As was reported Saturday afternoon, Kyle Lowry will miss at least two weeks after fracturing his left thumb in Friday night’s contest in New Orleans. And some fear Serge Ibaka’s “severely sprained ankle” could cause him to miss even more time than that. It’s a severe blow to the Raptors’ ability to win games, as the two are arguably of the top three players on the team.
With the Raptors already conspicuously thin at point guard already, and even more so at centre, Nick Nurse will have to rely more on Terence Davis, Chris Boucher, and Matt Thomas to fill the minutes up with quality basketball. We may even finally get a Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sighting.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom after Friday night’s victory over the Pels though, as fans were treated to an explosive offensive game from Siakam, and another stellar outing from OG Anunoby — whose offensive repertoire seems to be growing by the game. The pair combined to give Toronto 65 points and 10 made threes.
I often go on about how OG deserves more shots per game, and honestly, there’s no better time than now to see what he can do with the ball. Also, now’s the time for Norman Powell to excel in his role as a “young veteran” on the Raptors. He did well enough Friday in the absences of Ibaka and Lowry in the second half, scoring 18 points on 6-of-10 from the field, but the team needs more of that change of pace from him on this road trip.
In truth, Toronto will need everyone at their best. Injuries or not, the Raptors have now settled into Los Angeles for a two-night stay. Tonight, it’s LeBron James and the Lakers. Tomorrow, Kawhi and the Clippers. There’s unfortunately no rest for the weary.
Let’s get to tonight’s game details and things to watch for.
Where to Watch:
TSN 4/5, 9:30 p.m.
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Los Angeles — Avery Bradley, Danny Green, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, JaVale McGee
Toronto — Kyle Lowry (Out — thumb), Serge Ibaka (Out — ankle), Patrick McCaw (Out — surgery)
Los Angeles — Rajon Rondo (Questionable — ankle), DeMarcus Cousins (Out — knee)
Who’s Stepping Up?
There’s no replacing a Kyle Lowry, so forget about it. But a few guys can step up and support the two remaining stars on the team — Siakam and Anunoby. Fred VanVleet needs to get his shot-selection under control, but his ability to direct the flow of a game is well documented.
However, the guy I expect to shine brighter than most expected is Norm Powell. He’s continually come in when the team needs him, and he never seems to fail at reaching expectations or exceeding them. Last game was one of his best performances all season, and it was because he was called upon. So it appears to me, from as far back as his double Game 5 heroics, that when his number is called in dire circumstances, Powell is capable of helping the team win with efficient numbers.
It’s when his role is muddied or uncertain that Powell fails to execute the best parts of his game — cutting off ball, taking open shots, and driving to the rim.
How About OG?
Nobody should get sick of hearing about the 22-year-old phenom this season. Anunoby’s play has been beyond extraordinary, not only because of his jump in scoring, but because of his shooting efficiency. OG’s handles have improved, his court awareness on offense looks nothing like it has his first two seasons, and his 3-point shot is hot, hot, hot.
We’re all looking forward to his matchup with last year’s small forward master, Kawhi Leonard, but OG has a chance to prove himself against the “other” greatest player in the game — LeBron James. Two postseasons ago, OG made a name for himself by playing excellent defense on the generational talent, and with his new frantic defensive intensity, I only expect him to put on a better show than the 2018 playoffs. I wanted his shots per game to jump up to around 12-13 per game, and without Lowry and Ibaka for the next few weeks, that could very well happen. Let’s see how he performs as a result.
Guessing The Rotation
With Lowry out, that leaves VanVleet as the only veteran point guard on the team. Terence Davis needs to play at least 20 minutes per game as a result, and in order for him to do that, he needs to reel in his foul rate, which currently sits at 7.2 fouls per 36 minutes. You have to appreciate the aggressiveness on defense, but he has to play smarter in order to stay on the floor, because after him... the Raptors don’t have many options.
Terence Davis is a very capable plug and play point guard in lineups featuring Pascal Siakam (a great ball handler) and Marc Gasol (a great passer in his own right), so he won’t need to be relied on as heavily for traditional point guard duties.
As far as the big man rotation goes, it appears Dewan Hernandez could see a few minutes per game after Pascal, Gasol and Boucher — and especially against the Lakers, who employ three capable legit 7-footers. Their size could cause serious problems for the Raptors bigs given the team’s lack of a true centre beyond Gasol.