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If there have been any positives to take away from the Toronto Raptors’ COVID-19 issues over the past few weeks, it’s been the team’s ability to really figure out what it has on the bench.

With Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, and Malachi Flynn all sidelines for over two weeks now, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has been forced to dive deep into his rotation. For the most part, he’s uncovered Wholesale Toronto Raptors Jerseys a lot of duds and it wouldn’t be too surprising if some significant changes were made in the offseason to retool what appears to be Cheap DeMar DeRozan Jersey a lackluster Raptors bench. But there may be at least one hidden gem in there in the 26-year-old Paul Watson Jr.

Over the past five games, Watson has played 106 minutes, about 45% of his 237 total career minutes. It’s been the first extended look he’s had in the NBA and he’s done enough to impress Nurse. The most intriguing of his stats are his plus-minus. The Raptors have been outscored by 65 points over the Cheap Fred VanVleet Jersey past five losses and yet somehow Watson is plus-21 in his playing time, the highest of anyone on the team.

On Sunday against the Chicago Bulls, Watson played 27 minutes and was the only Raptors player in plus territory.

“It means he’s impacting the game pretty positively,” Nurse said. “We’re gonna need a little bit more shot-making probably out of him than he’s given us in the last few games. I think he’s doing everything else well, playing hard, defending, and rebounding, but when he gets those rhythm 3s he’s Cheap Norman Powell Jersey gonna have to step in and make a good share of them.”

Watson is just 4-for-16 on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers over the past five games. Not only is he missing some good shots, but he’s been a little hesitant to take his rhythm 3-pointers. It’s the kind of thing that comes with a major role change when suddenly you’re bumped from the back of the rotation to Cheap OG Anunoby Jersey the seventh man role seemingly overnight. Adjusting to that can be tough and takes confidence, Norman Powell said.

Back in 2015-16, Powell was in a spot not too dissimilar to Watson’s. He’d play a few minutes here and there Cheap Pascal Siakam Jersey and then he’d find himself stabled to the bench for days or weeks at a time. It wasn’t until late in the season that then-head coach Dwane Casey gave Powell a shot at significant minutes. His role back Cheap Patrick McCaw Jersey then was to come off the bench and provide defensive toughness and energy for 25-or-so minutes a night.

The first few games were rough, but Powell got some important advice from then-Raptors star DeMar DeRozan: stay aggressive.

Sometimes when you’re a back-of-the-bench player and you’re suddenly bumped into a much bigger role that advice can be tough to actualize. You’re trying so hard to do everything right that you start overthinking things  Cheap Malachi Flynn Jersey just to make sure you don’t make any mistakes. That, of course, is when the mistakes start happening, Powell said.

If you’re thinking on the court, you’re typically a half-second behind the play and that makes a huge difference, Powell said. That’s something he’s spoken to Watson about over the past year or so.

“He’s one of the guys that I talk to,” Powell said of Watson. “One thing I love about him is he’s always in the gym. He’s always working. He’s always very coachable and has an open ear to hear what I say.

“I’m always talking to him in the games to be aggressive. If you’re going to make a mistake, at least make it being aggressive and not thinking too much, letting the game come to you.”

Watson has shown he’s more than capable to come off the bench and provide some defensive intensity for stretches. He held his own Cheap Paul Watson Jr. Jersey against Zach Lavine on Sunday for a few possessions and he understands the defensive scheme well enough to stay consistent in rotations. The key for him, as Nurse said, is just playing in the flow on offence. The best shot in the Raptors’ offence is always the open shot and when Watson has it, Toronto needs him to take it.

Davis didn’t take DeAndre Bembry Jersey advantage of the promotion

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Another boring shorthanded loss? Yep! With Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam out (along with Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn of course), the Toronto Raptors just don’t have enough good players to compete — even with mediocre teams like the Chicago Bulls. Hence, last night’s loss — Toronto’s fifth in a row.

There really isn’t much more to say Cheap Fred VanVleet Jersey at this point, other than to hope that those guys are healthy and able to come back soon.

1. Lineup Change
Last night, Nick Nurse switched up the Cheap OG Anunoby Jersey starting lineup, inserting Terence Davis for DeAndre Bembry.

Pre-game, I thought subbing in Davis was a good, but not great, move, to get more offense into the starting lineup. To be clear, I would rather Cheap Pascal Siakam Jersey not see Davis at all for off-the-court reasons, and on the court, well, he’s been generally awful. But since the team insists on keeping him around, starting him over Bembry or Stanley Johnson has some logic behind it, since Davis is — in theory! — more of an offensive Cheap Terence Davis Jersey threat. In addition, Bembry brings some level of playmaking to the second unit.

