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Also interesting: Stanley Johnson, who was also great, talking about how tough it can be to comprehend everything Nick Nurse has the Raptors doing defensively. Johnson said he just never got a handle on it last year, but is locked in now and loving it, as are the Raptors. It made me think Aron Baynes probably just isn’t suited to what they want their centres to do. Not mobile enough. But he makes up for a bit of it with smarts and good positioning. He stretched out to 11 minutes, getting a second-half stint for the first time in ages. He can give a lot more than he’s showed, but it was some progress.
Despite the brutal start to the season the players didn’t start sniping at each other. They haven’t let their weird situation (living in Tampa Bay) break them apart. Instead, they remain a strong, united group. Two examples: Fred VanVleet stepping up for Stanley Johnson when Luka Doncic was chattering a little too much for VanVleet’s liking about potential fouls. And then Kyle Lowry post-game refusing to take credit for the win, instead singling out Pascal Siakam (who shook off an ugly start to give the team a needed boost with a stirring third quarter) and Johnson.
Funny random stat: Career made three-pointers: Anunoby: 256. Siakam 255.
Tweeted this after the game: It’s pretty wild that if we did the voting today, two guys from the same neighbourhood of Montreal would surely be Top 5 in most improved player consideration, Boucher and Lu Dort. Both have been great. It’s a tough field though this year. Houston’s Christian Wood has taken off like a … wait for it … Rocket; Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis has gone from really solid to All-NBA level (he’s currently 9th on basketball-reference.com’s MVP tracker); Boston’s Jaylen Brown isn’t far behind; Detroit’s Jerami Grant wanted to see if he could be the man, or 1B on a team and has delivered. Boucher and Dort though can claim to be difference-makers on defence too, and really only Brown can say the same.