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End of Bench Chronicles: Even now, this is only the beginning for the Raptors

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The Raptors’ win streak came to an end, but their bench players once again battled it out for a few more wins. Toronto can say they were inspired.

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Raptors had to lose sometime, even if they started winning in mid-January, powered through my entire vacation, survived the trade deadline, weather injuries, and kept rolling for an entire month before dropping last night’s game to the Nets (of all teams). While it was fun to see how far Toronto could get with their rag-tag bunch and championship confidence, we knew it would end eventually. Chalk up a new franchise record, cherish the highlights, and now let’s steer into the much needed All-Star break.

But before we get to that, let’s return to the End of Bench Chronicles. It’s been a month since I’ve engaged in such a review. (Big thanks to Josh for stepping in for two weeks to bridge January and February.) I opted not to write one last week due to deadline craziness — and the fact that I hadn’t really watched the Raptors play for two weeks while in Panama.

Now though, we return, and while the Raptors are yet to be whole, we can track where the deep bench is right now once again. It’s the end of the win streak, but a whole new beginning.

Eighth Man Title Holder

Terence Davis

Trust Meter: 8 out of 10

Happenings: Four games in the past week for Toronto and Davis showed out in 50 percent of them. First, he was characteristically fearless in Indiana, dropping 17 points off the bench — and swatting Doug McDermott, that hellspawn, into oblivion. Then, Davis got his second career start and helped bury the Nets with a 20-8 line and more efficient shooting. Yes, he was mostly bad in the Raptors’ other two games this past week, but for an undrafted rookie, batting .500 is a pretty solid start to the career. (Now if only the NBA would realize that and put Davis in the Rising Stars Game!)

Roster Roll Call

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Trust Meter: 8 out of 10

Happenings: Being pressed into the centre spot when you’re a self-admitted 6’5” (without shoes) is one thing. Holding your own against the quite large young man who goes by the initials KAT is quite another. Credit to Rondae though. He’s been yanked around the lineup and deployed sometimes only in specific situations. But when the time came for him to start and play bigger than his stature, he did to the tune of 21 points, six rebounds, three steals, and one frustrated big man.

Inspiration: Rondae should roll with the opposite energy of George Costanza, whose insistence on a taller height — and a certain type of footwear — proves to be his undoing. (Of course, we could say that about a lot of what George does.)

Chris Boucher

Trust Meter: 6 out of 10

Happenings: Down Marc Gasol and even Serge Ibaka for one game, the limitations of Boucher’s game become readily apparent. He can’t really defend big bodies in the post and his primary defensive skill — shot-blocking — is only selectively useful (though he did swat three shots in this past week’s first contest against Brooklyn). Still, it can be fun to watch Boucher gamely do his thing. Is there any open three for him to take? He’ll do it — even while watching his three-point shooting percentage plummet to less than 30 percent (and 14.3 percent for the week).

Inspiration: I will not profess to know everything there is to know about the people of the Guna Yala, but having spent some time out there I’ll say this: Boucher could learn from their continued self-reliance and confidence in the face of a changing world.

Patrick McCaw

Trust Meter: 6 out of 10

Happenings: It feels like ever so slightly we are escaping the tyranny of McCaw’s playing time. Yes, he’s still breaking the 20-minute mark, but he’s playing less than Davis these days — and was not awarded a start in the absence of Kyle Lowry. Is it harsh to say all this about a player who really is trying his best? Look, there were a few moments in Wednesday night’s loss to the Nets in which McCaw had opportunities to make emphatic plays for the Raps. Instead, 1-for-6 on the night, 0-of-2 from three, and an invisible 15 minutes.

Inspiration: The call went out on Twitter this past week to help supply a title for the sequel to Knives Out. My idea is likely not to be selected, but someone else’s reply fits as both a mystery title and a Radiohead reference: How To Disappear Completely. I can think of no greater summary of the McCaw Experience right now.

Matt Thomas

Trust Meter: 7 out of 10

Happenings: We’ll give Thomas a modest bump in the trust meter because he came outta nowhere last week to ice the Nets by his own self — 13 points in a quarter, 15 for the game, along with six rebounds and three steals. Yes, he didn’t do much else for the week, but still, quite the performance. And that’s before we get to the obvious highlight:

A Serge-Thomas alley-oop. Will wonders never cease.

Inspiration: The most compelling shot this past week was not one from Thomas, it was that of Bong Joon-Ho, somewhat of an underdog in the American (and as he calls “local”) film world, winning Oscar after Oscar for his film Parasite. As a result, the whole world got to see Bong shoot from the hip, a true artist.

Stanley Johnson

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

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Happenings: Who?

Inspiration: Not Joey Graham.

Malcolm Miller

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: Double who?

Inspiration: This exclamation feels mean. Malcolm, take heart. We will miss you when you’re gone. Case in point, Councillor Gord Perks makes it plain:

Dewan Hernandez

Trust Meter: 1 out of 10

Happenings: (Injured) triple who?

Inspiration: While we can confirm that Dewan is no longer in a walking boot, his ankle definitely needs some sort of reinforcement. Adamantium and Vibranium are too obvious a recommendation here, but I’m at a loss. The Tom Cruise mech suit? The Batman knee brace? What does Dewan need to get back on the court?

Did the Two-Wayers Play?

Oshae Brissett got a one-game run against the Nets back on Saturday night and had a part to play in shutting that team down in the second quarter. We have to give him credit because, really, that deep bench lineup should not have been able to, (a) hold Brooklyn scoreless for a few minutes, and (b) actually break the Nets’ zone. But they did — and while Oshae didn’t score at all, he was out there playing like a maniac.

Sadly, we missed Paul Watson’s time to shine. He did appear in two games two weeks ago (I didn’t do an End of Bench column last week, as you may or may not have noticed), scoring his first point for the Raptors — and his first point in the NBA. Congrats Paul!