Norm out till…the playoffs?
This time around, the injury comes to Norman Powell, who after returning from a shoulder injury that had him sidelined for 11 games, is out indefinitely with a fractured hand. The Raptors announced on their Twitter account that Powell suffered a fracture to the fourth metacarpal of his left hand, and will be re-evaluated “as appropriate.” The injury happened in the fourth quarter of the Raptors’ game against the Detroit Pistons Friday night, although it’s unclear what caused the injury as Powell checked out of the game with 1:33 remaining and appeared to be fine.
The unfortunate part about all of this is that since Powell returned from his shoulder injury — which he also injured while playing in Detroit — he’s been on fire for Toronto. There was a five-game stretch where Powell was averaging 23.6 points on 59.2 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from deep. While the 20-point streak broke after an 18-point outing against the Philadelphia 76ers, Powell was shooting incredibly well from just about everywhere on the floor.
Powell has struggled with consistency throughout his career, but it finally looked like he was turning a corner and becoming someone the Raptors could rely upon when needed after returning from his shoulder injury. He’s fully embraced his bench role and it has shown dramatic results for the Raptors. Powell’s been having the best season of his five-year career, posting 15.3 points, on nearly 50 percent shooting from the field.
The Toronto Raptors will be without the services of centre Marc Gasol and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday, according to the NBA’s official injury report.
The Raptors will also be missing Norman Powell, who fractured the fourth metacarpal on his left hand during Toronto’s win against the Detroit Pistons on Friday and will be out indefinitely.
Gasol left Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks with tightness in his left hamstring. He also missed the Raptors’ wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Pistons. The same injury already forced him to miss 12 games this season before he returned to the Raptors’ lineup on Jan. 15
Hollis-Jefferson suffered a right ankle sprain against the San Antonio Spurs last weekend and has been sidelined for three straight games.
The Bulls close out a three-game road swing with a stop North of the Border, visiting Toronto to complete the 2019-20 season series with the defending NBA Champion Raptors. Toronto won each of the two earlier get togethers at the United Center, 108-84 in late October, and 93-92 on December 9th. The Raptors swept the season series last year, 4-0, and in fact have beaten the Bulls 11 straight times coming into today.
For Chicago to stop the bleeding they’re going to have to hit the floor focused and determined, delivering a hardnosed, blue collar effort from the moment the ball is tipped-off. Both teams are coming off Friday games, with Chicago having taken on the Brooklyn Nets in Gotham and the Raptors battling the Detroit Pistons in Motown. Leading into that clash the Raptors had won nine in a row and sported a 34-14 record, good for first in the Atlantic Division, and second overall in the East.
Offensively, to be effective, Chicago must play fast, yet poised, freely sharing the ball, crisply skipping it from player-to-player and from side-to-side in search of open looks at the rim and unprotected driving lanes to basket. Everyone must be engaged in the action. The ball can’t suddenly get stuck in one player’s hands while the rest stand still and watch. There must be a free-flowing, unselfish rhythm, where everyone moves in and out of the paint and around the arc, communicating and playing together.
Defensively, Chicago needs to impose its will with a hardnosed and determined effort. They must go all out after every rebound, and dive for every loose ball, while also sticking like glue to their assigned man and avoid falling into the trap of constantly fouling.
As a collective unit, the Bulls must take the floor resolute by out-working and out-executing the Raptors in every possible way.
Nick Nurse is on quite a run. He’s followed up winning an NBA title in his first year as an NBA head coach to being named one of two coaches for the upcoming NBA all-star game in Chicago. Nurse and his staff will helm Team Giannis — a foreshadowing, Raptors fans hope, of Giannis Antetokounmpo being directed by Nurse down the line as a Toronto player (even though that’s likely wishful thinking).
Nurse and Co. Got the gig because Toronto will have the Eastern Conference’s second-best record after games on Sunday, the cutoff date for these matters. Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer is ineligible, because coaches can’t go two seasons in a row.
“We get to be the beneficiaries I think of a kind of an organizational award,” Nurse said after Toronto beat the Pistons on Friday.
“You get to go coach that thing, it’s certainly a tremendous honour for us, but, there’s a lot that goes into it and it should be a really enjoyable experience for our guys. It’s neat,” Nurse said.
“It’s neat to be around that event, the greatest players in the world all under one roof. And I think it’s gonna be a good experience for the whole staff all the way down through.” Nurse remembers going previously to the NBA Development League all-star weekend with his friend and current staff member Nate Bjorkgen. This time he’ll get to bring Bjorkgren, Adrian Griffin, Sergio Scariolo, Brittni Donaldson (the first woman to coach at an all-star game), Alex McKechnie, Jim Sann, Patrick Mutombo, Jon Goodwillie and John Corbacio.
“We gotta give those guys credit,” said point guard Fred VanVleet.