Now that the season has come to an end for the Toronto Raptors, we’ve used the past week to grade how each key player on this season’s team performed in the playoffs, from Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam to Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Today, we’re revisiting the postseason of Norman Powell.
“He saved us. He saved our season. That’s his trademark.”
Those were the words of Fred VanVleet, used to describe Norman Powell’s clutch 23-point performance in the Toronto Raptors’ double-overtime win over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
– NBA Canada (@NBACanada) September 10, 2020
Being a season-saver is one heck of a trademark, that’s for sure.
Right when his team needed him the most, “Playoff Powell” rose to the occasion to help the Raptors force a Game 7, hitting clutch shot after clutch shot and scoring 15 of his 23 points in the two overtime periods to successfully deliver his signature performance of the postseason.
To be frank, Toronto could have used a little more “Playoff Powell” during the 2020 postseason.
In Games 1 through 5 of the Boston series, Powell averaged 8.6 points on just 35.7% shooting from the field. His scoring average up until that point in the series was largely impacted by his scoring 10 points (seven in the second half) and 16 points (13 in the second half) as the Raptors were blown out in Games 1 and 5, respectively. And while his play in the second half Game 5 may have allowed him to find his rhythm in Game 6, it shows that his averages in the second round aren’t necessarily indicative of his scoring impact in the series, or for the entirety of the playoffs.
In short, Powell’s postseason – and season as a whole – was a wild ride. The regular season showed us that Powell is at his absolute best as a starter, while we saw that his ability to find his rhythm off the bench wasn’t as much of a sure thing at times.
That he found ways to strive in varying roles speaks volumes about Powell, who finished the season averaging 16.0 points (18.7 as a starter, 13.2 as a reserve) and is technically still the league’s reigning Player of the Week, after earning the honour for games played during the last full week of action prior to the season’s shut down.
But let’s take a closer look at Powell’s scoring average as a reserve.
While his playoff numbers of 13.4 points on .490/.423/.793 shooting splits were on par with his regular-season averages, he only scored at or above that average four times in 11 postseason games:
|R1-G2 vs. BKN||32||24||11-17||64.7||1-6||16.7||Raptors 104, Nets 99|
|R1-G4 vs. BKN||24||29||9-14||64.3||5-9||55.6||Raptors 150, Nets 122|
|R2-G5 vs. BOS||31||16||6-15||40.0||4-11||36.4||Celtics 111, Raptors 89|
|R2-G6 vs. BOS||38||23||6-11||54.5||3-6||50.0||Raptors 125, Celtics 122 (2OT)|
Powell isn’t just a scorer but in a postseason where Pascal Siakam struggled, defences schemed to make life hard for VanVleet and Kyle Lowry played significantly high minutes, Toronto needed that consistent scoring punch from its athletic swingman.
Now, take into account that two of the above games were decided by 20-plus points, and it feels like “Playoff Powell” was only in full effect for two games in which his scoring swayed the outcome.
I do also want to highlight Game 3 of the Celtics series, where Powell scored eight points in 15 minutes despite picking up three fouls in the first quarter. Had he not been thrown off so early, he very well could have had another signature night in a must-win game that ultimately came down to the last possession.
As we know about the ending of Game 3, every point was important.
Overall, Powell had a few big moments this postseason but the team could have used a few more. As I penned following his Game 6 performance against the Celtics, “a big performance from Norman Powell was due.”
His signature performance coming in a must-win was timely, yes, but it also brings about questions of if the team could have advanced past Boston had he found his rhythm earlier in the series.
Regardless, without Powell, there’s no Game 7, and that will be the lasting memory of his postseason run.
Playoff Grade: B-
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.