Woz Blog: Ibaka, Anunoby far exceeding expectations for Raptors

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Another day, another Raptors obliteration of a terrible team. This group has been the best I can remember at taking care of business against the sad-sacks. Wednesday’s win 129-111 win was slightly different since it came at Charlotte, the Eastern Conference city the franchise has had the most trouble with during the Dwane Casey era. There’s been a lid on the rim at the Queen City for years now, but definitely not in this one.

Serge Ibaka is a different player when rest days get strung together, OG Anunoby is the perfect fit in that starting lineup, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have the art of tormenting bad teams down to a science.

With roughly 65% of the season still to be played, it’s still very early and the Raptors need to prove they can beat the best, not just the dregs (they’ve competed with the top dogs for a while now, but actually prevailing has been elusive).

This team can hang with anybody not named Golden State (nobody can) if Ibaka and Anunoby keep playing like this.

Ibaka had four dunks against Charlotte and compiled his most points as a Raptor.

He had three dunks, total, in 23 games with Toronto after coming over from Orlando last year. Ibaka has 18 in 25 games already this season.

He’s been far more than just a dunk machine. A recent stretch of dead-eye three-point shooting has moved Ibaka into eighth in the NBA in three-point percentage amongst centres and power forwards. Plus, Ibaka has turned back the clock almost to his Oklahoma City days in terms of his shot-blocking. He’s sixth (and closing in on Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo) in blocks per game and lately has made a habit of volleyball spiking opposing forays to the hoop. His chase-down rejections have been jaw-dropping.

Ibaka’s December line: 19.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, .589/.579/.778 in eight games.

Meanwhile, Anunoby continues to deliver the best man-to-man defence on the team and has married that with remarkable three-point accuracy. Jayson Tatum is the only rookie with a higher success rate from beyond the arc (.505 to .465), he’s tied with Kyle Kuzma in rookie field goal percentage, eighth in steals, is only averaging 0.55 turnovers per game, is tops in steals/turnovers, leads all rookies in offensive rating, is third in defensive rating and second in net rating.

Yeah, he’s been good.

Had wanted to be more stats-heavy in this installment of the Woz Blog, but NBA.com has been on the fritz for a few weeks now and appears to be getting worse. It’s a huge memory suck and you simply can’t open up the stats pages without slowing your computer to a crawl. Hopefully they get on the problem, because it’s an invaluable resource.


Each of the Ibaka dunks stood out, but one illustrated how comfortable the players are getting with each other. Late in the second quarter, Ibaka set a mild screen for DeRozan and almost immediately slipped it and headed into the paint. When the double team came at DeRozan, he made a subtle, yet beautiful, behind-the-back pass to Ibaka and the result was a powerful one-hander.

Ibaka would later return the favour, passing up on a shot to find DeRozan in the corner for a three. DeRozan shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, after only hitting one over his previous 11 games. The Raptors hit 16 treys on 33 attempts and handed out 35 assists. These are not Steve Clifford’s Hornets. The defensive pride is gone. The Raptors actually hit more threes than free throws, that can’t be something that happens often.

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