WOLSTAT: Back at .500, next test for Raptors will be mighty Sixers and Embiid


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Full credit to the Toronto Raptors for battling back from that ugly 2-8 start to get back to .500 thanks to a win in Friday’s equally ugly game over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“I don’t think we’re in a position to be complaining about ugly wins. A win is a win and we’ve gotta take ’em,” said Fred VanVleet afterward.

Wins in eight of 11, following three straight defeats got them there. All of a sudden, it’s a new season. Sweep the Sixers and Toronto would inexplicably be only three games out of first place. Wild.

But beating the Sixers even once will be a tall challenge because the most dominant centre since Shaquille O’Neal, Joel Embiid, is playing out of his mind and coming off a 50-point game.

Marc Gasol isn’t around anymore to give Embiid fits, so what are Toronto’s options?

Aron Baynes is the only player on the roster with the size to bother the gigantic Embiid at all, so there are six fouls to work with there. Chris Boucher and Pascal Siakam are too slight and OG Anunoby is strong enough, but not tall enough. They have the parts to bother Embiid when he puts the ball on the floor, but not if he plays big. And if they let him fire away from the mid-range, well, Embiid is now a DeMar DeRozan-like marksman from out there. He isn’t settling for three-point shots anymore and has gotten even more dangerous. It won’t be easy. If Toronto double-teams him, Daryl Morey has stocked the Sixers with a bevy of three-point specialists.


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Also, it looked like the Raptors might avoid Philadelphia’s other all-star, Ben Simmons, who missed Friday’s game, but the Sixers listed Simmons and scoring guard Shake Milton as probable for Sunday, while Kyle Lowry is listed as doubtful. That makes the challenge of slowing Embiid even tougher.

But Nick Nurse and his staff find ways to bother the NBA’s best players as well as any staff in the league. Don’t mark Embiid down for 35 points as a given.

During this 8-3 run Norman Powell has shot 49% on pullup three-point shots — better than Stephen Curry and Duncan Robinson and about equal to Kevin Durant — and he’s 31st in the league in scoring in that span, with one of the top effective field goal percentages. He’s also shot 57% on pull-ups and Nurse lauded him for his improve defence too. Powell’s been nothing short of spectacular.


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Colleague Josh Lewenberg of TSN noted of Toronto’s long climb back to relevance that the club had spent nearly seven full years without falling below .500 before falling on opening night and stumbling out of the gates. It took nearly three months, but they are back to where we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing them.


Pascal Siakam put on a clinic of how to have a great game despite being just OK, or worse, offensively. Siakam was as good as he’s been all season defensively, covering all kinds of ground, blocking shots, hitting the boards and continued his trend of passing the ball well (he could have had 10 assists, instead of six, had his teammates hit shots at a normal level).

Malachi Flynn had his roughest appearance yet. He looked like he was forcing things and looking for his shot too much after dominating in the G League.

Chris Boucher became the third Canadian to start for the Raptors. Assistant coach Jamaal Magloire started once, Cory Joseph 26 times over two seasons.

Congratulations to the Canadian men’s national team for their fine work at FIBA qualifying and to Jamal Murray, for setting a Canadian scoring record, with 50 points.


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What an interesting day for Terence Davis. He helped the Raptors win the game big-time. Would caution the 80% of people on social media who seem to be running with the idea that because five of the seven charges he was facing were dropped that the woman involved made everything up and Davis surely did nothing wrong to be smarter.


1 — Norman Powell

2 — Pascal Siakam

3 — Jordan McLaughlin


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