Watching the Raptors go 9-5 without Kyle Lowry has been reassuring, but also... painful at times. Losses to the Bucks and Thunder stick out like sore memories, as the team transitions from being a historic offensive team to a historic defensive team. This is real tough stuff we're seeing, and don't take my word for it.
that's freaking incredible pic.twitter.com/JRGSnshdcW— William Lou (@william_lou) March 23, 2017
The best character in this new defense-first story is P.J. Tucker, and his role in Tuesday's cathartic win over the Bulls was the high point in an exciting, emotional first few weeks with the team. He picked up his play in that game after Serge Ibaka punched Robin Lopez, and will be rewarded with the starting power forward job tonight as Ibaka serves his one-game suspension.
Raptors expect to start PJ Tucker for Ibaka, coach Dwane Casey said.— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) March 23, 2017
Tucker starts against a young Miami team that plays sharp, sharing basketball — the Raptors saw this firsthand in a 104-89 loss on March 11. The Heat are now without their best scorer in Dion Waiters, but have still won three of their last four and are knocking on the .500 door at 35-36. They'll be in tough for the eighth seed with the Bulls and Pacers, but five minutes of watching them affirms they're the most exciting of that trio.
The Raptors are feeling themselves, though! This is yet another opportunity to stay within striking distance of the Wizards in third, and there's a bit of revenge on the mind after losing earlier this month.
Lots of good stuff to read before this one. TSN's Josh Lewenberg wrote an outstanding profile of P.J. Tucker and his return to Toronto. William Lou got into how good the Raptors can be when Kyle Lowry returns. The Podcast God Sean Woodley counted down the top ten DeRozan plays from Tuesday's win. Finally, Matt Teague previewed tonight's game!
Now, let's get to those comments.