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Raptors News

Pre-game news & notes: Jason Thompson and Norman Powell start

The Toronto Raptors look to get back on the winning side of the ledger as the lowly Brooklyn Nets visit for a 7:30 tip-off on Sportsnet One on Tuesday.

While the Nets are mostly a flaming tire fire from the outside, they’re also one from the inside! Jest aside, they’re 18-45 and not particularly good on either end of the floor, but head coach Dwane Casey has been adamant the Raptors not take the Nets – or any opponent – lightly.

But despite that claim…

Jason Thompson to start
The Raptors’ latest addition will draw the start at power forward, likely to give Luis Scola a night off to rest (he’s technically available but I’d be surprised to see him play). It was always predicted in these parts that the Raptors would use the Nets game to get someone rest, though admittedly the guess was DeMar DeRozan. Starting Thompson accomplishes three things, primarily.

It gets Scola rest. Josh Lewenberg of TSN had some great long quotes from Scola earlier in the day on the team’s defense and his own slump – during which he was quite hard on himself – and while he turned in a solid performance Sunday, he’s been bad more often than not of late. He’s also 35 years old, is yet to miss a game, and is averaging more minutes than he has since 2012-13. Getting him a couple of extra days off down the stretch makes plenty of sense.

It gets Thompson involved. Thompson’s played 72 seconds as a member of the Raptors, and while he wasn’t brought in to take anyone’s minutes, it would probably be nice for the team and player to gain some semblance of a comfort level together. The Thompson addition was made in part to allow the team the freedom to rest Scola or scale his minutes back, and Tuesday will provide an opportunity to see how he looks next to Jonas Valanciunas for a stretch. Spacing will probably be a little cramped, but Thompson’s a more natural defensive fit with Valanciunas, adding a bit more quickness and versatility without sacrificing rebounding.

This will be the eight different starting lineup the Raptors have used this season, and they continue to search for one that works. Even though an obvious tweak has been staring them in the face, but…

It maintains consistency and prevents further cries for Patrick Patterson to start over Scola. The guess here is that Thompson is drawing the start instead of Patterson so that the bench unit – less effective of late but still mostly solid – remains in tact. He’s often opted to change one player’s role rather than the roles of many, and he probably wants to avoid further questions about Patterson starting long-term, as it’s something he doesn’t seem keen on doing. Take issue with the latter point, but if he’s truly committed to Scola as a starter, then this makes sense.

Norman Powell also draws back in
Powell will return to the starting lineup in favor of James Johnson as Casey continues to juggle those two based on matchups.

Powell started four games in early February while Johnson was hurt, then drew a surprise start on Friday after seven consecutive Johnson nods. Johnson was back in for the James Harden assignment on Sunday, but Brooklyn, without a bulkier wing scorer for Johnson to cover, is a chance to get Powell another opportunity. He’s been pretty solid on the defensive end all year and has begun carrying the improvements he’s made in the D-League over to the NBA level, particularly with respect to finding passes off the bounce and knocking down open looks spotting up.

Non-update on DeMarre Carroll

Raptors updates
So Carroll remains sidelined, Scola will (probably) rest, and nobody is with the 905. The rotation will then look something like this:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Delon Wright
SG: Powell, T.J. Ross
SF: DeRozan, Johnson, Bruno Caboclo
PF: Thompson, Patterson
C: Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, Lucas Nogueira

Assuming the Raptors can take care of their business – not exactly the safest assumption – the Nets would seem to present a prime opportunity to get the youngsters a bit of run, too.

Nets updates
Jarrett Jack and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson remain out long-term, Thad Young and Brook Lopez are back after resting over the weekend, and Sean Kilpatrick is around on a 10-day contract. The rotation will look something like this:

PG: Donald Sloan, Shane Larkin
SG: Wayne Ellington, Markel Brown, Kilpatrick
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic, Sergey Karasev
PF: Young, Thomas Robinson, Chris McCullough
C: Lopez, Willie Reed

Watch out for Brown, who has been awesome of late and makes work of sleepy off-ball defenders, of which the Raptors have a few lately.

The line
The Raptors opened as 12-point favorites and have stayed more or less in that spot all day, while the over-under jumped from 206.5 to 210 and back down to a more reasonable 208. My prediction? The Raptors actually do a good job putting the Nets away early on, the D-League Detachment sees four or five minutes of run, and the Nets nibble back close to single-digits. Raptors 110, Nets 99.

Check out Tamberlyn’s full game preview here.

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