RAPTORS BLOG: Anunoby and Barnes’ brilliance wasted on all-time poor bench performance against the Lakers


It’s not easy losing a game when you have the top two players on the floor in OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes (arguably), both brilliant, and holding the great Anthony Davis to eight points. Yet the Raptors did just that to end a frustrating road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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The reason was obvious: the Toronto bank delivered nothing. In fact, the team lost the game and was absolutely outclassed by every lineup the Lakers put on the ground.

Per‘s John Schuhmann, Nick Nurse played his starters 27 minutes into the game and the group went up +17 during that time. The Los Angeles starters (which, of course, didn’t include LeBron James) went -27.

It was a disheartening ending and not at all what was supposed to happen after the team got Anunoby back and added Jakob Poeltl. The bench, which has been such a weakness all season, should morph into a strength, with Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa leading the way (and to a lesser extent, Will Barton, recently added to give even more of a boost ).

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Trent’s track record suggests he will bounce back as Nick Nurse expects of him. He can be a mediocre goalscorer. A 0v9 night is an extreme deviation for Trent, although he also has 2v11 and 2v7 games so far this month. He also went 6-to-9 three games ago and 11-to-18 in the one before that. The problem is that this team has less shooting talent than just about every other team in the NBA. Most of the time, if Trent (or Fred VanVleet, or even Anunoby) are far from that, they will have a hard time winning games. Add in Pascal Siakam, who appears to be running out of gas as the regular season draws to a close and the gunfights intensify.

Achiuwa remains a mystery. He was mediocre to even poor for months at the start of last season before getting better and better over the last three months until he was one of the most improved players in the league. He started slow again this year, but found a groove on the way into the grid. Instead of punishing second units, Achiuwa was poor. That has to change, and fast.

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  • Is Anthony Davis the best player in NBA history to inexplicably fight the Raptors? He would get my vote. When Davis plays, he’s one of the best two-way talents the NBA has seen. You can’t average 24 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks for a career and not be considered that level of a player. And yet, over the years, Davis has fared worse against the Raptors than any other opponent, and it’s nowhere near. Davis has averaged 16.2 points against Toronto in 12 matches. His next lowest average is 19.1 against Orlando. Those are the only two teams he hasn’t averaged 20 points against. For comparison, Davis has averaged over 28 points per game when playing against Charlotte and Detroit, and 27 against Boston and Milwaukee. He only shot 44% against the Raptors, easily his lowest against anyone. It’s bizarre, Davis rarely looked like himself playing against Toronto.
  • Heading into Saturday’s games, the Raptors sat down a game against Washington for the honor of hosting a play-in game, 2.5 behind Atlanta (the road team in the first play-in game, but a team which would get two cracks in the playoffs) and Four Back of Miami, which would host the first play-in game and possibly also get two cracks. Chicago is a Raptors second leg, Indiana just 1.5 (with both playing against terrible opponents on Saturday, giving them a chance to sneak closer). Toronto must go 9-5 to reach 500 and 10-4 to avoid a .500-or-less season in two of the last three years, which would be the first time Toronto’s teams have been .500 (once) or worse for six consecutive seasons starting in 2007–08.


1 floor Anunoby

2 Scottie Barnes

3 Dennis Schroeder

Honorable Mention: Jarred Vanderbilt, D’Angelo Russell, Jakob Poeltl

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