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Listen to That’s A Rap #64: Raptor injuries are piling up

First Marc, then Norm, then (after recording) Pascal. How will the Raptors fare with the team’s latest bout of injuries?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Injuries are part of the game. You play with the hand you’re dealt.

Most, if not all, recent NBA champs had some sort of injury luck on their way to hoisting the Larry OB, especially our dear Toronto Raptors! During last season’s championship run, many will reference the injury bug that stung the Golden State Warriors. But let’s not forget Game 5 of the ECF, with the Bucks down 4, Giannis Antetoukounmpo sat for a crucial 37-second span within the final minute, after tweaking his ankle. Joel Embiid had gastroenteritis, an upper respiratory infection, plus a virus that had him throwing up and requiring IV... all within a 5-game span during the Raptors series!

This trip down injury memory lane is really meant to distract you from the reality that the tables have turned and Toronto is now officially on the wrong side of the injury bug. Norm Powell and Marc Gasol — and after we recorded the podcast, Pascal Siakam — have been added to the injury ward that is the Raptors locker room.

Boil some tea. Change into your comfy pajamas. Curl up in your favourite blanket. Then drown your sorrows away with the latest episode of That’s A Rap.

On This Episode:

Early in the 4th quarter, the Raptors were well on their way to a blowout victory over Dwane Casey’s bunch of ragtag Pistons. Unfortunately, Toronto started the quarter with some cold shooting, prolonging the minutes of their starters and, ultimately, leaving Powell out just long enough to be crunched by a Blake Griffin screen. He re-injured the same shoulder that forced him to miss 21 games last season. That’s... not great, Bob.

Earlier in the game, the Big Spain went down in big pain (sorry), pulling his hamstring while defending a transition bucket. While Norm’s absence can be replaced somewhat by Terence Davis, the hole that Gasol leaves will be much tougher to fill. He has been the defensive anchor to a top-5 defense and a maestro on the offensive end. Kyle Lowry and Gasol have two of the highest basketball IQs in the NBA. Just as Nick Nurse relied on Gasol to be the ‘coach on the floor’ during Lowry’s absence, he’ll expect the same in reciprocation this time around.

When the Raptors suffered a similar fate during their visit to New Orleans, losing Lowry and Serge Ibaka, the bench was unproven and still getting used to Nurse’s system. With this round of injuries, the expectation will be for the (now proven) bench to step up and inject life when the starters sit.

Toronto doesn’t have to endure a difficult west coast road swing this time around when dealing with major injuries, so all hope is not lost. Washington and Dallas have been two of the best offenses this season. But the Wizards have the worst defensive rating and the Mavericks are without their ‘Maverick’ (sorry, I really should stop day-drinking), Luka Doncic. The last time the Raptors visited Indiana was also the last time Victor Oladipo played a game. ‘Dipo still hasn’t returned to the court since rupturing his quad tendon in that January game, but Indiana hasn’t lost a step. They have a similar record to the Raps and promise to be a difficult opponent — with or without their All-Star guard.

A Christmas Day home game is an event Raptor fans have been asking for since the day we were awarded a franchise. Beggars can’t be choosers. But facing the Boston Celtics with an injury-depleted roster seems like a cruel joke from the basketball gods. Good news is that it’s the early game on Christmas, which means we’ll have plenty of time after to drink — and vote! All-Star voting officially begins at 11am on December 25. Merry Christmas indeed!!

1:55 - The injury bug

7:15 - Gasol Effect

8:35 - Can the bench heat up again?

13:20 - Next man up

21:20 - Upcoming schedule