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Nobody, not even someone with the most vivid imagination possible, had Stanley Johnson hits game-winner on their Toronto Raptors bingo card.
But that’s what happened when Toronto beat Philadelphia on Wednesday in the penultimate regular season Raptors game of 2019-20. Johnson scored a tough bucket a bit earlier, then got a put-back after dishing out a nice near assist to seal the win.
There were contributions all around and the team rediscovered its outside shooting touch, after a couple of stumbles in recent games.
Chris Boucher continued to take advantage of a chance to get some playing time. For the second game in a row Boucher was one of the best players on the floor. Credit to him for putting in the work during the shutdown to get bigger and stronger. Boucher was quiet in the first half, then went off for 15 points, six rebounds and two of his four blocks in the final 24 minutes.
With OG Anunoby and Serge Ibaka getting the night off Toronto had no choice but to go small against the gigantic Sixers front-court. Predictably, Philadelphia started 7-for-7 in the paint in the opening quarter and built up a 16-point lead, but the size advantage wasn’t nearly as pronounced in the second quarter. And with Embiid and Al Horford playing just a combined two minutes in the third quarter, the Sixers lost all abilities to score in the paint, shooting 2-for-11 in that area.
The Sixers were coming off a loss where they didn’t have Embiid, Tobias Harris, Horford or Ben Simmons in the lineup so were sufficiently motivated. Still, things are really breaking down for them, a theme all season and with stars on minutes restrictions or mildly banged up for this one, it’s a wonder it was even a close finish at all. In the broader picture, barring Embiid turning into prime Hakeem Olajuwon (and even then) it’s hard to see them winning more than a game against Boston in the playoffs. They were my pre-season title pick by the way over the Clippers. Oops.
I’ve been watching basketball for decades now and can’t remember a player ever receiving a technical foul for yelling the hoops staple: “And One,” while shooting a shot. Until Kyle Lowry got lit up on Wednesday that is.
It was Lowry’s 13th technical foul of the season (14th to be precise, but one was rescinded), putting him tied for fourth in that category. His best friend DeMar DeRozan leads the NBA with 14, along with Draymond Green (who is done for the season with the Warriors not in the bubble) and Russell Westbrook who is now dealing with an injury issue. Lowry’s friend Marcus Morris also has 13 technicals.
It always seemed like the Raptors complained to officials more than most other teams and seeing DeRozan, Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas (11 technicals) right near the top of the leaderboard only confirms that eye test. Granted, all three of those guys create a ton of contact and are extremely physical, so it’s not like they’re complaining for no reason. Refereeing is a hard job.
Lowry has a shot at leading the league in charges drawn and technical fouls this season.
If I was asked for my All-NBA-Bubble team it would be: Damian Lillard (MVP); Devin Booker; Luka Doncic; Kawhi Leonard; James Harden.
Second team: T.J. Warren (a tough cut, but Kawhi and Harden have been MVP-level); Jayson Tatum; Giannis Antetokounmpo; Gary Trent Jr.; Fred VanVleet.
1 – Chris Boucher
2 – Norman Powell
3 – Tobias Harris
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