Moments that (kinda) Mattered: Thomas, Boucher can provide sparks
Let's not get carried away.
The Toronto Raptors' 114-106 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday was a glorified scrimmage game. It had no bearing on the Eastern Conference standings, Giannis Antetokounmpo was out after having oral surgery and the Raptors played without Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and Serge Ibaka.
After the game Raptors coach Nick Nurse tried to tamper anyone's expectations.
"I don’t want to get too carried away," Nurse said. "A couple of guys play really well tonight in a game that was absolutely meaningless and [against] a team that wasn’t playing very hard against us. I don’t want to get too carried away."
But, as always, there are a few things worth looking into:
1: Matt Thomas
As Nurse said after Monday's game, the Raptors' playoff rotation is probably only going to go seven or eight deep when the playoffs start. It'll be the starting five — Lowry, VanVleet, OG Anunony, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol — with Norman Powell and Ibaka playing starter-like minutes off the bench. After that Nurse said the eighth spot will likely be based on the series and how things are going with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Terence Davis II, and Chris Boucher potentially working in some very minor minutes.
There is, however, a situation in which the Raptors could use some Matt Thomas minutes. It's the situation the Raptors saw on Sunday night when they took on the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto just could not hit a 3-point shot early in the game.
After shooting 1-for-9 from 3-point range in the first quarter, Nurse brought Thomas into the game to start the second and immediately ran a play to free him up for a 3-point shot, which he promptly hit.
"I was searching," Nurse said after Sunday's game. "I was ready to put some new energy and some different shooters out there just to see if we could make em. Just trying to end the dry spell and get a spark and thankfully he knocked a couple down."
Thomas has no trouble nailing 3-point shots, he's shooting nearly 49% from deep this year. He went 4-for-8 from 3-point range against the Bucks, but it was his midrange game that seemed the most impressive. He repeatedly whizzed around screens and nailed pull-up jump shots in front of dropping Bucks defenders.
Though Thomas still has a ways to go to become a regular rotation player for the Raptors, especially on the defensive end, he could certainly be a sparkplug for short bursts if Toronto's offense stagnates in the playoffs.
2: Chris Boucher
The story is very much the same for Chris Boucher. The Raptors did not use a big other than Gasol or Ibaka in any meaningful playoff action last year and that will likely continue this year when the playoffs start.
While Boucher can't nail 3-pointers like Thomas, he can provide a spark off the bench with his energy. He has an uncanny ability to block 3-point shots, which he showed again on Monday, blocking two Bucks' 3-pointers.
Offensively, Toronto won't want him shooting 3-pointers, which he makes at a 30% clip, but he can certainly get out and run in transition, which he showed with an impressive slam dunk on Monday.
“I probably wouldn’t have finished it last year so that’s where the strength comes in," Boucher said. "Moments like that and finishing offensive rebounds, that’s where I see it the most."
The pair will likely get another chance to show what they can do when the Raptors play the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.