Tell me if you’ve heard this before: The Raptors are approaching full health and may have a minutes distribution problem.
If that does sound familiar, it’s because that was the same concern Raptors fans had before Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka returned in November. At the time, Terence Davis, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Chris Boucher all took turns grabbing the spotlight and lifting the short-handed squad to impressive performances.
With ‘only’ Fred VanVleet still on the shelf, Nick Nurse had an embarrassment of NBA talent riches at his disposal — compared to what he had over the past several weeks. What he did with that talent was, at times, wonderful — Pascal Siakam / Ibaka / Gasol — yet also perplexing (why is Patrick McCaw still playing more minutes than Terence Davis?!?).
As the team approaches the halfway point of the season, it’s reassuring to think that the second half could not possibly be as injury-riddled as the first half (and also not as difficult, from a schedule perspective)!
Check out the latest episode of That’s A Rap, as Jason and Dre break down the Raps-Thunder game (I was tending to my sick daughter... who’s fine now).
On This Episode:
Raptors are getting healthy with Siakam, Gasol, and Norm Powell all making returns over the last two games. That should be the focus of all Raptor fans, especially those that have been impatient with the team’s inability to close out games effectively. Also, for some reason unbeknownst to us, McCaw is still getting more minutes than Davis. Gasol’s return should have been the focus of post-game banter, but it was the 3-time champ that’s stolen the headlines.
For the second game in a row, Powell continued where he left off pre-injury, either as a release valve, or as a much-needed shot creator. He’s seen a significant jump in minutes (from 18 last season to 28 this year). Yet, his shooting percentages have either remained solid (41% from three) or increased (career-high 51 FG%).
Norm and Marc weren’t the only one with a positive contribution to the victory. Six players score 15+ points, which is only the third time in team history (‘97 + ‘07). An inspiring first half led to a disappointing 3rd quarter, as the Thunder almost completely erased a 30-point deficit (thank you for sparing us, basketball gods).
Billy Donovan has done a masterful job coaching the Thunder and should be on the shortlist for Coach of the Year. He helped turn around a franchise that was predicted to have a down year after losing Paul George, instead making them a legit threat for the final playoff spot.
The injury to Steven Adams midway through the game ended up being a blessing in disguise — for both teams. Toronto was able to capitalize on OKC’s lack of size (62 points in the paint). Meanwhile, OKC was able to play smaller, providing a more nimble lineup — primed to make a comeback.
The upcoming schedule, specifically between now and the trade deadline, will go a long way in determining how good this Raptors team is, and whether or not they’ll be buyers or sellers on Feb. 6.
4:15 - Raptors thunderstruck no more
7:45 - Minutes distribution
12:00 - NorMVP
16:00 - Weathered the storm
19:40 - Blessing in disguise
21:20 - Favourable schedule