Two weeks ago, during a game against the Pelicans, my beloved Serge Ibaka succumbed to a twisted right ankle, and Lowry fractured his left thumb – luckily, it’s not related to the surgery he had earlier this year, although it is the same thumb. Two of our best were down for the count.
But we didn’t worry. Raptors fans know that when times are tough and the stakes are high, you can count on OG, Fred, and Pascal to pick up the slack.
But what happens when OG is temporarily out too? PANIC ENSUES!
Not for Nick Nurse. As if he hadn’t proven already that he knows how to react during a crisis, he decided to put his faith in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis, and Chris Boucher. He’s given them each more playing time and more responsibility, and boy has that ever paid off! Hollis-Jefferson, Davis, and Boucher have all stepped up, causing fans’ eyes to widen in surprise and their furrowed brows to smooth with relief.
Even Matt Thomas has been a pleasant surprise. Last Saturday, Thomas’ name was trending on Twitter, thanks to his two-for-two three-pointers, four-for-five fielders, and three defensive rebounds. His total of 10 points that game was a career-high. And on Monday versus the Hornets, he snagged another six points.
But back to the other three surprise powerhouses. Let’s consider the recent road trip games.
Chris Boucher’s performance in the two Los Angeles games was enough to prompt Coach Nurse to say that he’s “a guy who’s probably going to have to stay in rotation.”
We know that Terence Davis plays a solid defense, but it was a pleasant surprise to see his offense explode during the Raps vs. Lakers on Nov. 8. He racked up 13 points thanks to his 5-of-8 shooting and 3-for-5 three-pointers. He even snagged five rebounds.
It would be expected that Hollis-Jefferson would be nervous about covering the likes of Kawai Leonard and Lebron James since Rondae himself hadn’t been on the court for the last five games. Remarkably, though, the cool-headed defenseman held Leonard to zero points, all without committing a foul on the guy. And Lebron actually had his lowest-scoring game this season, thanks in no small part to Hollis-Jefferson’s skill.
On Wednesday when we played against Orlando, Davis had 19 points (a career-best!), Boucher had 14 points and 11 assists. In fact, Davis actually shot six points within his first 60 seconds of being on the floor. Whaaaat!
Hollis-Jefferson spent some time guarding rising star Terrence Ross and effectively shut down all three of Ross’ attempts. Actually, for the 27 minutes that Hollis-Jefferson was on the court, the Magic were outscored by more than 20 points. His presence was THAT effective.
Not to be forgotten, Chris Boucher managed some wicked rebounds and blocks at the rim during Wednesday’s game. His persistence and unflappable energy (especially after being spoken to by Nurse about following his instinct) have been an incredible asset for the Raps.
It seems to me that all three of these guys have earned extra playing time and extra respect over the last couple weeks. Even if Serge comes back to play tonight, or if he’s out until next week, Boucher and the other boys have proven their metal. They won’t be overlooked anymore.