Unfortunately, Davis didn’t take advantage of the promotion last night, as Nurse brought Bembry off the bench less than three Cheap Chris Boucher Jersey minutes in. With six points and two assists combined between them, neither Davis nor Bembry did much in their new roles.

2. Bring Me Boucher
The real starting lineup change that Cheap Patrick McCaw Jersey needs to be made, of course, is subbing Chris Boucher in for Aron Baynes. In addition, I think the team needs to do a better job staggering Lowry, Powell and Boucher; two should be on the floor Cheap Stanley Johnson Jersey at all times. I recognize Boucher’s weaknesses from a rebounding and positioning standpoint, and I know he still picks up Cheap Paul Watson Jersey too many fouls. But his shooting and his ability to finish at the rim are much, much-needed right now.

And while I don’t mind the Baynes-Boucher pairing, I think playing Boucher at the four with Stanley Johnson at the small-ball five, a role Johnson Cheap Aron Baynes Jersey played fairly well at times earlier this season, might have some potential too.

(I can’t believe I’m even writing about this! Come back soon, OG and Pascal!)

3. Good D on LaVine, at Least
With Stanley Johnson, Paul Watson, and DeAndre’ Bembry taking turns, the Raptors did a pretty solid job containing Chicago’s All-Star, Zach LaVine. I was impressed Cheap DeAndre Bembry Jersey with Watson’s D on LaVine in particular — he guarded LaVine so tightly I thought for a minute the Raps had gone box-and-1! LaVine only scored seven points on six shots.

Although the Raptors collectively still aren’t playing great team defense, it’s been nice to see these guys continue to play solid man-to-man D.

4. Forcing It
The other night I called out one impressive sequence where the Raptors ran through a set, swung the ball around the perimeter Cheap Henry Ellenson Jersey and found the right shot with passing. And I recalled how little we’d seen such action this season.

This was surely on display last night, as the Raptors looked incredibly stagnant in their offense. Everything seemed forced, and when players did Cheap Malachi Flynn Jersey probe the defense, rarely did it seem the ball was kicked out to an open man.

It’s easy to keep saying, “yeah but they’re missing three guys” but the guys that are in there have to be able to manage the basics, right? You don’t need to be an All-Star to keep the ball moving!

5. At Least We Have Jack
These games are not fun to watch, but when Jack Armstrong is on, at least they’re entertaining to listen to! Jack was in his typical form last night, complaining about calls and no-calls, recalling the Niagara days, wondering aloud why the WNBA isn’t in Canada, using about listening to tunes while golfing, and of course, throwing out all the classics from GTGOH to “Bonjour!” It’s also highly entertaining to hear him try Toronto Raptors Jerseys and cover his disgust at some of the Raptors’ defensive effort and poor offensive execution.

I don’t know where we’d be without Jack.

********

There really isn’t much of a bright side here to share, so we’ll remain hopeful that these extra reps will do guys like Henry Ellenson and Paul Watson good, and cross our fingers that the team is healthy again soon.

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What: Charlotte Hornets (6-6) at Toronto Raptors (2-8)

When: 7:30 pm EST

Where: Amalie Arena; Tampa, Fla.

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Charlotte Hornets’ four-game win-streak came to an abrupt end with a poor showing last night against the Dallas Mavericks, but thankfully they have a chance to bounce back quickly tonight against a shockingly-bad Toronto Raptors squad.

The Toronto Raptors (2-8) limp back to their 2020-21 home court following a 1-3 Western Conference road trip to host the Charlotte Hornets (6-6) Thursday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla. Tip-off will be at 7:30 p.m. ET. Below, we analyze the Hornets-Raptors NBA betting odds and lines, with picks and predictions.

The Raptors’ road swing ended with back-to-back single-point losses. They were topped 106-105 by the Golden State Warriors Sunday and 112-111 by the Portland Trail Blazers Monday in the second half of the back-to-back. They dropped their last home game against the Boston Celtics 126-114 Jan. 4.

The Hornets are coming off a 104-93 Wednesday loss to the Dallas Mavericks. They had previously won four in a row with two at home and two on the road. Toronto beat Charlotte twice in the preseason by scores of 111-100 and 112-109.

Hornets at Raptors: Betting odds, spread and lines
Odds via BetMGM; access USA TODAY Sports’ betting odds for a full list. Lines last updated at 10:30 a.m. ET.

Money line: Hornets +310 (bet $100 to win $310) | Raptors -400 (bet $400 to win $100)
Against the spread/ATS: Hornets +9.5 (-120) | Raptors -9.5 (+100)
Over/Under: 219.5 (O: -110 | U: -110)
Hornets at Raptors: Key Injuries
Hornets

SF Gordon Hayward (hip) questionable
C Cody Zeller (hand) out
Raptors

None affecting betting lines.

