OG Anunoby is back, long live OG Anunoby.
OG Anunoby had some pre- and post-practice live competitive runs. "He looks good," Nick Nurse says. "He looked like he conditioned well in the time off."
— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) March 18, 2021
The Raptors have been desperate for the return of their most impactful defender over the past few weeks, and now he’ll finally be rejoining the rest of his teammates after clearing league health and safety protocols.
Despite Norman Powell’s best efforts in a heartbreaking loss to Detroit, the boys are moving on to play against the West’s number 1 seeded squad, the Jazz.
It’s the two teams’ first meeting this season, and Utah have been rather hit or miss since the beginning of March. They’re coming into the game in Tampa on the second night of a back to back loss to Washington, and they’ve been alternating wins and losses over their past five games. We’ll see if that pattern continues into the game tonight. Rudy Gobert has been playing his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation once again, and has just been a dominant presence in the paint as a whole, much to the dismay of Shaq. Gobert put up an astounding 28 rebounds against Golden State on March 14th, and it’s Gobert’s play in particular that has to have Toronto concerned, seeing as they’re the worst rebounding team in the NBA.
Speaking of the Raptors being concerned…
Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were the two major players who returned from extended absences due to health and safety protocols against Detroit, and boy… they sure looked like it. It’s probably a good idea to keep expectations low as they round back into game shape. Pascal shot 3-11 from the floor while Fred harmonized with 2-13. Both made 7 free throws, but more is going to be needed from the two players who are supposed to be the engine of their team.
Norm can’t carry the offensive load every night (though he’s certainly doing his best). He’s going to need some help soon if the Raptors want to start clawing back into the playoff hunt as the season begins to draw to a close. The return of OG Anunoby will no doubt be a shot in the arm for the Raptors on both ends of the floor, but will it be enough? Nick Nurse spoke highly of OG’s conditioning in practice, however it could be just as likely that he’ll be slow to get back up to standard just like Pascal and Fred are.
The Raptors have been a difficult team to get a read on all season. They’ve won games they had no business winning and they lost games that they should’ve won handily. They’re on a 6 game losing skid at the moment and it’s hard to know when that will turn around for the better as long as their key players are still trying to get their conditioning back up to speed. It’s certainly going to be interesting to see if the Raps can break their losing streak against a tough opponent in the top-seeded Jazz. Though, the Jazz just lost to the Wizards, so anything’s possible.
Tip: 8:00pm EST | TV: Sportsnet 1 | Radio: TSN 1050
Pop some champagne, we’re injury-free (for now) boys!
PG: Kyle Lowry, Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw
SG: Fred VanVleet, DeAndre’ Bembry, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris
SF: Norman Powell, Paul Watson, Yuta Watanabe
PF: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, Stanley Johnson
C: Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes, Henry Ellenson
Mike Conley was out against Washington, but is expected to suit up today.
Rookie Udoka Azubuike is out due to an ankle sprain.
PG: Mike Conley, Trent Forrest
SG: Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Miye Oni
SF: Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Elijah Hughes
PF: Royce O’Neale, Georges Niang, Ersan Ilyasova, Juwan Morgan, Jarrell Brantley
C: Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors
The Jazz are -5 favourites with an O/U of 228.5. Two defensive minded teams with the Raptors struggling to get their roster back into game shape? I’d be wary about taking the over on this one.