Several role players got the opportunity to step up as the shorthanded Toronto Raptors split their back-to-back road trip against the Indiana Pacers. Kyle Lowry missed the first matchup with a toe infection and Pascal Siakam missed both games with swelling in his left knee.
During the Raptors’ 107-102 victory on Sunday, OG Anunoby (30 points, five steals) and Fred VanVleet (21 points, three steals) picked up the slack on both ends of the floor in the absence of the teams two former All-Stars.
Sunday’s victory was one of the highlights of the season for the Raptors. Stanley Johnson (31 minutes) and Yuta Watanabe (21 minutes) both played a season-high in minutes.
Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse hasn’t been afraid to mix-up the rotation this season, giving as many as 12 players the chance to earn playing time during the 129-114 loss on Monday night.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of some extended playing time was Norman Powell who started for a third consecutive game.
Norman Powell Thrives in Starting Role
In his six starts this season, Powell has averaged 19.1 points per game, including 20 or more points in the last three games. Not only has Powell excelled individually in a starting role but the Raptors are also 4-2 on the season when Powell is in the starting lineup.
In addition to his hot scoring streak, Powell also posted a season-high six assists in both games of the back-to-back.
“When he turned the corner and would see Turner coming he knew it was time to get off it, and if he didn’t see him coming he was going to the front of the rim,” said Nurse when asked about Powell’s high assist totals in his post-game interview on Monday Night. “He did a good job tonight.”
Baynes Continues to Search for his Role
Aron Baynes was able to find some success scoring the ball in both games against the Pacers, posting his two highest scoring totals since the first two games of the season (12 points on Sunday and nine points on Monday).
As the only traditional center on the roster, Baynes has struggled to find ways to contribute to team success and earn extended minutes this season. Baynes started and played 14 minutes in the first half, but did not get the chance to see the floor again in the second half on Monday night.
The Raptors were most effective in the third quarter on Monday night, outscoring Indiana 37-28 going to a small lineup without Baynes on the floor.
Baynes’ 37.9 field goal percentage this season is the lowest in his career and his 4.4 points per game is his lowest since his first two seasons in the league.
Chris Boucher continues to make the most of his limited minutes off the bench and you have to wonder how much longer Nurse will continue to feature Baynes in the starting lineup while the team continues to find more success with smaller lineups.
The Raptors are now 7-10 on the season and will face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night in Tampa.