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Swingin’ Wings: Big bench energy comes through again

Praise from all quarters rained down on the Raptors bench play this week, including Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Terence Davis

Swingin’ Wings Toronto Raptors wing rotation: Big bench energy comes through again, Terence Davis Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 Toronto Raptors are not only defending their championship, they’re also replacing two starters at key positions on the wing. Each week on Swingin’ Wings, we’ll be tracking the progress of those possible replacements.

November 20-26

The Toronto Raptors went 3-0 last week, and, much as it did the week before, the team needed — and received — contributions from multiple wing players to achieve their success.

With Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka still on the shelf, Nick Nurse continues to go rely on his bench, with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Matt Thomas and Terence Davis all getting minutes, alongside wing starters Norman Powell and OG Anunoby. Davis in particular has been impressive; I mentioned his career high in scoring last week, and he exceeded it again this week.

A confession: I realize that, although I’ve considered him a wing/small forward from the start, Hollis-Jefferson is playing a decent chunk of his minutes at the four. He played about 82 minutes in the last week, and about 30 of them were nominally at the power forward spot, alongside either Chris Boucher or Marc Gasol, and with Siakam on the bench. Still, positional versatility is a plus in my book, so I’m not gonna dock him for it — he’s still in the running for Wing of the Week! Will he win it for the third week in a row?

Let’s find out.

Who Did What?

As noted, Norman Powell and OG Anunoby started all three games, with Fred VanVleet playing point guard.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was team’s sixth man all week, averaging 27 minutes a night; Terence Davis was usually right behind him, playing 21 minutes a night. Matt Thomas played little against Orlando and Atlanta, and then suffered a finger injury to his left hand and missed the Philadelphia game.

Patrick McCaw (knee) and Stanley Johnson (groin) are also injured, and did not play; Malcolm Miller got 90 seconds of garbage time against Orlando but was otherwise a DNP-CD.

Oshae Brisset scored his first NBA bucket against Orlando, and is currently shooting 100% from downtown. Take that Matt Thomas!

Wing Stat of the Week: 8.0

That’s how many rebounds Hollis-Jefferson averaged per game last week — a number that led the team! That’s right, our guy Rondae averaged more rebounds than Pascal Siakam (7.3), Chris Boucher (7.3), and Marc Gasol (6.3). The Raptors have been struggling on the glass, but Hollis-Jefferson is doing everything he can to reverse that trend.

Wing Highlight of the Week

Joel Embiid is a large man. OG Anunoby is not exactly small, but still: Taking a charge from Embiid is not something I think any NBA player really wants to do. And yet:

Anunoby didn’t have a high-impact week on offense, but he was excellent on the defensive end. He stymied both Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris at times against Philly, and didn’t let Aaron Gordon go off (before Gordon hurt is foot) as the Raptors held Orlando to 38.5% shooting. He was a primary defender on De’Andre Hunter in Atlanta, who scored 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, but Anunoby was also helping off to trap Trae Young a lot (Young was 11-for-23, but some of those makes were ri-dic-u-lous).

My point is: Even when he’s not much of a factor on offense, OG can still affect a game on D, and you love to see that.

What are the Wings Saying?

Terence Davis, on his increased role running the offense while Kyle Lowry is out:

For me, running the offense without Fred being in the game, I just try to get the ball in Pascal’s hands, we’ll get into a pick and roll, me and him, sometimes with Marc, and just keep the flow of the game going... anytime I’m in a pick and roll with Pascal, I’m just aggressive, because all of the attention is on him, so if I’m aggressive the attention can shift to me and I can just dump it down [to him] and we can just play like that.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, on his defensive mentality when he comes into the game:

Just ways that I can help the team get stops, make the momentum change, you kinda wanna have that energy, spark that shift — that momentum, that’s something I try to do, to lock in on who’s hot, who’s making plays, coach might possibly put me on that person, so just trying to find ways where I can change the game.

And specifically, on slowing down Trae Young late as the Raptors clung on to their lead:

Just trying to force him to his right, to go downhill, you know he likes that left-to-right crossover pull-up, he’s very, very effective at it, so just trying to make him go downhill... twos couldn’t beat us, so that was pretty much my mindset.

Also, there’s this:

I know ultimately it shouldn’t matter, but it makes following the team even more fun when the players genuinely seem to enjoy each other’s company, doesn’t it?

What’s Coach Saying?

On the hustle of the bench core of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis and Chris Boucher, following the win in Atlanta:

I really thought those three guys chased down the rebounds and the loose balls, they got a bunch of them, right in a row, when we were stringing some stops together, they’re at the end of them securing the ball so their energy was huge tonight.

On Rondae’s impact (and stating the obvious):

Rondae’s been really good defensively. He’s really been a big asset, we’ll put him on a really good player when he gets in there, just his intensity, strength and footspeed have been great, he’s been an extra possession getter, keeping balls alive big time. I think those are big momentum plays, and we haven’t got a lot of those, so it’s good to see us get some of those.

On Terence Davis’ play to date:

We might be seeing a little more that we were expecting to see, that’s two games in a row the guy’s come in off the bench and started nailing threes. He gave our offense a big boost and they’ve been momentum changers in both games. I’m not sure I expected him to do all that. I’ve talked about it, I knew he could vault up and shoot the ball, I know that, and he’s very athletic, I know that too, so that’s great; I think he’s catching teams off guard a little bit, and they’ll start hitting the scouting reports a little harder, but he’s been great the last couple of games and we can hopefully keep getting him a bunch of minutes so he can gain some experience and keep on going.

What Are the Rest of us Saying?

Let’s just say, Norman Powell’s play for most of that 76ers game was, uh, uninspiring.

Raptors HQ’s own Sean Woodley kept the faith though:

Wing of the Week: Norman Powell

I actually struggled a bit with the award this week. Everyone played well, and it was hard to say who stood out amongst the wings. Ultimately I’m gonna give it to Norman Powell, though.

Powell scored the ball well against Orlando and Atlanta, averaging 17.5 points on 55% shooting. He was only 3-for-11 against Philadelphia, but the two three-pointers he hit were huge, and he pulled down two huge rebounds in the closing minutes as well. He also played pretty solid D on Tobias Harris in that game, and did a good helping on Philly’s bigs when needed.

It wasn’t Norm’s best week, but he made enough of an impact to win his first Wing of the Week!