The Toronto Raptors announced Saturday that forward Patrick McCaw is out with a sprained right thumb. McCaw will wear a splint for approximately three weeks, and his condition will be then updated as appropriate.
The injury occurred in the first half of Thursday night’s win at New York. In 26 games with Toronto, McCaw is averaging 2.7 points and 1.7 rebounds in 13.2 minutes.
Three – Aggressive: Gasol was impressive in his own right, especially since he actually decided to look for his own offence after scoring all of four points in his previous two outings. Gasol presented himself as an option on the baseline inbound and fired away from deep without hesitation. He chipped in with his playmaking out of the high post, but also tallied 17 points to make up for Leonard and Siakam’s absences.
Four – Fluid: Fred VanVleet assisted on at least three of Gasol’s baskets, and it’s clear that those two have developed chemistry during their short time together as teammates. VanVleet struggled mightily to generate good looks while attacking in the pick-and-roll with Jonas Valanciunas earlier in the year, but the two-man game with Gasol is smooth, likely because the Spaniard is more versatile. Valanciunas would always roll hard to the basket, whereas Gasol mixes in the triple and the floater to keep the defence guessing.
Marc Gasol added 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists as Toronto won its third straight.
“When a great player and really important player sit out, somebody else has to pick up those shots, the defensive intensity,” Gasol said. “We’re all NBA players and we all work together, obviously.”
Leonard was excused for personal reasons and didn’t make the trip to Chicago. He leads the Raptors in scoring at 27 points and has played in 55 of the team’s 77 games this season. Siakam, who averages 17 points, was healthy and in uniform on the bench, but was held out to rest. The third-year forward had 31 points Thursday in a win over the New York Knicks.
The Raptors played without Kawhi Leonard (personal reasons), OG Anunoby (concussion symptoms) and Patrick McCaw (thumb injury), and they gave Pascal Siakam a night off. So coach Nick Nurse ran through the entirety of his roster to manage minutes, trying combinations as Toronto get one game closer to the end of the regular season. Miller, Loyd and Chris Boucher, who had played their final G League playoff game with the Raptors 905 a night earlier, finished the game on the floor.
Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka had 23 points to lead the Raptors, who ran their record to 54-23 on the season.
Ibaka also had 12 rebounds, and Marc Gasol added 17 points and eight rebounds as Toronto started a big frontcourt for the first time since Gasol joined the team in early February.
The Bulls, playing without injured starters Khris Dunn, Zack LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter, Jr., were led by Walt Lemon Jr., who had 19 points.
Lemon had quite an eventful night. He took a hard spill early in the game after trying to drive on Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. He drew a double-technical foul when he and Kyle Lowry exchanged shoves and words. He lost a shoe while scoring on a drive. And he fouled a 3-point shooter.
“If you would have told me a couple of days ago that I was going to play 30 minutes against the Raptors — the No. 2 team in the East — on the Bulls’ floor, let alone play 30 minutes in an NBA game, period, I wouldn’t believe you,” Lemon said. “This is definitely a surreal moment for me. And I’m going to never forget it. I’m going to cherish this moment for the rest of my life.”
Lemon, 26, played five games with the Pelicans last season after going undrafted out of Bradley and playing overseas in four countries.
“I felt great,” he said. “When I got called up last year, I wasn’t used to the pace and athleticism of the NBA. That’s something I had to adjust to. This time around, I think I did a better job of pacing myself and knowing my game. I wasn’t trying to force nothing. Just play the right way. Keep finding my teammates. And when the opportunities presented itself, attack the rim, which I know I’m good at. I just wanted to be aggressive.
In the past 15 days he has been with the 905s in Delaware for a game, returned to Toronto to be with the Raptors in Detroit, stayed with Toronto for games against the Knicks and then travelled with the Raptors to Oklahoma City. He was back with the G-League team for a game and practice in Lakeland and then returned to the Raptors for home games against Charlotte. He played with the Raptors in New York, stayed behind for that game with the 905s in Long Island before the early morning flight to Chicago.
As fatigued as he is right now he wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“I got that the chance to meet guys that are brothers for life now,” Boucher said. “It was a cool journey. We didn’t know what to expect at the beginning but we got to win our first playoff game and learned so much from each other. For me it was definitely successful even though we didn’t win.”
Along the way he found another mentor too in 905s head coach Jama Mahlalela.
“Jama is a cool dude,” Boucher said. “One of the best coaches I have ever had. Definitely helped my confidence, helped my game. I really see him as part of my family. He made me realize things I didn’t know — talent, stuff that I thought I would never be able to do, he put me in the position to do it. That is one thing I will always remember about him.”
Chicago, meanwhile, was left without nearly every significant player and potential building block for the game. Kris Dunn and Otto Porter Jr. were sidelined while rookie Wendell Carter Jr., Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen have all been shut down for the season.
The Bulls were left fielding a glorified G-League team. Take veteran centre Robin Lopez out of the equation and the Raptors starting-five has seen more playoff games than the Bulls starters have played in the NBA, period.
If this game could be summed up in five words, it’d be: Can the playoffs start already?
With the post-season countdown on you’d like to see the Raps playing higher-calibre opponents and competing in playoff-type environments. That wasn’t the case on Saturday. Like, at all.
The Bulls came out of the game with energy and held a slim lead after the first quarter, but the Raptors were simply too much for Chicago to handle.
On the plus side, Toronto’s latest win provided an opportunity for the team to continue to fine tune, giving its bench players minutes and some valuable role players an opportunity to shine.