Today is the one year anniversary of the NBA postponing the 2019-2020 season due to Covid-19. The effects still loom large, as Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw are still out dealing with health and safety protocols. However Nick Nurse is back!
It’s meet the neighbours week for the Raptors to kick off the second half of the season. Atlanta, Charlotte and Chicago are all right with Toronto chasing for one of the East playoff spots, with aspirations of avoiding the play-in scenario. Ironically, the two biggest question marks for the Raptors next season are who they are going to have to continue to lean on the most. Norman Powell is averaging 23.1 points on 52-45-91 percent shooting splits over his last 20 games. I don’t think you can call this a short sample size anymore. It’s the Norm. Sheesh, we are kicking the second half off with bad puns, sorry.
Rumours and reports have been circling around Kyle Lowry since last season. The Greatest Raptor of All-Time addressed some of those earlier this week. Whatever the future holds, we are still enjoying prime Lowry, who is coming off a career-high 19 assists vs Boston. Only Jose Calderon and Damon Stoudamire have matched that as a Raptor. Weirdly enough, Lowry turns 35 on March 25th, which is the same day as the trade deadline. Word is he won’t be dealt.
Meanwhile, it’s been a strange season for the Hawks. They are 2-0 with Nate McMillan as interim coach after firing Lloyd Pierce. Atlanta tossed around money last offseason, specifically to Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari. Bogdanovic got a 4-year $72 million deal but has only played in 11 of 36 games. Gallinari is making over 61 million through three years. However he’s shooting under 40 percent from the field and is only averaging 11 points a game.
Then there is Trae Young, who’s had a successful yet interesting career so far. His rookie year was all about trying to save Atlanta from criticism on passing up Luka Doncic to move down in the 2018 draft and get Young instead. Trae’s sophomore year was themed “Your apology needs to be as loud as your disrespect.” Young was voted an All-Star starter in Year 2, and started to get Steph Curry comparisons. Now in Year 3? It seems the love has scaled back a bit again. Young has developed eyebrow raising ways to get to the free throw line, including going around screens and then stopping so a chasing defender runs into him a split second before throwing up a shot. Steve Nash specifically was irked by that, saying “That’s not basketball.” Trae was also snubbed from this year’s All-Star game in Atlanta. However he’s still averaging 26 points and nine assists a game.
The Raptors sit in eighth right now with a very winnable slate of games ahead. Unfortunately until protocols say otherwise, it’s going to be more difficult than it should.
Tip-off: 7:30 PM EST | TV: TSN 5 | Radio: TSN 1050
Just waiting on a pre-game miracle.
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris
SF: DeAndre’ Bembry, Paul Watson
PF: Stanley Johnson, Yuta Watanabe, Henry Ellenson
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher
De’Andre Hunter is out with a knee injury. Cam Reddish underwent a non-surgical procedure on his right Achilles. Kris Dunn (ankle) is expected back by the end of March.
PG: Trae Young, Rajon Rondo
SG: Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Tony Snell
SF: Danilo Gallinari, Solomon Hill
PF: John Collins, Nathan Night
C: Clint Capela, Onyeka Okongwu, Bruno Fernando
Atlanta is favoured by three points. The over/under is 225.5. The Raptors have allowed 130.5 points in two games since massive protocol absences, so you might want to take the over on this one.