Amidst the discussion of high minutes, the next most discussed topic comes in the form of the Toronto Raptors close losses — three of their last four have come by a combined 13 points, against three of the league’s title contenders to boot. There’s a silver lining somewhere in the minutes discussion, and poor road trip record: it involves a rotation that’s suffering from injuries and benefitting from supreme play from its stars.
Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Fred VanV...All-Star have been logging unusually high minutes, as you may have read in every Raptors publication, newspaper column and fan blog since the beginning of the road trip. What crime the players have committed to deserve the punishment they’re enduring on a States-wide road trip remains a mystery.
Jesting aside, Eric Koreen tweeted an amazing stat that illustrates the noodle-legs Toronto’s six or seven man rotation have succumbed to:
In recent losses to Phoenix, Miami and Dallas, Raptors have failed to top 25 points in any of the six second-half quarters.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) January 20, 2022
My oh my. Koreen grilled Nurse with this tune after the loss to the Dallas Mavericks, to which Nurse replied “I think we’re playing great.”
Fred VanVleet recently said in a presser that he wants to stay in game shape throughout the season, and that means playing in games — not taking time off throughout the season. Nurse may be taking this concept a little too close to his heart. That brings up the fact Toronto is missing two starters in Gary Trent and Khem Birch, and an extremely thin backcourt (only if we’re counting traditional short-dudes, of course).
Where to Watch:
TSN, 8 p.m.
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Chris Boucher
Washington — Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Kyle Gafford
Toronto — Gary Trent (questionable — ankle), Khem Birch (out — nose),
Washington — none (astounding!)
Fatigue over the minutes discussion
There needs to be a publication roundtable, in which managing editors for the Raptors get together and discuss which outlets talk about topics any given week. We’ve heard about the minutes from every angle, and frankly, I can’t wait until the fatigue over fatigue sets in. Sure, I enjoy discussing it when we’re losing because it’s an easy flag to point to, but let’s enjoy a paragraph not about the minutes (since I’ve dosed you all with my own poison for almost a hundred words.
Gary Trent is questionable to return tonight, and that’s amazing news for Toronto’s chances of winning. One thing that’s been missing in an oh-so-evident manner is the spacing Trent provides. In fact, his absence has been so obvious, we’re starting to hear Gary Harris, Caris LaVert and Terrence Ross trickle into the content about trade targets.
Speaking of targets...
Bring back Jakob Poeltl. That should be the only goal of the front office. Yak is having his breakout season, scoring efficiently around the basket, rebounding offensively and setting concussion inducing screens like Steven Adams 2.0. A Poeltl-level periphery offensive player (basically Khem Birch on steroids) would rocket this team into possible “home court in the playoffs” status.
Even more impressive than his 4.0 offensive rebounds per game is his 28.7 minutes per game (to just 3.0 personal fouls) and 2.8 assists. Myles Turner, now with an injured foot, could still cost a first round pick or (yikes) OG Anunoby. Poeltl would unlikely cost nearly as much, though a first is still a possible price tag. More than likely the price — taking on some contract money for Goran’s expiring.
The third round of all-star voting has come back, and Fred sits outside the top five for guards in the East. It’s beginning to look like he’ll need to be picked by coaches, which, considering the attention he gets on defense, should be a no-brainer. Whether he makes it on the team as a shoe-in remains the question. Even Kevin O’Connor is taking notice.
Enjoy the game tonight!