10 things: Anunoby's efficiency in the post a promising sign for Raptors

DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points against his former team and the Chicago Bulls beat the Toronto Raptors 111-108.

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' 111-108 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

One -- The Raptors really wanted this one, which is why it stings so much. Nick Nurse shortened his rotation, leaned heavily on his starters with Fred VanVleet leading the way at 42 minutes while OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes both played 39 apiece, and yet they still chased the entire way only to fall just short. You can't fault their effort, particularly in the second half where they gnawed at a 20-point deficit to force a one-possession chance to tie at the end, but where this team will come to regret is their execution and attention to detail.

The margin of error for this team is minuscule, so they really cannot afford to leave points on the table or lose their focus. All of that is part of learning how to win. They'll get there eventually, even if starting out 0-3 at home is a hard pill to swallow.

Two -- Nurse will come to regret the finish of this game. First, the Raptors botched an inbounds play in the final minute, where they failed to feed the ball to VanVleet in the backcourt, which would have given him a running start to attack downhill off a high screen from Precious Achiuwa. Instead, the pass went inside of half, which then meant VanVleet got the ball back at the three-point arc with little momentum behind him, and so when he got into the paint the Bulls were ready with the trap and he ended up throwing a bailout pass that was picked off.

Then on the final possession, Nurse opted to challenge an out-of-bounds call after Goran Dragic made a last-ditch sprint to strip Nikola Vucevic, who was about to seal the win, and while Dragic's play was certainly worth a second look, it burned Nurse's last timeout so the Raptors couldn't advance the ball on the last shot. Granted, not calling for time did have the benefit of keeping Vucevic on the floor instead of him being subbed out at the end, and VanVleet did shake him enough to create the space for a three that sailed long.

Three -- VanVleet was not perfect but he played his heart out. He showed the iron will of his mentor, Kyle Lowry, who would take a similar approach in pulling his team up by the collar to lead the comeback. VanVleet drove no less than 20 times in his 42 minutes, and that downhill pressure directly translated to his 17 assists on the night which was a career-high.

Mind you, this was against a Bulls team that had two resilient defenders in Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso pressuring VanVleet, which accounts for his eight turnovers. But in terms of leadership, you saw VanVleet take responsibility and do everything in his power to force the comeback. It's just too bad that his last shot didn't drop because he did have Vucevic on skates.

Four -- The Raptors need Goran Dragic to step up, or to step off. Nurse continues to show faith in the veteran, but Dragic has failed to impact the game and it's forcing VanVleet to overextend himself. Dragic is a liability on defence as teams go at him regularly, but he should be making it up on offence, which he isn't at the moment. Dragic missed a handful of layups, an open corner three, and didn't create much for anybody else in his 14 minutes.

He doesn't fit the identity of what the Raptors want and, to be blunt, the Raptors might not even really want him.

The track record suggests that Dragic will turn it around, but to what end? And who is taking on $19 million if he can't even be trusted to keep the Raptors afloat for 10 minutes at a time? At least he warmed up this time rather than schmoozing with every Mavericks employee like the last home game.

Five -- Dalano Banton is an intriguing option as the backup point guard. He doesn't provide what the Raptors want most from their guards, which is shooting, but he contributes in other areas. Banton is quick and shifty and is usually able to get downhill, such as on his first play of the game where he blew past his defender to draw a foul in the lane. That ability to penetrate also opens up his passing game, where he is error prone, yet also crafty in the types of passes he can make.

Defensively, Banton gives the Raptors length and is a huge upgrade over Dragic, who generally gets targeted. Banton would make sense in the all-wing lineup that Nurse tried in Monday's game, which didn't fully work because there wasn't a distributor who could organize the play.

Six -- The main casualty of Dragic's minutes is Malachi Flynn. The sophomore guard has only played once in four games this season, and it was during the fourth quarter blowout over the Boston Celtics. Flynn has clearly been demoted to fourth string, and even in games where the Raptors are struggling for back-court scoring, he remains stapled to the bench.

His frustration is mounting, too, as Flynn stayed 45 minutes after the game to get shots up by himself in an empty gym. It was a sad sight seeing Flynn knock down jumper after jumper as he waits for his chance, even though that chance was supposed to come when Lowry moved on.

Flynn was good at Summer League and finished strong last season, but right from the start of pre-season he's been buried. And it's one thing if Dragic was dominating, but he's been one of the main problems with the team, so it has to sting extra for Flynn who can't even get on the floor to prove himself. If this keeps up, perhaps a second G-League stint is in his future, which to him must feel like a step backwards.

Seven -- One promising sign to come from this game is Anunoby's efficiency in the post. Anunoby has largely struggled trying to play downhill, routinely getting cut off and losing his balance on drives when he operates the pick-and-roll. So to station him in the post tonight was smart, because it took away the need to dribble.

Playing out of the post is easier because Anunoby can better shield the ball, and then survey the floor to see where the help is coming from instead of being caught by surprise. It also leverages his strength advantage over most wings, who could match him for quickness but typically aren't strong enough to hold Anunoby in the post.

Anunoby recorded five assists on Monday, four of which were on sequences where he drew the double team before either hitting his front-court partner cutting for a layup, or kicking it out for three. The Raptors should continue to use Anunoby in this way, not only to create more efficient offence, but to help Anunoby rebuild some of his confidence that he may have lost during his humbling start to the year.

Eight -- Khem Birch should get some consideration in the starting lineup, if only to bring some stability to the group. Achiuwa is definitely more talented and capable of making flashier plays, but Birch does more of what you need, and it stands out in the basics of the game. Achiuwa can sky for lobs more regularly, yet simple finishes under the rim are not guaranteed whereas Birch is far more reliable in getting to the open spot and then flipping in the short hook shot.

This is hardly a sexy skill, but it's a necessary one when you have guards who struggled to finish at the rim like the Raptors do, so that dump-off option needs to always be present. Birch also is a much better screener, as Achiuwa rarely makes contact to pop the ball handler free. Once Birch has his conditioning back to peak performance, he should be the starter.

Nine -- Chris Boucher hardly did much at all to get himself out of Nurse's doghouse. Nurse finally gave Boucher a shot with six minutes left in the second quarter, which is 12 minutes past when he would normally check in, and Boucher was the usual mixed bag in his five-minute shift.

On the one hand, he knocked down an open three and collected four rebounds, but he also gave it right back by closing out late on a shooter, then failing to seal his man while trying to receive a simple entry pass which created a fast break for the Bulls on the steal. It's not fair to judge Boucher solely on being a minus-10 in five minutes, as he was out there while Nurse tried his ill-fitting no-guard lineup, but he didn't do anything that would change Nurse's mind for the next game.

The Raptors badly need Boucher to provide scoring off the bench, but he first needs to win Nurse's trust.

Ten -- The front office needs to supplement the team with guards. It was shocking to see the disparity in quality between what Chicago had versus Toronto's lacklustre offerings behind VanVleet. Dragic is a net-negative at the moment, Flynn only sees the floor when it's before or after games with assistant coaches, and Svi Myhailiuk continues to regress into a pumpkin just in time for Halloween.

The scary part is that the Raptors are fully healthy right now in the backcourt, and still they have one of the worst depth in the league. This is one of the issues that comes with building towards a strategy of being positionless, because it might just turn out that you have nothing at what should be the deepest position in the league.

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