It’s all over but the crying and one final meaningless Bubble game for the Toronto Raptors. After the bench propelled the Raptors to a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in what might go down as one of the more fun Toronto game of all time, Nick Nurse and the squad will take to the hardwood for one final tuneup against the Denver Nuggets. The goal at this point is to just stay healthy.
With both Denver and Toronto already turning an eye towards the playoffs, let’s enjoy this game for what it should be — a Stanley Johnson swan song after his game winner, and perhaps a chance for Jack Armstrong to shout “bonjour” at the top of his raspy lungs or get into whatever other topics he’d like to discuss with Matt Devlin on air.
Now here are the details for this afternoon’s game and a few things to watch for — or think about.
Where to Watch
TSN at 1:30 PM ET
Toronto — Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol
Denver — Jamal Murray, Torrey Craig, Michael Porter Jr., Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Toronto — Patrick McCaw (left knee soreness — out), Serge Ibaka (knee — questionable), OG Anunoby (knee — questionable), Oshae Brissett (knee — out)
Denver — Gary Harris (hip — out), Will Barton (knee — out)
Putting it all Together
The Raptors are 6-1 in the Bubble and somehow still seem like they could be doing better. A major focal point of improvement throughout the initial games of the Bubble was about ramping everybody up to game-speed after playing very little to no basketball over a four month period. Some players looked like they hadn’t missed a beat while others seemed to need a little bit longer to get their legs under them.
The majority of players who seemed to need those legs under them reside in the bench unit. After a strong run in scrimmages, Ibaka was missing his usual pop on his picks; meanwhile, Powell was blowing by defenders but seemingly unable to finish anything at the rim; elsewhere, Terence Davis was having a crisis of character and Chris Boucher and Matt Thomas just weren’t getting many opportunities. The only constant was Rondae Hollis-Jefferson but that’s probably because the guy only knows how to play at one speed: chaos.
The latter half of the Bubble games? The meaningless, inconsequential games that the Raptors have played? Well, that’s where the bench started to pick up steam. Boucher has been assertive and Matty Ice is back to being the dead-eyed shooter that fans remembered.
Is it a mirage? Has the bench been propped up by meaningless basketball or are Raptor fans looking at a resurgence that Toronto desperately needs if they’re going to make a deep playoff run?
There isn’t much to say here other than this: please, for the love of God, avoid injury at all cost! Here’s what the starting lineup should look like: Terence Davis II, Matt Thomas, Paul Watson, Oshae Brissett, Chris Boucher.
Limit Davis, Thomas and Boucher’s minutes and ride Stanley Johnson, Malcolm Miller and Dewan Hernandez into the sunset of this Orlando fever dream. A magical kingdom indeed!
On a more seriousness note, as of this morning, we’ve included OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka on the injured list. While it’s safe to say they’re not actually injured, we’ll see if Nurse opts to put them back in the lineup or keep them out of harm’s way as Toronto gears up for the playoffs. Ditto for the starting lineup, which could go any which way. The bottom line: don’t expect the main Raptors to play heavy minutes this afternoon.
There’s no writing about this game without mentioning the allegations from Audrey Griffin against her ex-husband and Toronto Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin. There is, however, many ways to skirt the issue, so I’m going to keep it brief and simple.
Believe Black women. Protect Black women.