The Toronto Raptors closed their three-game scrimmage schedule with a 117-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Now the real season resumes, as Toronto begins its eight seeding games on Saturday against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Before we completely shift focus to what lies ahead, we take a look back to reflect upon what we'll take away from the preliminary scrimmages.
Serge Ibaka is back like he never left
Prior to the season being suspended, Ibaka was playing some of the best basketball of his career.
He isn't the defender he once was - peak Ibaka was a sight to behold on that end of the court - but the 16.0 points he was averaging per game marked a new career-high. He was doing it efficiently as well, shooting 51.8 percent from the field and a career-best 39.8 percent from 3-point range. While there's been some weird stuff going on with his on-off numbers, he's provided a valuable scoring punch to a team that has been decimated by injuries.
The good news for the Raptors is that the hiatus appears to have had absolutely no impact on Ibaka. He stole the show in Toronto's first scrimmage, posting 18 points in 17 minutes against the Houston Rockets. He then scored a team-high 19 points in 25 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers, followed by eight points in Toronto's loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Serge Ibaka dropped a team-high 18 PTS while shooting 80% (8-10) from field in the @Raptors scrimmage win!#WeTheNorth | #WholeNewGame pic.twitter.com/psHUk78muw- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) July 25, 2020
Time will tell if Marc Gasol can finally stay healthy this season, but it appears as though the Raptors can continue to count on Ibaka to bring it in the bubble.
This Raptors team brings the juice
In an environment where there will be early games in front of virtual fans and socially distant benches, teams will need to manufacture their own energy to feed off of.
According to The Athletic's Joe Vardon, this Raptors team does just that.
We're in uncharted territory on the NBA's campus, where playoff-like intensity will be matched with a new normal in regards to a playoff-like atmosphere. In big games, energy and momentum carry increased importance, so it should come as no surprise that a veteran team like Toronto is overly vocal, which should work in its benefit.
As we saw in Scrimmage No. 2 against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Raptors fed off of the energy manufactured from being "chatty," staging a second-half run that ultimately resulted in a win.
Taking things a step further, Toronto's habits to overly communicate signifies a team that is connected, it's yet another example of the oft-discussed championship DNA present throughout the locker room of a team that rarely takes a night off, if ever.
After witnessing the energy and passion displayed in a scrimmage, I'm excited to see this team turn things up a few notches for seeding games and the postseason.
- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
Nick Nurse has a full chest of toys
Look, it's dangerous to read too much into scrimmages. That being said, watching Nick Nurse tinker with a full chest of toys was a sight to behold. There's little chance the rotation expands to 10, but the fact that Nurse can legitimately go that deep or tweak based on matchups gives Toronto depth it has not had all season long.
Take for instance the third quarter against Portland, during which the Raptors outscored the Blazers 38-21.
The lineup of Siakam, Lowry, Ibaka, Anunoby and Powell did most of the heavy lifting with Anunoby and Powell stepping in for Gasol and VanVleet, who did not play in the second half. They didn't miss a beat, outscoring the Raptors by 15 in just eight minutes. Then Terence Davis and Matt Thomas subbed into promptly to go a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc, the exact type of spark that will be crucial if the defending champs are going to make a spirited run.
No Raptors fan needs to be reminded of the laundry list of injuries this year and while there is perhaps no team better suited to deal with any unforeseen setbacks in Orlando, the Raptors are positioned to leverage a full cupboard in ways most contenders are not. That's a luxury not shared by all 22 teams and one that can't be taken for granted especially in light of the circumstance under which this season is resuming.
- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)
Skinny Marc is a go!
Marc Gasol looks healthy.
It took the third and finally scrimmage for us to see it but Gasol not only looks slimmer but he's finally playing with the pep in his step that we haven't seen since the postseason.
He played 19 mins and finished with five points, nine rebounds and two blocks in the loss against the Suns. While he did look gassed at some points, which was to be expected, he showed flashes of what makes him special on both ends of the floor.
The ball was moving on the offensive side:
And he was turning shots away on the other end:
As Scott pointed out, Serge Ibaka's play could save Gasol from having to turn back the clock, but if the Raps plan on making a deep run again, having both of them firing on all cylinders is a must.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)