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Not a single player from the Toronto Raptors could be found on the NBA’s first All-Star fan voting returns, but that’s likely to change. The Raptors have been wildly inconsistent this season, but a few guys have really stepped up as of late to push the team back into playoff contention.
During Monday’s 128-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam were those guys, combining for 93 points.
Powell has been exceptional in a starting role this season and will continue to start while OG Anunoby recovers from a left calf strain.
But Siakam, who was a starter in last year’s All-Star game, has really turned it around as of late and genuinely looks like he is having fun on the floor again.
STOCK UP: Pascal Siakam
Siakam put up an impressive stat line of 32 points, five rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. He has now scored 30 or more in four of his last six games.
In his first 15 games of the season, Siakam shot 25.4 percent from three on four and a half attempts a night. A noticeable adjustment that Siakam made prior to last night’s game was to take fewer threes, averaging just two attempts a game in the previous five games.
The adjustment proved to be a smart move as Siakam finally broke out of his shooting slump from behind the arc, hitting five of his eight attempts last night.
Those same shots that just couldn’t seem to fall earlier in the season were finding the bottom of the net in spectacular fashion last night.
Stock Down: Nick Nurse
Nick Nurse was tossed from last night’s game for the second time in his career after picking up a second technical late in the third quarter.
From that point on there was a dramatic difference in the Raptors energy level and they climbed back in the game very quickly.
Of course, there are Raptors fans that will jump to the conclusion that Nick Nurse is holding the team back, but VanVleet was quick to say that their head coach was ‘defending us’.
What’s interesting to note, is that the Raptors lead the league in technical fouls… by a lot. Sure, some nights you get short-changed by the refs, but Nurse and the Raptors as a whole need to stop making a habit of complaining about calls. They aren’t going to change their mind after the whistle has been blown, you gotta play through it.
FUTURE’S OPTION: Adrian Griffin
No one is — or should be — calling for lead assistant coach Adrian Griffin to be the head coach any time soon, but he is becoming an option for other team’s openings.
Most Raptors fans will remember Nurse sitting out of a game in the bubble to let Griffin be the head guy and after the Raps outscored the Grizzlies 43-18 following Nurse’s ejection, Griffin is turning some heads. He had previously gotten interest from the Grizzlies for their head coaching vacancy in 2019 and was rumoured to be a candidate for the Chicago Bulls job this offseason.
Griffin will return to his assistant coach role again on Wednesday against the Washington Wizards, but don’t be surprised if Nurse gives him the chance to take the reins as the lead guy once again.