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PORTLAND — The Raptors got one win and almost a second in a pair of games in which they were double-digit point underdogs.
By any level of measurement, that’s a success.
But it’s not all good news. They leave Los Angeles even a little more banged up than they came in, losing OG Anunoby to an eye injury. Anunoby has a bruise to his right eye and will miss at least Wednesday’s game here at the Moda Center.
That’s three starters down so far on this road trip with tough games in Portland and Dallas still to come.
But there were definite gains made here, too.
Beyond the confirmation that these Raptors are a hard team to play against no matter who opposes them, a three-day stay in Los Angeles revealed Toronto’s depth isn’t the barren wasteland it once seemed.
The injuries to Pat McCaw and then Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka forced Nick Nurse and his staff to explore that depth probably sooner than they were hoping to.
The result was a pair of standout games from Chris Boucher and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and enough flashes from Terence Davis II that it now looks like the Raptors may just be able to survive the injury absences without having to bring new bodies into the mix, though that remains an option.
The lanky Canadian Boucher, in just two games, has seemingly secured himself opportunities at least for the next few weeks and likely beyond that.
“He’s good,” Nurse, still hot under the collar over some very lenient officiating, said after Monday’s hard-fought loss to the Clippers. “He’s got a little bit of game outside and inside, blocking some shots, pretty good rebounder down there, as well, and he plays pretty fearlessly. He’s been good, really good to see in two games, a guy that’s going to probably have to stay in the rotation.”
It’s the fearlessness that stood out. Sunday against LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Boucher stood in there at times with one or the other driving hard down the lane, absorbed the contact and either outright blocked or altered the shot. Then he did it again the next night.
There was a play in Monday’s game where Montrezl Harrell turned and came at the rim full-force with both hands on the ball, basically daring anyone to step in his way. Boucher, all 200 pounds of him — and that number may be somewhat inflated — came from the weak side and threw himself at the charging Harrell with his own two-handed block. Boucher wound up on his back but he earned that block.
Boucher gives away 40 pounds to Harrell, who had a running start at the basket. Boucher pivoted from one side of the key to the other before flinging himself at the charging Harrell. It wasn’t quite David versus Goliath, but it wasn’t far off.
As impressive as that looked from the outside, for Boucher that’s simply the way he has to play the game. There is no alternative. He knows he’s not as big as many of the guys he has to take on, but that’s not going to stop him from trying.
“I’ll be honest, I’ve always felt I kind of want to play fearless, no matter who I play,” Boucher said after the game. “Obviously there are a lot of big bodies over there. But this is the NBA. If I want to be in this league, I’m gonna have to play guys like that. I don’t really think about it.
“If I’m here, I’m good enough to figure it out, play off of my energy and compensate for some of the other stuff.”
We didn’t get a chance to ask Boucher how he “compensated” for that “other stuff” on the Harrell play as the Canadian was heading out of the arena at the time for a much-needed rest, or perhaps some relaxation, but the answer would be interesting, we’re sure.
Boucher’s two games in Los Angeles consisted of a total of 46 minutes and 25 seconds of court time in which he scored 28 points on 12-of-21 shooting including 4-for-9 from distance, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked five shots.
It was the most extensive and impactful two games of his young NBA career and he wants to keep it rolling.
“I’ve been waiting a long time, Boucher 26, said. “For me, it’s just trying to get better every time, trying to close outside (noise) and just focus on the team. These guys have confidence in me. Coach has confidence in me and it helps me a lot. I know what I’m supposed to do, just stay focused on the right things.”
The opportunity is going to be there for at least the next few weeks. What Boucher does with it over these next few weeks can change the trajectory of his young NBA career.
Boucher knows that and he’s ready tor it.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019