Gameday: Nets vs Raptors, April 21

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Photo Credit: Raptors Instagram account

Wow, that was a really long 2-day vacation… rare these days! Barring any last minute changes, the Raptors will have all their regulars back for the first time in weeks. Since then, we’ve seen a preview of what Malachi Flynn can bring to the table with a bigger role. Gary Trent Jr has made a seamless transition from Portland, and Yuta Watanabe has solidified a new contract. Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie have patched up holes that Aron Baynes was creating. It’s kind of similar to the beginning of last season when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka went down less than 10 games in, and Nick Nurse suddenly had to manufacture depth. There are legit options now! With that comes some questions:

GTJ/Boucher – Starters or 6th men?

And we’re back to the Norman Powell dilemna….sort of. Trent has started all 12 games as a Raptor so far, averaging nearly 18 points a game and sprinkling in flashes of brilliance. Does Nurse slide Trent to the three and have OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam as the “bigs” like earlier in the season? Trent is better suited to guarding that position than Norm, being two inches taller. Doing that puts Chris Boucher back on the bench. Khem Birch also started a couple of games, but that seems more doubtful. Of course it’s matchup depending. Neither Trent nor Boucher will be shy about providing an immediate spark if either one (or maybe even both) come off the bench. It’s a nice luxury to have.

Malachi Flynn’s role?

This one seems more clear. Terence Davis and Matt Thomas aren’t here any more to steal court time away from Flynn. He should still get minutes in the high teens in a reserve role, and already has developed chemistry with Trent and Boucher if either one was part of the second unit. Through 10 April games (33.2 mins), Flynn is averaging 13.7 ppg, 5.9 apg and 1.7 spg. He’s found consistency in his three point shot, hitting 41.8 percent on over two makes a game. More importantly, Flynn has already shown his ability to run the offence with veteran-like savvy. His development wont be stunted with the returns of Fred and Kyle.

New Bench Mob?

Birch and Gillespie should fill the rest of the reserve big minutes, mixing in Yuta at different positions to provide a spark. Watanabe is playing too well right now to just be parked on the bench again. Gillespie will probably take the biggest hit amongst the bigs. This also means the “Does Baynes play?” question that nobody really asked has gone from no to HELL NO. DeAndre’ Bembry is going to have to battle with Paul Watson Jr for reserve swing minutes. This also leaves a big question mark on Stanley Johnson. I’m guessing he will also receive some DNP-CDs. Assuming the reserves are led by Flynn and one of Boucher or Trent, there is a nice mix of grit, rebounding and scoring being offered here. Again, this whole depth thing seems a little weird this season.

Not Scary Hours

Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving have only played together in seven games this season, combining for less than 200 minutes. With Harden’s latest hamstring news, that won’t be changing anytime soon.

Kyrie will have to shoulder the load for now. He’s never shot better (51/39/91 splits this season), and at times seems unstoppable with the ball. Exhibit A: Kyrie closing out the Pelicans on Tuesday.

This will be the second game of a back-to-back for Brooklyn, who only played nine guys on Tuesday. Fred should get some stints guarding Kyrie, and considering what happened to Steph Curry earlier in the season (11 pts, 2-16), that matchup could be must-watch.

The Raptors are playing their third straight opponent with a depleted roster but obviously Brooklyn still has other threats. Blake Griffin played 28 minutes on Tuesday (his most with the Nets), scoring 16 points off the bench. Joe Harris ranks third in three point percentage (47.7). Former Raptors 905 standout Alize Johnson is also getting some run. He’s averaging 6.4 points and 4.9 boards in 10 games with the Nets.

Tying a season-high of four straight wins is on the line for Toronto. The Wizards (five straight) and the Bulls (two straight) are both a half game ahead. The play-in teams are on fire now? What happened to the snails race?

Game Info

Tip-Off: 7:00pm EDT | TV: TSN 1/4 | Radio: Newstalk 1010

Raptors Lineup

Watson (knee), Rodney Hood (knee), and Jalen Harris (hip) have been ruled out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn

SG: Fred VanVleet,  Gary Trent Jr

SF: OG Anunoby, DeAndre’ Bembry, Stanley Johnson

PF: Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch, Yuta Watanabe

C: Chris Boucher, Freddie Gillespie, Aron Baynes

Nets Lineup

Harden is out as mentioned earlier. Durant (thigh), Reggie Perry (protocols) and Nicolas Claxton (protocols) all missed Tuesday’s Pelicans game. Durant is considered day-to-day. Tyler Johnson (knee) has not been cleared for basketball activities yet. Chris Chiozza (fractured hand) underwent surgery last week. And of course Spencer Dinwiddie tore his ACL in the third game of the season.

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Landry Shamet, Bruce Brown

SF: Joe Harris, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

PF: Jeff Green, Blake Griffin, Alize Johnson

C: DeAndre Jordan

The Line

Here’s how to confuse a casual: The Raptors are favoured by three points. Over/Under is at 228.5

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