In their second meeting with the Washington Wizards this season, the Toronto Raptors came away with a commanding win.
In the process, they tied a franchise record for points scored in a game with 140.
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Here are some quick thoughts from the game...
1. The Raptors go big again
The motivation behind starting Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in Toronto's win over the Oklahoma City Thunder earlier this week appeared to be to give Ibaka an opportunity to start against his former team.
Well, Nurse must have liked something that he saw because he decided to stick with the same lineup against the Wizards, starting Gasol and Ibaka in the frontcourt with Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam in the backcourt.
Tonight's @Invisalign starting lineup. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/4InyHQvInX- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 17, 2020
The five of them only played six minutes before Nurse made his first substitution, but it will be interesting to see if this jumbo lineup actually becomes a thing, especially when the Raptors take on teams that are better than the Wizards. There are some teams where it does make sense for Gasol and Ibaka to play some minutes together - looking at you, Philadelphia and Milwaukee - but it won't work against everyone.
This might just be Nurse's way of giving Gasol and Ibaka reps in case the Raptors do ever need to go big for extended minutes in more important games. For what it's worth, Nurse went to it at the start of second half as well, so Gasol and Ibaka logged more minutes alongside each other against the Wizards than they did against the Thunder.
2. The Raptors avoid an injury scare
Just when it appeared as though the Raptors were on their way towards getting everyone back, Lowry went down with an injury in the first quarter after colliding with Wizards guard Jordan McRae.
Lowry immediately left the court, limping his way to the locker room while biting his jersey in pain.
Fortunately for the Raptors, it looked worse than it was: Toronto announced that Lowry was available to return before the quarter was over with, although he was diagnosed with a bone bruise and had his knee wrapped on the bench.
Lowry went on to play 21 minutes against the Wizards. He finished with 11 points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals.
It didn't appear as though Lowry's knee bothered him when he returned, but it's something to monitor moving forward, especially since the Raptors are back in action tomorrow for a back-to-back.
Lowry's knee sure didn't seem to bother him on this shot:
Heard they're introducing H.O.R.S.E at @NBAAllStar- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2020
Vote @Klow7 ⭐️ https://t.co/kQYeprYRUk pic.twitter.com/pyYI5UaGUA
4. Norman Powell hasn't skipped a beat
Here's what Norman Powell has done since returning from injury:
- 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting from the field in 31 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs.
- 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the field in 26 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder
- 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field in 29 minutes against the Wizards.
Powell provided instant offence off the bench in this one with nine points in the first quarter.
This is what you call instant impact pic.twitter.com/VuKb9ol7Jo- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2020
He cooled off in the second quarter, but he came alive again in the fourth quarter with nine points.
Jheeeeeeeeeeeeez @npowell2404 👀 pic.twitter.com/4WDfBXXlrP- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2020
With the way he's been shooting in the last three games, it's hard to believe that Powell was sidelined for almost a month with a shoulder injury.
5. Marc Gasol's value in one possession
It won't show up in the box score, but Gasol's fingerprints were all over this sequence:
Wow. Tremendous. pic.twitter.com/u4cnALUZps- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2020
Because he's one of the best passers at his position, Gasol gives the Raptors another playmaker whenever he's on the court. It's particularly valuable in situations like this because Patrick McCaw doesn't have to think twice about handing Gasol the ball at the elbow with the shot clock winding down.
After giving up the ball, McCaw makes a cut towards the basket, receiving a screen from Gasol along the way that creates separation between McCaw and Bradley Beal. Gasol hits McCaw with a bounce pass that less than a handful of centres in the league right now could make, which forces Ish Smith to rotate off of Powell and Davis Bertans to rotate off of OG Anunoby when Powell receives the ball from McCaw.
Anunoby finishes it off with a 3-pointer before time expires.
Again, Gasol won't get credited with doing anything on the box score, but it's possessions like this that serve as an example as to why Toronto's offence improves by 4.0 points per 100 possessions with him on the court. His ability to shoot 3s provides valuable spacing and his unselfishness has a way of getting everyone moving and passing in ways they don't when he's on the bench.
6. The rest might've done Gasol some good
Gasol did plenty of things that did show up in the box score against the Wizards as well, the most notable being that he scored a season-high 20 points.
Gasol did so on 6-for-7 shooting from 3-point range, tying his career-high for makes from the perimeter.
3... 2... 1...- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2020
🗣️ GASOL pic.twitter.com/3doOJJ9DIq
Gasol is now 9-for-11 from the perimeter in the two games he's played since returning from injury. He's scored double figures in both of those games.
With how much basketball he played last season and in the summer, maybe the time he missed was much needed, because Gasol has looked a lot more like his old self again in these last two games.
Gasol was feeling so good in this one that he even got a little fancy in the fourth quarter.
.@MarcGasol just havin' fun now pic.twitter.com/WefMNqZyjg- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2020
7. Turnovers are killers
The Wizards are usually one of the better teams in the league at taking care of the ball - only seven teams turn the ball over less than them on the season - but they coughed the ball up 28 times in this one. Davis Bertans led the way with four turnovers, but Thomas Bryant, Ian Mahinmi, Bradley Beal and Ish Smith had three each.
It's tough to win in this league when you turn the ball over that many times.
8. The Raptors are now halfway through the season
This was Game 41 for the Raptors this season. They now have a 27-14 record.
For comparison, the Raptors were 29-12 at this point last season.
That these Raptors have only lost two less games than last season's team is rather impressive when you consider who they lost in the offseason and the amount of injuries they've dealt with this season.
9. What's next?
The Raptors are back at it on Sunday for a matchup with the Minnesota Timberwolves. It's the seventh of 13 sets of back-to-back for the Raptors this season.
Nurse said prior to Saturday's game that Fred VanVleet is expected to make his return against the Timberwolves. He's missed the last five games with a hamstring injury.
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