The Raptors will attempt to extend their franchise-record win streak to 14 Saturday night against their division rival, the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams will potentially be without their star point guards — Kyle Lowry and Kyrie Irving — but in the case of Toronto, their depth has proved to be truly elite.
Toronto has been dominant on both ends, they’ve made in-game adjustments to overcome deficits, they’ve competed in close, intense games and come out the victors. During this 13-game win streak, we’ve seen a lot of sides of a Toronto team that has become to epitome of “team chemistry.” Everyone knows their role, everyone plays with what seems to be endless energy, and everyone has one goal: winning.
In addition to their second ranked defense, the Raptors’ offense is once again humming along — resulting in a team that looks much like the one which won the Larry O’Brien trophy last June. It’s truly amazing to consider Toronto lost a top-five player in the league, but did not lose a step the next season. The system that’s been established for this team must be a wonder to behold, because it’s turning overlooked players into overnight stars.
Terence Davis II — yes, I’m talking about him again — through three games has replaced the injured Norman Powell seamlessly. Powell, the team’s prolific bench scorer, plays a key role as a 6th man scorer. Davis adopted those minutes three games ago, and despite his experience, has been brilliant. In his last three games Davis is posting averages of 26.7 minutes, 19.7 points, four 3s, five boards, and an eye-popping 66 percent shooting from the field.
As you can see, Terence has been a bench star. Beyond the stats, his impact on the floor has been palpable. Against Indiana on Wednesday, Davis hit two high pressure threes during the Raptors furious comeback. Against Indiana on Friday, he scored 11 of his 17 points in the final frame. He plays like a veteran — and, again, Davis went undrafted.
Here are your details for tonight’s game:
Where to Watch:
TSN 1/4, 7:30 p.m.
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Patrick McCaw, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Brooklyn — Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen
Toronto — Marc Gasol (hamstring — out), Norman Powell (hand — out), Kyle Lowry (neck — questionable)
Brooklyn — Kyrie Irving (knee — doubtful), Kevin Durant (Achilles — out)
Kyle Lowry’s Status
Lowry’s status is obviously up in the air after leaving Friday’s game with what is being diagnosed as “whiplash.” With neck injuries, you never leave anything to chance. The X-rays on his neck came back clear, and Lowry told reporters he was very sore. Nurse has already stated that he will “likely [be] out” tonight, but he seemingly left the door open to the possibility of him playing (although I would rather he sat).
X-rays are clear on Lowry, but he's very sore. Likely out tomorrow, says Nurse.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) February 8, 2020
In the last two victories, Lowry has been an absolute savant. His basketball IQ is one of the highest in the league of anyone playing right now — we all know that. He identifies what his teammates need at any given moment and does everything necessary to provide it. Your leading scorer can’t hit shots tonight? Lowry drops 32 points. The whole team seems to have a rhythm on offense? Lowry dishes out 11 assists. It’s beautiful to watch but, unfortunately, it’s an easy thing to miss. Never speak negatively on this man again.
Serge is Surging
Serge Ibaka everybody! 30 going on 20, Ibaka is playing the best basketball of his career — dating back to his days with Oklahoma City as the team’s defensive anchor. He’s mobile, he’s aware, and he’s anticipating the offense around him, making those pesky dropped balls (nearly) a thing of the past. And best of all, Ibaka is making the baskets he’s supposed to make. However, the most shocking development has to be his emergence as the Raptors’ most clutch shooter.
Partly tongue in cheek, the statement remains true to an extent. Remember last year in the second round against the 76ers, when Ibaka hit the impossible three in the face of Ben Simmons? It was Durant-like, and it was clutch. Just in the last week Ibaka has hit two clutch threes that either gave Toronto the lead late, or won the game. He’s grown into the third offensive option that the coaching staff was forcing Fred VanVleet into (who’s performed admirably), sometimes at a perilous cost. Being able to jockey between the two depending on matchups is a dream scenario. It’s not just Ibaka’s physical achievements — he’s playing smarter and more confident than ever.
What Standing Pat at the Deadline Means
The front office was likely sniffing out the market for upgrades at a couple positions (perhaps a third centre and another wing scorer) but the cost for those pieces was undoubtedly too high — given that the team made zero moves. When healthy the Raptors look like one of the best teams in the NBA, and able to compete with the Bucks, Lakers and Clippers respectably.
Where management will focus its attention post-All-Star is the buyout market. Expect Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster to get a feel for which players will be waived and where they desire to play over the festival weekend. With the second best record in the East, and the third (quickly approaching second) best record overall, Toronto should be a popular destination for players not scooped up by the Lakers or Bucks first. Many fans don’t treat it this way, but the buyout season can be just as exciting as the trade deadline!