After Norman Powell’s return last week, Marc Gasol’s return last night, and Fred VanVleet’s recovery looming in the air for Saturday night’s bout against the Detroit Pistons, it seemed like the Toronto Raptors were finally about to become – dare I say – healthy.
But the basketball gods could never allow for that to happen, right? Right.
Merely 95 seconds into tonight’s contest, Powell suffered a sprained ankle, which is to be evaluated later on.
Ankle injuries can range from holding players out for a few days, all the way up to a few weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Though it looked like Powell was in a considerable amount of pain, the way that the injury occurred didn’t look too bad. Then again, we here at Raptors Cage are not doctors, so we’ll wait for the official injury report from the Raptors.
Norman Powell has already missed 20 games this season, having suffered a dislocated shoulder in December, and a fractured finger at the beginning of February. Regardless, he’s remained high-spirited, and has come back stronger after every time he’s gone down. Most recently, he’s exploded after returning from the finger injury, dropping 37 points and 31 points in his last two games, earning him Eastern Conference Player of the Week honours.
The Raptors have not played with a healthy top-7 players since January 28th, and it’s now looking like they might go the next couple weeks deprived of Norm Powell, so that drought of health is set to continue.
Being the only team in the NBA with as many man games lost as they do, and owning a winning record, data suggests that if Toronto had been healthy all season, they could have 11 more wins than they currently do. That would hypothetically put Toronto at a record of 57-7, and on pace to win 73 games this year. While a flawed stat, it’s a testament to how incredibly good this Raptors team is at full-health, and how good they’ve been at battling through adversity.
So even without Powell, VanVleet, and Gasol tonight, like these Raptors always do, there was a will to win. That meant that there was a way to win, which meant Kyle Lowry was going to find it, and make it happen.
Tonight, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, and Lowry combined to score 75 points on 52 shots, and while not uber efficient figures, it was enough to get the job done.
We’ve become accustomed to seeing impressive play from Lowry and Siakam offensively – hence their All-Star selections to recognize their feats – but something should be said about how well Ibaka has played offensively over the past few games.
On the season, Ibaka is shooting a career-high 38.4% from beyond the arc on over 3 attempts per game, making him the 6th best three-point shooter on the Raptors this season, percentage-wise. Ibaka has come leaps and bounds offensively from the early days of his career, where he would only attempt a couple shots from deep through his first three seasons in the league. Now, he’s virtually a threat from every area in the Raptors’ offense.
Tonight, he proved that these numbers are no fluke, dropping 27 points on 9/17 shooting from the field, including 5/7 shooting from three-point range, to go along with a big 13 rebounds against Rudy Gobert.
Still, the Raptors needed more. Allowing an opponent to shoot 16/43 from deep, and score 21 points off turnovers will never bode well for anyone.
That’s why Toronto needed their leader to bail them out once again. Kyle Lowry hit one deep, contested three-point shot over the outstretched arm of Mike Conley to put the Raptors up five points with just under two minutes and thirty seconds to go in the fourth quarter, silencing an excited Jazz crowd in a hurry.
Kyle Lowry with a deep three to extend the Raptors' lead! pic.twitter.com/dfZm14SP0N
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) March 10, 2020
That wouldn’t be the final highlight of the game though, despite being the final field goal of the game for Toronto.
On the other end of the court, OG Anunoby rose up at the rim to block the 7-foot-tall All-Star, Rudy Gobert’s dunk attempt. Gobert leads the league in dunks this season, and tried to ice his lead as he hoped to power down an dunk and put the 22-year-old Anunoby on a poster.
OG had some other plans, as can be seen below.
NO CHANCE, FAM pic.twitter.com/41H2vJtT24
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 10, 2020
That highlight occurred just seconds before this little scuffle flared up between the two, which would see both Anunoby and Gobert get ejected from the game. It’s hard to believe that such a level-headed Anunoby would throw an elbow out of the blue, or even just because Gobert tugged on his jersey a little bit, so there must have been a something extra that went down before this following clip.
Gobert and OG Anunoby get into a little scuffle late in the 4th pic.twitter.com/O2q8ZPSv13
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA2) March 10, 2020
Gobert was rather emotional throughout the majority of the second half, so it’s likely that some unfriendly remarks were exchanged prior to this moment. Regardless, the NBA won’t care too much about the preceding incidents when handing out suspensions – though neither, if any – should last beyond a couple of games.
Toronto will now have five days off to get healthy before they face off against Dwane Casey and a depleted Pistons squad. Hopefully Fred VanVleet can return by then. Hopefully Norman Powell’s sprain isn’t too harsh and he’ll be in the lineup for Saturday. Hopefully, the league is lenient with OG Anunoby, and allows him to get move on from his little incident free of any fines or suspensions.