Not that it was of major concern for the Raptors, but seeing Norman Powell find himself on Friday night against Melbourne United had to feel like a relief. Yes, there are caveats to his three quarters of work: it was against a non-NBA team, it was a preseason game, Toronto had decided to rest or sit six of the squad’s 20 training camp players. Still, Norm came to play, and play he did.
Until he suffered a right thigh contusion late in the third quarter and was forced to shut it down for the night. No caveats here: it was a bum-ass disappointing turn of events — even with the Raptors winning handily over United, 120-82.
Now a contusion is really just a fancy word for bruise, and it’s likely that Norm will be fine in a little bit of time. Maintaining his confidence is the thing, though. In his 25 minutes tonight, Powell put up 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting (including 3-of-5 from three), with three assists, three rebounds, and more than a few scintillating dunks. The stakes may have been low, yet Norm was looking good (finishing at +45). The Raptors may not need him much this year, with his rank in the rotation somewhere around tenth or 11th man — but it would be a shame to lose Norm, if only for a couple games.
“He was really solid tonight and that’s kind of the main thing,” said coach Nick Nurse. “He’s been impressive, I think, as far as playing a little bit more of the way we want him to play. A couple of years ago he was a really good attacker of the rim and that kind of somewhere got lost in the shuffle a little bit last year.”
Powell’s ups and downs were really the only drama of the night. The Raptors started their third preseason game of the year in slow motion, giving United a feel for the floor before a Delon Wright-led 10-0 run gave the home team some juice. It was modestly close for some of the second quarter, and then the Raptors’ superior talent — even minus Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry — eventually just blew Melbourne away. As with any non-NBA (or a straight-up bad NBA) team, you can’t fault the visitors for trying. They just never had much of a chance against this Toronto squad.
By the end of three quarters it was 101-58 for the Raps, Kawhi had joined his team on the bench, Lowry was chilling with his young son, and coach Nick Nurse roamed deep into his roster to close the game out.
After Powell, the Raptors were led by some superlative minutes from Wright, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while calming going 3-of-4 from deep. It never really looked like Delon was breaking a sweat out there, which is another good sign for Toronto. “It felt like a real game, as far as me preparing,” said Wright. “I knew that I was going to be playing more minutes, so I knew I wanted to just play my game and have a good one.”
Wright was joined by Pascal Siakam, who definitely did break a sweat streaking up and down the floor with abandon. The rangy forward went for 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while grabbing six boards, dishing three assists, and tossing in a 3 for good measure (he was also a game-high +50). There were contributions from others too of course — Serge Ibaka had 8-and-12, Danny Green hit a pair of threes, Malachi Richardson mixed it up, Jonas Valanciunas had some fun, the deep bench got a lot of fourth quarter run (particularly Deng Adel and his 5-for-5 night).
And then, that was it. The Raptors cruised past Melbourne United, with only Casper Ware and Chris Goulding breaking double digits in scoring at 17 apiece. I sincerely hope they enjoyed their time in Toronto.
The Raptors move to 3-1 for the preseason, with two games left (a road back-to-back against the Nets in Montreal, and the Pelicans in New Orleans) before the start of the real NBA season on October 17th. Hopefully everyone will be healthy by then. Nothing in Friday’s game really meant anything — and for Norm’s sake, let’s hope that’s doubly true.