Last year, the Raptors went a long, long stretch where they didn’t have their full squad. Load management and thumb injuries were mostly to blame, but then everyone got healthy and the team... well, you know what they did.
Last night had that same kinda vibe, right? Finally, the full squad was back together, ready to do something special!
Beating the lowly Timberwolves is hardly special, but the team is definitely in a good spot right now, and with seven of their next eight against losing teams, well... that two-seed is looking very attainable.
On to the thoughts:
Rust? What Rust?
Fred VanVleet made his return last night, and the Raptors were whole once again, finally. Still, it didn’t hurt to keep expectations low, right? There’s probably rust, the team needs to find itself, there are minutes restrictions to consider...
Fred said “nah” and went out there and balled. A game-high 29 points, 7-for-8 from downtown, four boards and four steals. In 28 minutes!
This one had to be my favourite. Just calmly strolls down the court, stops on the dime and drops in the triple. Easy-peasy.
Pascal Siakam is clearly still getting his legs under him, but Powell, Marc Gasol and VanVleet came back ready to go.
Preseason Promise Fulfilled?
Remember in the preseason when Norman Powell was on fire, and we all wondered, “hmmm, is this the year Norm puts it all together?”
And then the regular season started and Powell was... well, basically, same old Norm?
It looks like preseason Norm might finally be here to stay. Over his past 14 games, a stretch that bridges an 11-game absence, Powell is averaging 20.2 points on 58% shooting, and 46% from three-point range. Heck, even if you just toss out the first seven games of the season — where Norm hit double-figures just once — he’s averaging 17.8 ppg on 53%/43% shooting.
That’s a 24-game sample size of stellar play. This Norm might be here to stay.
On the other hand...
Will the Real OG Please Stand Up
I joked the other day that perhaps OG Anunoby’s true destiny was at the two-guard spot. In his two starts in the backcourt, he shot 16-for-26, scored 39 points, had 11 rebounds, seven steals and seven assists!
Well, he shifted back to the three yesterday and it... did not go well. Two points, 0-for-4 shooting, three boards, no assists, no steals.
Move him back to the two immediately!
I joke of course, I’m certain it’s a one-game blip and he’ll be fine. But I do wonder if OG might be taking over as the “Norman Powell Consistently Inconsistent” Belt holder.
Give Boucher Some Run!
I was a bit disappointed to see that Chris Boucher was relegated to garbage time last night. With Marc Gasol still on a minutes restriction and Serge Ibaka somewhat ineffective, and Minnesota — not a huge team — doing a good job getting to the rim, it seemed like the perfect spot for him.
Alas, it appears there just isn’t room for him with Gasol, Ibaka and Pascal Siakam in the front court. It’s a shame because he played well enough during Gasol and Siakam’s absence to deserve some burn.
Get That Andrew Wiggins Garbage Outta Here
As it does every time the Timberwolves and Raptors play, talk arose about Andrew Wiggins’ role with the Canadian national men’s team. As usual, “Maple Jordan” was non-committal.
Last night, of course, was the perfect Wiggins experience — a triple double, but absolutely no impact on the game, in the losing effort.
Does Canada want or need such a player, given all the other talented players who has expressed their desire to play?
Probably not, no.
But — wouldn’t you love to see what Nick Nurse could do for Wiggins? Sure, the international tournaments may not really be long enough for Nurse to make an impact. But Nurse’s creativity and motivational abilities may be just what Wiggins needs, even in a short stint.
Don’t forget, tomorrow’s game is an afternoon tilt against the Hawks, 2:30 p.m. for Martin Luther King Day. Adjust your schedules accordingly!