Raptors have currently who can maybe run a pick and roll with Jakob Poeltl, nobody else is a good enough 3-point shooter to be able to do that. You need to be a pull-up 3-point threat in order for teams just not to go under every single time to take that off. So you need to be able to do that.
And I think Fred VanVleet is really the only person who can outside of Gary Trent, Jr., who can have a pull-up 3. But I don't think I've seen Gary Trent, Jr., in a pick and roll that didn't land in Gary not taking some really ill-advised, kind of to the side mid-range shot that he has no business taking. But actually, no, he knocks them down quite often. But there is no real pick and roll threat if you don't have that pull-up game.
But beyond that, tonight, the Cavs were also pressing up incredibly high on the Raptors ball handlers, which was-- not Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes. And to me, the issue was they didn't really have sort of an outlet to get that-- like, there was just no next step.
It just felt like the offense was stopped right out the gate, right? Because when you're pressing up so high, you kind of have to do everything from much higher out. You don't get that sort of advantage.
And to me, like, I don't even know how to parse my words this late. Who does pods this late? William Lou, how do you do this? But I think it's-- like, I just was watching this.
Like, it looked-- maybe I had a defeatist mindset coming into this, but it just looked like it was being stopped right away because they were pressing up so high. And you just don't have guys that are good enough ball handlers to be able to really deal with that.
They didn't even need to blitz them. They didn't need to send the double there. It was just, well, who's your outlet? Where is that going to go? And I don't know, I just-- you need a point guard on this team. It's so important. I think today's game showed it.
There was also this tweet from [? Kierthika, ?] who is the queen of stats. She said, "Raptors had a 117.1 offensive rating and averaged 116.5 points in 23"-- which is fantastic, right? --"in 23 games from January 1 to the All-Star Break.
In the three games since, 102 offensive rating." So we're talking about a difference of 15. "And they're only averaging 101 points per game."
So yes, you need a point guard to run and initiate your offense. It was seen tonight. Obviously, the Pistons and the Pelicans without Zion are not the caliber of talent that the Cleveland Cavaliers are. So unfortunately, you ran up against a better team without one player who you desperately need.
And I think what we're seeing, especially with the addition of Jakob Poeltl, is positions matter. For a team that wanted to play positionless and just have a bunch of 6' 9" guys, positions do matter. And you do need to have a center, not just a nominal center. And you do need to have a point guard.
So yeah, that's just my whole rant about that issue. But I'm glad-- congratulations to the entire VanVleet family on the newest addition. That's beautiful news. Could we move past the ugliness of this game, or did you have anything else to add?
CHRIS WALDER: Yeah I mean, honestly I was kind of disappointed with how stagnant the offense got. The ball wasn't moving. And the problem is, is that when you're doing the drive and kick stuff, which they're accustomed to doing-- and we were harsh on Anunoby because his bread and butter is standing in the corner and hitting 3-pointers-- is that the Cavaliers knew the Raptors weren't hitting water if they fell out of a boat, and how ugly it got.
And that's why you saw Nick Nurse go deep into his bench. And that's why we saw Joe Wieskamp out there.
IMMAN ADAN: Wieskamp, which also, I was saying "Wise-camp" this morning. Turns out I was wrong. It is--
CHRIS WALDER: Yeah, I know. I caught that, too. And I was like-- I had to go on YouTube and just-- like, this is how we pronounce it, right? OK, so Wieskamp.
But his sole role is out there-- he's kind of like the Jason Kapono of the team. He's not expected to do much else besides space the floor and hit shots. But then he had two straight 3-pointers which didn't hit the rim at all.
But that's how desperate Nick Nurse was getting. He was going deep into his bench. Eventually, he emptied the bench with Malachi Flynn, and Banton, and Ron Harper, Jr., going out there.
But yeah, disappointing to say the least just because again, this was the Raptors' first true test since acquiring Jakob Poeltl, and how good the team has looked up until this point. Again, you can't really gauge the team's success when you're beating the Zion-less Pelicans or the Orlando Magic. I mean, the Jazz game really should have been a W for the Raptors, but that ended horribly as well.
So not a good sign with this being a test against a true contender in the Eastern Conference. I'm not looking too much into it. I'm not buying the fact as well that this is a back-to-back. Cleveland and Detroit, it's not the biggest trip in the world. But at the same time, the Raptors got beat by a better team.
IMMAN ADAN: I mean, winning against Detroit is kind of your championship. So they just had a championship hangover, to be fair. They beat the Pistons.
CHRIS WALDER: Does the Dwane Casey curse exist anymore? I mean, we've beaten them a few times in the--