In the Toronto Raptors’ last three games — all wins — their bench has outscored their opponents by 4.7 points per game. While that may not sound like that much, consider that in the first 39 games of the season, their bench was outscored by 0.6 points per game.
That’s more than 5 points per game! And since the Raptors overall had a point differential of -0.3, well, you can see where the three wins have come from.
That’s an oversimplification of course — there’s more to the wins than that, including some great play from the starters. But the bench, suddenly, and finally, looks capable again.
And the benefits to the starters are clear. VanVleet has not played more than 35 minutes in the last three, and no Raptor has cracked 40 minutes. For a team that looked like it needed to grind its starters down just to stay in games, and then have them tire out late, unable to seal the deal... well. The results speak for themselves!
Now, the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets are not the cream of the NBA crop. Nor are tonights’ opponents, the Atlanta Hawks. But the Hawks are sitting just above the Raptors in the Eastern Conference standings, and if the Raptors do indeed have aspirations of making it back to the postseason, they’re gonna have to start knocking off some teams in front of them.
The Hawks played last night — they went down to the wire versus the Indiana Pacers, in Indy, before John Collins won it for them at the buzzer. They’re tired. they’re missing Clint Cappela, and Bogdan Bogdanovic is questionable as of this writing. The Raps are rested and healthy.
This is a great chance for the Raptors to win their fourth in a row, and for their bench to play a big role and continue to build their confidence.
Where to watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes
Atlanta Hawks — Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Onyeka Okongwu
Toronto Raptors — Otto Porter Jr. (foot – out)
Atlanta Hawks — Clint Capela (calf – out)