With the news that Serge Ibaka could be back very soon and Kyle Lowry is targeting a December 1st return, Raptors fans can all breathe a little. When both players went down at the start of the west coast road trip in New Orleans, so many questions were asked. By the end of the road trip and during the last two games, they were all answered.
Ibaka will travel with team to Atlanta but is unlikely to play. Raps are hopeful Lowry will be back around next weekend. McCaw is responding well and is pain free. Still a little bit away.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) November 22, 2019
What do the Raptors have in Fred VanVleet? There was always a little bit of concern if VanVleet could handle full-time starting lead guard duties, but there’s little doubt about it now. Against Anthony Davis and LeBron James’ Lakers he looked more than capable — at times incredible — as he gave the team a calming influence and posted a near triple-double. His leadership the next night against the Clippers helped the Raptors fight all game until they ran out of gas. The first game back from a roadtrip he showed that steady hand and swiftly guided the team to a 132-96 drumming against Charlotte.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson? He was the question and the answer. He slowly earned minutes in Ibaka’s absence due to his hustle and intensity. He took on the opposing team’s best player while on the floor and made life difficult for them. As for the back-up guard spot vacated by VanVleet? That easily went to Terence Davis. I half expect him to set a new career-high again tonight.
Often when something unexpected happens to a team in terms of injuries and absences, rarely do we see it retain its form, not miss a step, and continue playing the way it was before those injuries and absences. We’ve seen that with Toronto though. Tonight, the Raptors play the Atlanta Hawks and hope to continue this stellar play before the old guard comes back.
Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Atlanta – Trae Young, DeAndre’ Bembry, De’Andre Hunter, Jabari Parker, Damian Jones
Toronto – Patrick McCaw (knee – OUT), Serge Ibaka (ankle – doubtful), Kyle Lowry (thumb – OUT), Stanley Johnson (groin – OUT), Dewan Hernandez (thumb – OUT)
Atlanta – John Collins (suspension – OUT), Kevin Huerter (shoulder – OUT), Cam Reddish (wrist – OUT)
After an early season statement win in Denver in which Trae Young posted a showstopping 42 points and 11 assists on 8-of-13 from deep, things only went downhill. In his next five games, Young shot a combined 7-of-33 from the perimeter in blowout losses at Los Angeles, Phoenix, and just last night, against the Pistons.
With how well Young has been playing since midway through his rookie season, he is still prone to extreme cold spells. His shooting is on the edge between “what was he thinking?” and “this guy is an assassin” and the only thing that makes it manageable is how gifted he is seeing the floor. This current Atlanta squad is missing John Collins due to suspension and while it’s still early in the season, a lot hinges on how Young can perform and keep this team afloat until Collins’ return.
Bench Mob: Part 2
When the season started and Nick Nurse was playing a strict 8-man rotation, the question was: whose that third guy off the bench? We knew the starters + Norm and Serge would be locks for minutes, but the eighth man went from McCaw to Terence Davis to Hollis-Jefferson to... Stanley Johnson? No one really knew who it would be and it was a little concerning considering the age and minutes load of some of the main contributors.
So down goes Lowry and Ibaka in the same game and now its out of necessity. In comes Terence Davis and Hollis-Jefferson to form the greatest pick-n-roll in league history, (I kid, I kid, but it has sure seemed like that lately), while Chris Boucher does his best Dikembe Mutombo impression.
And suddenly, the bench can play. With Ibaka and Lowry due to return soon, the minutes could change dramatically once again, but this extended rotation should still see the floor more often going forward. For now, let’s see what surprises they have in store for us tonight.
Cam in the Red
One part of the three-headed monster at Duke last season has had a tough start to his professional career. Cam Reddish is averaging 7.6 points per game on just under 30 percent shooting from the field. Things did seem to be looking up when he set career-high’s in his last three games with 12, 13, and 17 points. But then Reddish sustained a wrist injury. Rough.
Now, Reddish is a rookie and rookies generally stink. In Atlanta’s case, he’s competing with Kevin Huerter and DeAndre’ Bembry for minutes and those two are also young and hungry. When you look at the timeline of the team, where do they expect to be this season? Luckily Reddish is allowed to stink — the whole squad is to an extent; they’re young and 4-11 on the season — and that should help him not put too much pressure on himself.