Toronto Raptors Storm Back After Dropping Three Straight Summer League Games

The Toronto Raptors bounced back to beat the Denver Nuggets after three demoralizing losses, a win that will propel the Raptors to the next round of the tournament. But for Toronto to have any chance against the Charlotte Hornets, they'll need some big contributions from Anunoby, Alkins, and Richardson.

A collection of would-be Toronto Raptors beat the fourth-seeded Denver Nuggets 85 to 77 in a single-elimination game Wednesday night after dropping all three of their previous contests by double-digits.

As expected, OG Anunoby led the way for the ragtag team. He scored 22 points on roughly 53 percent shooting to help the Raptors achieve their first win in the 2018 NBA Summer League. Giddy Potts also chipped in 14, while Chris Boucher contributed 12 points, six boards, and six blocks.

It was Boucher’s unexpected play that really helped swing the momentum Toronto’s way at the beginning of the fourth, his shot blocking and defensive presence letting the Raps get out in transition for easy buckets. The Raptors outscored the Nuggets 28 to 18 in the final window of play.

Prior to Wednesday’s win, the eclectic mix of young and semi-promising players lost games to New Orleans, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City. While the games were seldom close and were a cause of concern for some Raptors faithful, certain players managed to show up and turn in strong individual performances.

OG Anunoby, Rawle Alkins, and Malachi Richardson all stood out from the pack because of their unique contributions.

Anunoby made a name for himself during his rookie season with his stoic offensive play and elite level defense. He showed that he was consistently able to hit open three-pointers, attack open lanes, make the extra pass, and stifle opposing wing players.

It was these strengths that Anunoby built on during Toronto's first three games in the NBA Summer League. He averaged 13.7 points, nearly seven boards, an assist, and a block simply by doing what he already excels at. Toronto's GM Bobby Webster recognized this on Wednesday and mentioned during the broadcast that he'd like to see Anunoby stretch his game and take on more of a prominent offensive role.

Even though Anunoby still struggles with certain things on the court, like creating his own shot, fans should find comfort in some of the small improvements that Anunoby has made. His shot looks way quicker, he looks very solid operating out of the mid-post, and he's been playing with a level of confidence or swagger that he just didn't have last season. In fact, the typically calm and soft-spoken Anunoby spent a good portion of Toronto's game against OKC jawing at the opposition until the tension boiled over and Anunoby nearly scrapped Dakari Johnson following a rough tie-up. Both players received double-technicals and Anunoby confirmed something that many had doubted through his first season - that he does, in fact, care about what happens on the court.

Similar to Anunoby, the undrafted Rawle Alkins upped his intensity and showed off his defensive ability through Toronto’s first three games in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Alkins is listed at six foot five and weighs 220 pounds, making him a sizeable wing defender capable of switching from point guards to power forwards. This skill is aided by his speed, exceptional lateral mobility, and strength.

On top of this, Alkins has amazing hands that allow him to pester the opposition’s best dribbler without picking up fouls. While he averaged less than a steal per game, Alkins was able to pick up an enormous amount of deflections. There was a period of about five minutes in the first half against the Thunder where Alkins stripped the ball twice in transition, poked the ball away from his man, then swiped an inbounds pass to help the Raptors close the second quarter with momentum.

To say Alkins hustles and has active hands is definitely an understatement. He always "gets after it," remarked Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. Alkins is "still a developing player to where he’s gonna have ups and downs, but he never wavers on how hard he plays, which is awesome about him," added Dan Tolzman of the Toronto Raptors.

Unfortunately, Alkins has yet to formally sign Toronto's Exhibit 10 contract offering, meaning that Alkins is technically playing in the NBA Summer League as a free agent, Blake Murphy reports.

Malachi Richardson, on the other hand, is under contract with Toronto for at least another year and has been stellar offensively but has lacked defensive awareness and intensity.

Richardson boasted a silky smooth jumper from distance, connecting on 43 percent of his attempts from beyond the three-point line. He’s averaged nearly 14 points per game quite efficiently.

For a team trying to become more adept at three-point shooting, like the Toronto Raptors, Richardson’s long-range ability will surely come in handy.

With Wednesday's surprising win over the Nuggets, the Raptors advance to the next round of the tournament and will face off against the upstart Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, July 14th. For the Raptors to have any chance against the Hornets, they'll need Anunoby, Alkins, and Richardson to keep doing what they do - and then some.

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