The Toronto Raptors are forced to survive at least two weeks without two key members of their lineup: Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka. Both veterans were injured in Friday nights’ game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Lowry sustained a fracture to his left thumb as Pelicans forward Derrick Favors was coming down from a rebound. Kyle checked his thumb several times during the remainder of the half and did not return for the second half of the game. He is expected to be out for at least two weeks.
Ibaka was injured late in the second quarter. He rolled his right ankle after going for a rebound on the defensive end. He is out indefinitely, and will likely revalued in a couple weeks.
The Raptors were able to come out of this one with a 122-104 win , with stellar performances from Siakam and Anunoby. Pascal scored 44 points, on 60.7 per cent from the field and 50.0 per cent from three-point range. He was also made all five of his free throws. OG also made both free throws that he attempted, and went 53.8 per cent from two-point range and 71.4 per cent from behind the arc. Anunoby contributed 21 points and seven rebounds in last nights game.
So the question that remains is: how will the Raptors survive the next couple weeks without Serge and Kyle?
Depth was already a concern for the Raptors. Both Lowry and VanVleet have been playing almost 40 minutes per game, which is not sustainable in the slightest. Now, it is more crucial than ever to find another strong player to fill the point guard/shooting guard position.
Marc Gasol and Ibaka have been splitting the centre position, which leave another hole in the lineup. Marc Gasol has been spotty this so far, and Serge has been picking up a lot of that slack. I honestly don’t know if Gasol at the five will be good enough.
So Toronto is now in a position where they have shortages in guards and centres, with a lineup that was already shallow and overplayed.
The (temporary) Solution
For starters, getting through the next couple weeks will require consistent performances from Siakam, VanVleet, Annunoby, Gasol and Powell.
The Raptors defence needs to be tight and the offence needs to be clean. That means consistent pressure around the rims (on both ends) and avoiding turnovers at all costs. Toronto has always thrived as a defensive team, and keeping that mentality is critical to their success.
Put simply, the Raptors bench needs to rise occasion. Nick Nurse will need to experiment with the best option for lineups. Terence Davis has to play some serious minutes as a guard, and needs to score and create plays. He needs to average more than 28.6 per cent shooting and 1.8 PPG.
Toronto also called up Dewan Hernandez from the Raptors 905 on Friday. Hernandez was drafted by Toronto in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. In his debut game with the 905, he scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds. He will likely be able to add some depth to the two or five position.
Perhaps the solution is to start Matt Thomas as a shooting guard, and have Powell lead the bench. Hernandez played as a forward in college, which might be helpful for the bench unit. Chris Boucher is also improving his game at the five, so that will continue to be instrumental in the success of this team.
That leaves the lineup as such:
Starting: VanVleet, Thomas, Anunoby, Siakam, Gasol
Bench: Davis, Powell, Johnson, Hernandez, Boucher
The Next Week
Toronto knew, going into this season, that the depth of this team was an issue, and losing any one of our top seven would change our team drastically. Losing two on the same night is a shock to the system.
The next week will stand as a major test for the Raptors. They face the Lakers, Clippers, Trailblazers and Mavericks this coming week. Let’s see how they handle it.