Former Oregon Ducks star Chris Boucher carving out bigger role with Toronto Raptors

0
7


It took Chris Boucher less than a minute to make an impact on Monday night as the former Ducks star was back in Oregon with his Toronto Raptors to take on the Portland Trail Blazers.

After checking in off the bench at the 4:37 mark of the first quarter, Boucher grabbed a defensive rebound, then drilled a three-pointer to put the Raptors up 21-11. Moments later, Boucher put in a layup, drew a foul on CJ McCollum and converted the three-point play.

By the end of the night, on his 28th birthday, Boucher would log a season-high 32 minutes, drain 5 of 8 three-pointers, score 20 points, pull down eight rebounds and block three shots.

Of course, Boucher would have preferred to leave the Moda Center with a victory. Instead, the Raptors lost by one point for the second consecutive night, falling 112-111 to the Blazers to drop to 2-8 on the season.

Even as the Raptors have struggled, the 6-foot-9 Boucher has been a bright spot. He has carved out a significant role off the bench and averaged 14.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game — all career highs.

Those numbers are similar to Boucher’s averages in his final season at Oregon in 2016-17, when he averaged 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks as he and Jordan Bell gave the Ducks a stellar defensive tandem before Boucher suffered a torn ACL during the Pac-12 tournament.

Now in his third season with the Raptors, Boucher has hit the 20-point mark four times in 10 games after doing so just three times in 62 regular-season games last season. Boucher is hitting threes at a clip of 47.2% and ranks No. 2 in the league in player efficiency rating at 27.97.

“I think when the preseason started, I started on a bad foot, just not playing with a lot of energy,” Boucher told reporters Monday night. “Coach (Nick Nurse) told me I can’t have a day off, especially coming off the bench, I got to be ready all the time. I just started focusing on those things and just trying to be consistent and find a way to help the team, no matter what it is.”

Against the Blazers, Boucher started the second half and played the final 7:46 of the fourth quarter as the Raptors tried to hold off the Blazers in crunch time.

“He’s playing at a super-high level,” Nurse told reporters. “I think we all know he’s continued to grow each and every year. But yeah, he’s certainly been a real bright spot. I think, again, he plays with great tenacity always and I think that always puts you in good position.”

The Raptors, who are playing their home games in Tampa, Florida, because of travel restrictions in place in Canada amid the pandemic, now head back to Florida after going 1-3 in their four-game trip to the West.

But after dropping those three games by a combined 10 points, Boucher said there were positives to take away from the trip.

“You can tell we’re back to playing Raptors basketball and I think everybody started seeing a little bit of flash of the way we could play,” Boucher said. “We’ve just got to be able to finish games.”