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Toronto Raptors Bay Street Journal: February 17th

The good thing about the stock market falling is that it almost always picks itself back up again.

That was certainly the case on Tuesday night, as the Toronto Raptors showed a ton of heart in a 124-113 victory over the Milwaukee bucks in the first game of their doubleheader. OG Anunoby was back after missing the previous 10 games with a strained calf and the Raptors changed up their rotations tonight, and found some solid success.

Let’s have a look at this morning’s stock report in a brand new edition of Bay Street Journal:

Stock Up: The Small Starting Five

Finally! With Anunoby back, Nick Nurse mixed up the rotations and decided to go with a super-small starting lineup. They shifted Anunoby, Norman Powell, and Pascal Siakam up a spot and moved Aron Baynes to the bench. The result was a hyper-efficient, pesky two-way lineup that could prove to be the Raptors most dangerous combination.

We touched on this briefly in our player spotlight of Powell last week, but this is the lineup that needed more minutes and it worked. All five starters scored in double figures and even with Starter Norm only taking seven shots to accommodate a red-hot Fred VanVleet, he was a team-high plus-19.

This lineup features at least four guys on the court who can handle the basketball. There are strong on-ball defenders at all five positions. They get into you and force turnovers and they’re speedy enough to run you off the court the other way. To top it all off, there’s enough shooting that the floor is properly spaced and each guy becomes a threat from everywhere.

Though it may have been unorthodox to go this small against the Bucks’ mega trio of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, it turned out to be the perfect counter. The Raptors won the transition game all night, forcing 17 Milwaukee turnovers and had tons of success on the fast break.

Playing Pascal Siakam at center forced Brook Lopez to pull out to the perimeter, opening up the paint for drives. When he got into the paint and the Bucks collapsed to provide interior help, the drive-and-kick game opened for four strong outside shooters in Powell, VanVleet, Anunoby, and Kyle Lowry resulting in 17 made threes.

Barring any sudden trades or Lowry missing time, this should be the starting lineup going forward. It features the Raptors’ top five players and unlocks the style of basketball they want to play: pace and space with an emphasis on transition basketball. It certainly worked tonight.

Stock Down: Bembry Struggles to Defend a Human Tractor Trailer

This is through no fault of his own. He’s been excellent all year, carving out a role as a do-it-all glue guy off the bench. That being said, tonight was not DeAndre’ Bembry’s night.

He tried his best, and he hit all three of his shots, but finished with three fouls and a team-worst minus-17 on the night. In the second he was tasked with defending Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bembry was completely outmatched as Giannis bulldozed his way into the paint and practically ran over Bembry.

In all fairness to Bembry, it was a virtually impossible task to ask him to slow down the Greek Freak, because if it was so easy to do, someone might have figured out how and he wouldn’t be a two-time MVP. He’ll need to re-evaluate his strategy, however, as the Raptors play Milwaukee again on Thursday and it won’t get any easier.

Futures Market: Boucher and Baynes Combo

While the effective small ball lineup may be the beginning of the end for Aron Baynes as a starter for the Raptors, the silver lining for him is that he can finally thrive in a role better suited to him.

It’s been no secret that the Baynes and Siakam experiment has been a disappointment. Prior to last night’s game, in 377 minutes together on the court this season, the duo had posted a net rating of minus-5.9, which ranks as the worst of any Raptor pair that has played more than 100 minutes.

While Baynes had a dismal six-minute stint in the first half that saw the Bucks begin the second quarter on a 17-5 run, he was much better in the second half. The Raptors pulled away to build an eight-point lead during his minutes on the floor.

The key? The Raptors controlled the paint by playing Baynes and Boucher together. They made life difficult for Antetokounmpo holding him to only two points in the fourth quarter. Prior to the game, they had only played 16 minutes together all season, but posted a net rating of 35.3, indicating there is something more to look at there.

After a difficult start to the season for Baynes, this may be the exact move he needs and he’s going to be put in a position where he can succeed. Baynes has been a complete professional all season long and kept a very positive attitude despite the struggles. If this is the move they need to get him going — and if it leads to the Raptors winning basketball games — Baynes will start to win people over and show fans he can truly be of value to this team.

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