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The Toronto Raptors doubled their season win total with a pair of victories over the Charlotte Hornets, but what did they learn from the two games?
— That Chris Boucher is for real. The Montreal product continues to be one of the most surprising league-wide stories of this young season. Simply put, good things are happening when Boucher gets into games. He helped the Raptors turn things around very early on (they were down 10 when he subbed in, up 13 when he left. And then he helped seal things late with four clutch free throws and a layup.
— That they need more work attacking zones. The final shooting and assist numbers might look pretty good, but the Raptors didn’t always look too comfortable on offence (especially when Kyle Lowry wasn’t in the game).
— That they still don’t know what to do with Aron Baynes or how to get the big man going. He was gone after only four minutes and did not return. He lasted eight before getting the hook in the previous meeting.
— That Norman Powell can bounce back. He was brutal in the first meeting, the difference-maker in the rematch. Not only was he great from deep, Powell also got to the line six times. He still makes some poor decisions and struggles defensively at times, but the Raptors badly need what he can provide and this was easily the closest Powell has been to the sixth-man-of-the-year candidate he was last season.
— That OG Anunoby appears to be in an offensive groove. Anunoby hit six three-pointers in the two games against Charlotte, on 12 attempts. He had a few assists, got to the free-throw line a bit and though he’s averaging the worst shooting numbers yet from the field and from long-range, Anunoby is coming along.
He was his usual self at the other end. Anunoby was a menace, with seven steals over the two games. Anunoby is now up to 2.33 steals per game, second in the NBA behind only Larry Nance.
Doug Christie has the three best seasons steals-wise in Raptors history, averaging 2.5, 2.4 and then 2.3 in consecutive seasons starting in 1996-97. Alvin Robertson (the NBA single-season leader) averaged 2.2 in the expansion year and Kyle Lowry’s best was 2.1 per game in 2015-16.
— That Pascal Siakam doesn’t have it all figured out after all. Siakam had been back in all-star form before turning in his worst performance in a couple of weeks. He wasn’t great in the first game either, as Charlotte’s constantly shifting defensive schemes seemed to throw him off. Lots of film to study here from these two games as you can bet opponents will be watching that same footage.
— Switching out Boucher and Stanley Johnson late for offence-for-defence a bunch of times late was smart work by the coaching staff. Charlotte doesn’t have much up front so goes small and Johnson gave them a more versatile defender of wings (and even guards) than Boucher. Johnson saved the day late with two big defensive stands.
AROUND THE RIM
Powell passed Anthony Parker to move into 11th place on the all-time Raptors made three-pointers list. Powell is the second-longest-serving current Raptor. His six three-pointers were a season-high, two more than his previous number. It also tied his career-high for a game … Fred VanVleet’s 10 assists were his season’s best … A final thought: Is it funny, ironic, or some other word I can’t think of, that the Nets got another dynamic superstar who half-assed his way out of town? James Harden looked pretty good in his debut, just as Vince Carter had nearly 17 years to the day? This time the Nets had to pay up for the player though, surrendering a monster package of futures. The Raptors weren’t as lucky. Unless you like Alonzo Mourning jokes.
1. Norman Powell
2. Chris Boucher
3. Gordon Hayward
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021