If there’s a game that broke the camel’s back for the Raptors fanbase, still hoping for a miracle, Wednesday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Blue, er, Thunder did it. Yes, that’s right — the Raptors lost to a Thunder team composed of third stringers and G League players. It doesn’t help that the other news coming out of that game was that Toronto’s Kyle Lowry will be missing 7-10 days due to a toe infection. When it rains, it pours, and then it thunder storms.
With Lowry missing anywhere from 3-5 games, the remaining core of Pascal Siakam-OG Anunoby-Fred VanVleet may get stretched thin again. On top of all that, new Raptor — and decent-looking rotation player — Rodney Hood injured his hip on Wednesday too. If not for Gary Trent Jr.’s career-high 31 points on 6-for-11 shooting behind the arc, we have nothing to talk about. For the Raptors fanbase, that performance was a sight for sore eyes after watching everybody else struggle for the past few games.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors made the short trip from Miami-Dade county to Hillsborough after losing to the Miami Heat last night. The Warriors are in danger of falling out of the play-in spot (they currently sitting 10th) as they are only one game ahead of the surging Sacramento Kings.
The Raptors were not the only team who had a tough March, as the Warriors only won four of their twelve contests that month and started April with a loss. The Warriors should still be the betting favourite for this game though. They’re dealing with fewer absences right now, Steph Curry is having one of his better scoring years at 29.1 points per game, and given how the Thunder centres punked the Raptors, I expect nothing less from rookie James Wiseman.
Tonight’s game will be easier to watch if you’re rooting for the lottery odds. It’s tougher to watch but it may indeed be time to write off the 2020-2021 season and do some future planning.
Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet, 7:00 PM EDT
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
Golden State – Steph Curry, Kelly Oubre, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, James Wiseman
Toronto – Paul Watson (health and safety protocols – OUT), Patrick McCaw (knee – OUT), Jalen Harris (hip – OUT), Kyle Lowry (toe - OUT), Rodney Hood (hip – OUT)
Golden State – Eric Paschall (wrist – OUT), Klay Thompson (Achilles – OUT)
Flynn’s Incremental Improvements
Through it all, Malachi Flynn played a career-high 19.5 minutes against the Thunder last Wednesday. While his counting stats didn’t look good (2 points, 2 assists, 2 steals), it was his commitment to defense that likely convinced Nurse to give him a longer leash. Overall, this has looked like the case for Flynn in his minutes with the Raptors — he’s shown the footwork and tenacity on defense the team obviously likes, but his offense is still behind.
On that end of the floor, Flynn hasn’t shot the ball well at all — he’s putting up a shooting line of 27 percent from the field and 17 percent from three this season. But his defensive ability is what the Raptors need right now, and what they’ll need against Steph Curry. And if you’re worried: it’s worth noting that it was the opposite when Flynn started with the 905 last month. His offense looked great there!
Warriors Come Out to Play?
As noted, the Warriors are fighting for a playoff spot, and like the Raptors: they have their pride. Last season was a disaster for them, thank to the injuries to Klay Thompson and Curry, but this year was supposed to be something of a bounceback. While the team is still down Thompson, of course, they in the hunt for a playoff spot. And it seems unlikely anyone is telling Draymond Green right now that it’s time to tank.
What this means for the Raptors: they’ve got to show up. I know it’s easy to say that after the team has looked totally wrung out in most of its games over the past month, but if Toronto wants to restore some of its pride, they’ve got to do something. Tanking is one thing — but putting your best players out there means you’re still trying to win. So, win!
Raptors Will Make a Roster Move
Or, alternatively, fill out the rest of the roster and actually shut down for the season. Remember, the Raptors ended up with two open roster spots after the trade deadline. Yes, the made a 1-for-2 swap on the Norman Powell deal, but they also dumped Matt Thomas and Terence Davis for picks, and had been riding an empty slot the entire season after waiving Alex Len.
In all, this still leaves Toronto with 13 standard rostered players and two two-way contract players. Teams have 14 days to get back to the league minimum of 14 standard roster players, so it will be interesting what Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster do. With the 50-game restriction lifted on two-way players, it seems likely they won’t convert Yuta Watanabe. Ditto for the injured Jalen Harris. Is there another free agent out there? Do they go back to the G League well with a 10-day contract? The Raptors’ lack of urgency to fill that roster spot gets curiouser by the day.