Raptors attempt comeback, ultimately get outmuscled by Grizzlies

Imman Adan, Oren Weisfeld and Amit Mann discuss their takeaways from the Raptors' loss to the Grizzlies. Listen to the full episode looking at New Year's resolutions for Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes, Toronto's management and more on the "Raptors Over Everything" podcast feed.

Video Transcript

IMMAN ADAN: Life does go on. And we're recording as I always love to record after wins. And for whatever reason, these Sunday games have always been kind of win, so it's been nice. That is not the case today. We're recording after the Raptors lost by, like, 2 million points or something like that, to the Memphis Grizzlies. Does a scorer even matter at this point? And it was a game-- to me, I think wins and losses were almost past that point, which sounds ridiculous when this is a team that came in with expectations.

But this is a game that they just looked absolutely listless. They got punched in the mouth from the first moment to the last. They had a bit of a fake run in them, but not even a real full hearted fake run that we could all, you know, feel a little bit better about. What were your takes on what the Raptors did last night against Memphis Grizzlies?

AMIT MANN: Go ahead, Oren.

OREN WEISFELD: Yeah, I can go first. I think-- yeah, we've come to expect, like, these fake comebacks. And last night, they did have one. They almost made it close a couple of times there in the fourth and just things didn't go right. But, like, I think there's a difference between a fake comeback and one where it actually feels like they did their job. The other team just, kind of, deserved to win, right? Where it's like, OK, the Raptors totally performed well enough where they could have got a win, but the Grizzlies were just healthier, better. They have a star, whatever. That, like you said, we'd all be OK with. It's not just about the wins anymore.

But yeah, like, it was a fake comeback, but it never felt real. And I think we'll talk about effort, but it goes beyond effort. It's, like, effort and execution have to be together. And, like, there's a certain focus level with this team that you just don't see enough where OK, we're a quarter in, and we need to up the effort because we're already down 15. And we can do that, but we can't match that with focus and execution to actually do the little things. And I think that's-- that's the problem.

AMIT MANN: I mean, same song. Different day. I've gotten to the point now where-- actually, I didn't realize that Steven Adams is 6'11". I thought he was, like, 7'2". Anyways, Jaren Jackson Jr. And Steven Adams are both 6'11" and the size issue was apparent. And we're seeing this down this stretch of December, where the size issues for the Raptors-- Zoubek, we're going to have DeAndre Ayton tonight-- it is becoming an issue. And we've been screaming from the top of the mountain Raptors need to rim protector. Has not happened yet.

I've now-- nowadays what I'm doing now is, with my betting cycle, I've been trying to bet on the Raptors to make some money and so forth. But now, I'm just like, you know what? I'm going to take the star player on the other team and bet the over on the assists, and I'm going to-- if they have a big man like Steven Adams, like DeAndre Ayton-- I'm just going to take the overall in rebounds. And guess what? It's been pretty profitable for me.

So tonight, guess what I'm going to do? DeAndre Ayton, you're up. Chris Paul, you're up. All right. Because we, kind of, know how things are going for the Raptors. How they try and stop stars. And those stars also know how that's breaking down for them. So it was a similar night to most nights for the Raptors these days, but it was encouraging to see Scottie Barnes have his stint when the Raptors were making their fake comeback. At that point, he had like what? Two rebounds, three assists and two boards?

Like, there wasn't much going on, but he really put the pedal to the metal there. And he, kind of, showed why he is who he is. And we've been missing that. We've been hoping for that to be more of a consistent part of his game so far this season. It hasn't really materialized, but that's a positive. We saw Scottie, kind of, break out to some degree last night.

IMMAN ADAN: Yeah. And the conversations about comebacks is one that's not new to this Raptors team. But I think, particularly this year, we just saw their A team starting lineup. We're seeing the Raptors throw out-- and granted, injuries have played a large part in that. Vanvleet was out last night. And so they started both Juancho and Christian Koloko. The Raptors are clearly trying to find someone that fits for that center role, and they, you know, relied on, maybe, that at times in Koloko being the person.

But we're seeing tons of different starting lineups. I want to get your take on what that is specifically because if you look at the numbers, the Raptors are one of the worst first quarter teams, and one of the worst third quarter teams in the league. They're 22nd in terms of net rating in the first quarter and seventh in the second quarter. Like, this is a good team that can put out solid lineups and can prove to win. It's just-- what are we missing with these starters? Why do the Raptors get off to such bad starts? Oren, I'll start with you.

OREN WEISFELD: Um, yeah. It was something we were talking about when the starting lineup was released last night. That we were pretty surprised to see Juancho and Koloko in there because I think if you're going to start Juancho, it makes a lot of sense to start Thad beside him just because those guys have a really clear chemistry with the cutting and passing. And we've seen a lot of times this year Koloko up against big bruising centers-- just doesn't work. He's not strong enough physically to be a good rebounder yet.

