The team that perfected modern-day load management in the NBA may benefit from it as this season winds down.
The Raptors managed a regular season-long rehab program with Kawhi Leonard so well in 2018-19 that it ended with an NBA championship. Toronto and the San Antonio Spurs have been two of the more cautious teams when it comes to resting key players for a game here or there with a long playoff run in sight.
Looking at the last 10 days and six games of this regular season, you can certainly see a path to the Raptors catching a break or two. They play Boston twice and Philadelphia and Milwaukee once each. Those are the top three teams in the East and, when the last week rolls around, they could be looking ahead to the platoffs and giving big-time players nights off.
If the Celtics and Sixers are still locked in a tooth-and-nail fight for the second seed, they may go all out. But history suggests they will be more concerned with rest than home-court advantage in a possible second-round matchup. And the Bucks, who have basically sewn up first in the East, need to be careful with Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez.
No one in the Raptors organization is going to point to the possibility of opponents resting players as a positive because they’ve seen this group lose to under-manned teams many times this year. But it has to be on their minds and it will come to the forefront even more as the last week approaches. And if they catch a break with teams resting players, they’re going to feel doubly good about load management.
Scoring record minutiae
It took some media room time plumbing rabbit holes but it turns out there’s a lot more minutiae to the scoring record the Raptors broke Tuesday night. They scored 49 points in the first quarter against Denver, breaking the previous franchise record for points in a quarter by one.
That 1997 game in New Jersey had some quirks. In what turned out to be a 123-106 Toronto win, only three Raptors made three-point field goals: Damon Stoudamire, Walt Williams and Doug Christie.
But the oddest moment may have come on the Nets side. Yinka Dare, who had jumped centre against Ed Pinkney on Nov. 3, 1995 in Toronto’s first game, had an assist for the Nets in that game, the first of his career. He had played 79 NBA games and about 758 minutes without registering a single assist.
Dare finished his career with four assists in 110 games spanning 1,002 minutes.
VanVleet respects Murray
Fred VanVleet truly appreciates someone with understated excellence.
“I love Jamal (Murray),” VanVleet said Tuesday. “He’s probably one of the better players in the league without the accolades at this point. I don’t know if he’s made an all-star or all-NBA team at this point — he’s got a nice contract — but he’s a tough, tough matchup every night and he plays the right way.
“He’s a competitor, he’s feisty and I love playing against him. He’s a really tough matchup, one of the better guards in the league, for sure.”
Trent struggling as sixth man
One of the things Raptors management is watching closely is how Gary Trent Jr. handles sixth-man duties as a shooter off the bench. It’s where some of the team’s decision-makers have long thought he was a good fit and, with the 23-year-old facing likely free agency this summer — he has a player option — that’s the role the Raptors are likely to have for him next year.
He has been underwhelming the last eight games in that role, shooting just 33 per cent from three-point range and 39 per cent from the field overall, with three games of 10 or fewer points and only one of 20 or more.
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