The COVID-ravaged Raptors are forced to play another meaningless game again because the NBA commissioner said so. The NBA is not planning to cancel any games unless the entire team is unavailable. Because of that decision, the Raptors are again expected to put their best foot forward with a ragtag crew consisting of four bench players and four replacement players. Most call-ups were just to add bodies to get the minimum roster requirements to play the game. The Raptors need these replacements to be a big part of their rotation. How ridiculous is that! Hopefully, this time, they can put a better product tonight.
At best, the “Replacement Raptors” debut was a disaster, as they succumbed to the Cleveland Cavaliers by a wide margin. It was frustrating to watch Chris Boucher and Svi Mykhailiuk try to generate offense. While some of the bad possessions they had were grenades, there were plenty of ridiculous possessions where both guys called their number en route to a bad shot.
The “replacements” weren’t too bad that game. Daniel Oturu had a solid finish over the length of Tacko Fall. At the same time, there was a possession where he was on an island with Darius Garland, and Oturu forced Garland into a turnover. Jawun Morgan is a wide body that will do the energy/hustle plays and occasionally hit a perimeter shot, a-la Grant Williams. Tremont Waters did an okay-ish job at the point, given the lack of familiarity with his teammates.
DJ Wilson looked like an NBA player out there — and dare I say, he looked like a good fit for the Raptors. His length, mobility, and activity on defense fit the profile of positionless tweeners that the Raptors are collecting this season. If Wilson continues what he showed us, it could be an interesting roster crunch once the team gets healthy.
Raptors forward Pascal Siakam is on the Scotiabank floor putting in work before the #Sixers’ shootaround. Siakam along with teammates Gary Trent Jr. and Khem Birch recently cleared the #NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol.— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) December 28, 2021
The Raptors may be getting some reinforcements back, with Khem Birch, Pascal Siakam, and Gary Trent Jr. clearing the health and safety protocols. However, they are questionable for tonight’s game due to conditioning. We all saw how Dalano Banton struggled against the Cavaliers. It’s clear that he’s got plenty of rust and his minutes were limited that night per coach Nick Nurse.
Nurse said they tired to keep Banton under 25 minutes tonight (he played 23). Dalano recently came out of the H&S protocols, and while he's been in the gym for a few individual workouts, this was his first 5-on-5 action in nearly 2 weeks.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 27, 2021
The healthier Sixers are coming off a win against the Washington Wizards, as Joel Embiid continues his push to get back in MVP contention. The Wizards’ roster was ravaged by COVID too, with seven players, including Bradley Beal, out in protocols. However, there’s no mercy in the NBA, so that did not stop Embiid and the Sixers from pouncing on them.
I’m not expecting a win here, and if we don’t see Siakam, Trent Jr., and Birch tonight, it can be another wild adventure. Should the Raptors organization decide to sit them to prevent injuries and prove a point, I don’t blame them. I’m not expecting Nick Nurse to pull a rabbit on his “NN” hat, but I’m hoping to see a semblance of a decent basketball team — much more than what we saw the previous night. His post-game presser was the most depressing we’ve ever heard from him.
Nurse: "This is a pretty good example of how hard it is to coach defence in this league. It takes some guys, it takes some time & it takes some real discipline. If not, NBA guys are going to come out & score."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 27, 2021
Cavs scored 144 pts, 3rd-most Raptors have allowed in their history.
Enough ranting, here’s how to catch the game tonight:
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:30 p.m. EST
Toronto — Dalano Banton, Svi Mykhailiuk, Yuta Watanabe, DJ Wilson, Chris Boucher
Philadelphia — Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Toronto — Precious Achiuwa (health and safety protocols – out), OG Anunoby (health and safety protocols – out), Scottie Barnes (health and safety protocols – out), Fred VanVleet (health and safety protocols – out), Isaac Bonga (health and safety protocols – out), Justin Champagnie (health and safety protocols – out), Malachi Flynn (health and safety protocols – out), Goran Dragić (personal – out), David Johnson (calf – out), Pascal Siakam (conditioning – questionable), Gary Trent (conditioning – questionable) Khem Birch (conditioning – questionable)
Philadelphia — Andre Drummond (health and safety protocols – out), Danny Green (health and safety protocols – out), Shake Milton (health and safety protocols – out), Ben Simmons (tantrum – out)