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Hornets at Raptors: Odds, betting lines, predictions and picks
Prediction
Raptors 114, Hornets 102

Money line (ML)
The Raptors (-400) will get right Thursday but we can’t justify laying -400 on a 2-8 team, or any team. They nearly pulled off a fourth-quarter comeback against the Warriors but blew a big fourth-quarter lead against the Blazers. A return to their artificial home court and an Eastern Conference opponent that began the season with much lower expectations will serve them well.

Charlotte is 2-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this year but the Raptors are well-rested and the potential absence of Hayward would be a big loss for the Hornets.

PASS and look to the spread.

Against the spread (ATS)
The RAPTORS -9.5 (+100) should be backed to win by at least 10 points. Toronto has the guards to match up well against Charlotte’s trio of Terry Rozier, Devonte’ Graham and LaMelo Ball, and the continued absence of Zeller will leave space for Raptors PF Pascal Siakam and C Cheap Chris Boucher Jersey in the paint.

Toronto is eighth in the NBA in steals and Charlotte is just 17th in turnover percentage. The Raptors commit more fouls than all but one team, but the Hornets rank just 25th in team free-throw percentage, so Toronto won’t be penalized as badly as it was late in the games against the Warriors and Blazers.

Over/Under (O/U)
The Raptors’ defense has been the most disappointing area of their game this season but a two-day rest and a tired opponent should see a more spirited effort, especially if Hayward needs to sit out. The Hornets are just 3-9 against the Over/Under and fall an average of 7.7 points per game below the line with 107 PPG scored and allowed.

The Raptors rely too heavily on 3-pointers and the Hornets are fourth in the league in 3-point defense.

Take the UNDER 219.5 (-110).

Want some action on this one? Place a bet at BetMGM now. For more sports betting picks and tips, visit SportsbookWire.com. Please gamble responsibly.

Also see:

James Borrego says it’s best for LaMelo Ball to come off the bench early in season (Lonzo Wire)
Art of the smokescreen: The thought process behind execs and agents leaking info (Hoops Hype)
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The Raptors lost two key pieces from last year; Cheap Serge Ibaka Jersey and Cheap Marc Gasol Jersey anchored their defense and Cheap Aron Baynes Jersey alone has not been able to replace their production. Nick Nurse had Toronto playing the second-best defense in the NBA in 2019-2020, but through 10 games this season they allow 113.6 points per 100 possessions, placing them in the 23rd percentile via Cleaning The Glass. Cheap OG Anunoby Jersey was a popular Most Improved Player candidate prior to the season, but his offensive skillset hasn’t taken “the leap” yet.

Toronto’s biggest issue this year has been the underwhelming play of Cheap Pascal Siakam Jersey. Coming off of a second-team all-NBA selection, Siakam is averaging 20.4 points per game on 31.0 percent from deep with one a 26.7 percent usage rate that lands him in the 94th percentile, per Cleaning The Glass. He’s only shooting 62 percent at the rim right now and his defensive impact metrics have gone down. It seems like the Raptors had a small margin of error after losing two important big men, and right now they’re just not cutting it. It’s hard to believe a team with Siakam and Cheap Kyle Lowry Jersey that’s coached by Nurse will be this bad for much longer, though.

The Raptors should be all set on the injury front; just Cheap Patrick McCaw Jersey (knee) will be out tonight.

The Hornets didn’t play bad defense yesterday, but their offense was horrible, though shots not falling was probably a big part of that. There has been one lasting problem for the Hornets’ offense in the early-going:

The Hornets’ offense has a tendency to stall out and turn into a grind, especially when Gordon Hayward isn’t playing well. Even with the new additions to the team and their improved ball movement (first in the NBA with a 73.8 assist percentage), they still don’t have enough shot-creation in the half-court to compete on a consistent basis. Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington’s shooting struggles don’t help, but again, Hayward is the only high-level shot-creator on the roster and he can’t be—nor should he have to be—perfect every single night. This problem was evident earlier in the year, but it seems to have reared its head again last night.

Here are some positive vibes for you all; Hayward did leave the game early last night with a hip injury, but he made the trip to Tampa to play the team from Canada. Hayward (left hip strain) is probable for tonight’s game. Now, let’s take a collective sigh of relief.

What to expect out of this game is beyond me. Toronto has been bad, but they’re not actually bad, so maybe they right the ship tonight? It’s gotta happen eventually. If the Hornets can hit shots tonight and keep up the intensity on defense they should be able to win, but if Hayward doesn’t play the chances of that happening drop significantly.