And so we saw Steven Adams get on the glass early and Zoubek came before. So this is, like, where my issue with Nurse is. It's not so much the scheme as much as the rotations. I just think Koloko playing over Khem Birch doesn't make a lot of sense to me, especially against these big centers who are just so strong and overpower Koloko. And in terms of your question about why they get off to slow starts, I think honestly, like, Scottie Barnes does deserve some criticism here.

And, like, Amit, you're right. He had a really good end to the game. But we've seen far too often over his career and especially this year where he really plays himself into games where he, kind of, starts slow and picks up as it goes along. And if you're going to be a starter on this team and if Fred VanVleet-- one of your best players is out-- that's just more responsibility on Scottie. I don't think you can criticize OG and Pascal for a lack of effort. So I do think Scottie deserves some blame for the way he comes out and starts games.

AMIT MANN: It's funny. After the game, there's OG saying, I've got to do a better job of setting the tone with the effort. Like, bro, like, you work hard, OK? I'm not sure how much more you could really do. You and Pascal. Look at the starters last night. You have Koloko, who didn't really show up at the beginning. Juancho hasn't hit a 3 since, like, 2020, I think. Scottie Barnes, the effort wasn't there. So you're going to get off to a slow start. No doubt about that.

I was really curious, like, why Thad didn't play yesterday. One thing that he didn't start but, like, why didn't he play at all when your half court offense is going to labor at least a little bit because Fred isn't there? And there is some synergy between, like you said Oren, between Juancho and Thad. He's a source of, like, some instant offense, some-- he gets the ball move, he gets some cutting going. Things will start happening.

And also, he's going to play tougher than Koloko. He does not have the size. But at the very least, like, he is going to get his ass into Steven Adams and just-- you hope for the best because that's what we're doing with any time a big center comes into Toronto is like, huh, just try. Try your hardest--

OREN WEISFELD: Right.

AMIT MANN: All the cases last night-- yeah, man. All the cases last night where I'm seeing, like, Scottie and Pascal and OG and they're trying to, like, grab the ball just from Steven Adams. I'm like, this is ridiculous. This is crazy. Why are they doing this? Pascal Siakam is trying to manhandle Steven Adams while also trying to score 30 points on the other end. Insanity. Um, there's a lot of flaws. I don't know why Gary Trent Jr. was taken out of the starting lineup. I don't think it was a good idea. Sure, he was struggling with his shot. They were struggling a little bit.

But the reason why you had him there and the reason why last year worked so well is that remember that fun stat we had? Every player was averaging 15 plus. That was good, right? And their half court offense was at least possible back then. Now, you take one of your best shooters out of the lineup while already OG and Fred are struggling with their shot. Yet guess where your shot making is? It's nowhere.

And then, you know, like you said yesterday. Like, Nick Nurse was going on and on about, hey, our half court offense is hurting our defense. No kidding. You took one of your best shooters out of the starting lineup. I don't know, man, keep searching. I think they're all searching right now. But there's a lot of flaws, and some of them could be fixed pretty quickly with some roster changes. But for now, I don't think there's any clear answers on this team right now other than some of the things we're going to get to in a second--

IMMAN ADAN: Pressure has come back.

AMIT MANN: --that you were going-- yeah, pressure's going god mode, which, I mean, OK. Let's see.

IMMAN ADAN: So Nick Nurse did have this quote here. I don't know if the play tonight gives me much optimism at all. It's pretty unacceptable with the effort we gave. Which is-- I mean, yeah, it's hard. Like, I wanted this to be an optimistic podcast, but it's hard to find that. And you did mention the Raptors-- Nick Nurse talking about the Raptors half court offense really being what hurts their defense. In two minutes into the game, Alvin Williams said, I've got to get back in transition.

OREN WEISFELD: Yeah.

IMMAN ADAN: You said that after a made shot. The Raptors let-- the Raptors had a free throw and it went in, and still the other way the Memphis Grizzlies have a dunk right at the rim. And it's, like, your defense-- this is a team that's going to struggle offensively. This is a team that's not going to have all the answers offensively. Their defense is what, sort of, sets the table, and I have the numbers here. Their half court defense has been 29th in the league.

AMIT MANN: Mm.

IMMAN ADAN: A stretch of [INAUDIBLE] cleaning the glass. They currently have the 23rd ranked half court defense in the season as a whole. That is just unacceptable for what this team is. Last season, they were 10th. The season before that-- a Tampa year where things were all bad-- they had a top ten half court defense again.