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Toronto Raptors Bench Showing Heart and Grit

It is not uncommon for Raptors 905 players to compete back to back nights. But when they play superbly for the 905 one game and the Raptors the next one, it exemplifies the organization’s depth of heart. 

For Oshae Brissett, Chris Boucher, Matt Thomas and Stanley Johnson, their performance against the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night was filled with hustle and grit. This came after their one-game stint with the 905, where Brissett, Thomas and Johnson’s double-double performances propelled the team to their ninth win of the season.

Despite the Raptors falling 101-99 to the Blazers, the way the bench played inspires confidence going forward.

“Those guys were great — they were unbelievable in the first half,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “I think they scored 34 points off the bench. Jeez, we’ll take that every night of the week and we’d be in really good shape.”

Tuesday’s game marked the 10th contest where the Raptors were without Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell and Marc Gasol. Despite missing key pieces, the Raptors have relied on their fervent energy from supporting players.

The Raptors bench was a +25 combined against the Blazers. Coming together to put up 36 points, the unit gave the Raptors life in a losing effort.

Canadian Oshae Brissett continues to adapt to his role on the Raptors. After a double-double 18 points, 11 rebounds with the 905 on Monday, Brissett’s momentum would carry over for the Raptors on Tuesday.

His 12 points, six rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting demonstrate a hard-working performance. One that featured Brissett hustling for loose balls, finishing a three-pointer after two swing passes and providing second-chance efforts off rebounds.

“He really stays within himself. He’s really just trying to hustle, play defence, rebound and play rhythm offence,” Nurse said.

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Chris Boucher also raised his level when he took the floor. His post game was prolific, evidenced by his nine rebounds which was second among Raptor players behind Serge Ibaka (11). The Raptors had a 22.4 net rating when Boucher was on the floor and a -15.4 net rating when he was off of it. Boucher impacted the Raptors profoundly in the fourth quarter against the Trail Blazers, scoring the team’s first ten points.

Despite Matt Thomas shooting 2-of-6 from three in his first game back from injury, he did not go unnoticed. His six rebounds contributed to the Raptors out rebounding the Blazers 57 to 46. It will take time for Thomas to get back to averaging over 50% from three. But he is on his way.

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When teams take on the Raptors, they know that their bench must be contained. At times, what the bench does on the floor looks chaotic. Many of the players, including Brissett and Boucher, are continuing to improve their shooting and making better decisions on shots.

Their effort, however, cannot be understated. Against the Blazers, the secondary players outperformed a majority of the starters. It is once again a testament to the depth this team possesses. Even with significant players missing time, the Raptors contend because of the competitive spirit of their supporting cast. 

“We’ve got great guys. Young kids trying to go out there and prove their worth, go out there and execute and play,” said Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry. 

With no timetable for the return of Siakam, Powell and Gasol, the Raptors will have to lean on their 905 graduates to fill the roster void.

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