Photo credit: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo
The Toronto Raptors went 0-2 during a back-to-back stand against the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat, but there was still a lot of encouraging signs in those losses.
The Raptors were down by double digits at several points in both games, but they showed zero quit finishing both games down by single digits. Last year’s team was never out of any game and fighting back like they did the last couple of nights are signs the Raptors are nearly back to where people expected them to be.
Nick Nurse is still trying to find a consistent rotation and continues to go deep into the bench, playing as many as 12 players in Wednesday night’s 116-108 loss to the Heat.
Stock Up: Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell
Kyle Lowry returned from a four-game absence and didn’t seem to be bothered by his sprained left thumb. Stepping right back into his role as the team’s floor general, Lowry put up an impressive stat line of 24 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and two steals.
Norman Powell’s outstanding play as a starter this season has been well documented and he shouldn’t be leaving that role any time soon. You can almost bank on him scoring 15 or more points when he’s in the starting lineup and it’s been great to see him reach his potential this season.
Nurse has been trying out a few small-ball starting lineups and was able to play the combination of Lowry, Powell, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam last night. Fans have been waiting to see this lineup on a more consistent basis but unfortunately, it didn’t translate to a win in Miami.
Stock Down: Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam
Lots of guys have been in and out of the lineup and it just might be the reason for such sporadic play from players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
Even when VanVleet has an off night offensively, he does his best to make up for it on the defensive end. During Tuesday night’s loss to the 76ers, VanVleet shot 4-for-14 from the floor but he still recorded two steals and four blocks.
But when he does have it going offensively he’s really put on a show the last couple of games with some jaw-dropping circus shots.
Siakam’s play has been really up and down this season and the last two games were a prime example of that. After a solid performance against Philly, Siakam was virtually nonexistent against Miami, scoring just five points on 1-for-6 shooting. He was benched for the entire fourth quarter as Nurse opted to close with Terence Davis.
Siakam has usually responded after performances like these this season, look for him to get back on track against the Houston Rockets on Friday.