One thing from every Toronto Raptors game last week: Erasing number one options

Toronto Raptors - Marc Gasol (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Marc Gasol (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Each week we bring you the most important play, stat, or moment from every Toronto Raptors game. This week’s highlights include Joel Embiid’s zero, Norman Powell’s emergence, and more.

The Toronto Raptors had an excellent week six, going 4-0 with two wins against top-tier opponents. In what appears to be the team’s final games without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, Toronto not only survived their absences, they thrived during them.

Now, with a fully healthy team, the Raptors will look to take commanding control of the Eastern Conference two-seed. With a vital December coming up, we should know a lot more about this Toronto team in just a month.

But that doesn’t mean we haven’t already learned plenty about this team. What did we learn from every game in an undefeated week six?

76ers game: Toronto Raptors know how to stop stars

The Toronto Raptors defense has been incredible stopping number one options so far this season:

No one in the NBA is posting figures like that. Toronto has clearly put an emphasis on shutting down number one scorers, and so far this season, it’s worked (They were 3-1 in those four games).

Obviously, Marc Gasol deserves credit for his individual defense on Embiid. However, to put it all on him misses the point. Toronto is scheming these players out of action, consistently throwing doubles and blitzes to take them out of the play.

Being the number one option is fun, unless you’re facing the Toronto Raptors.

Knicks game: Raptors have shown improved effort on the glass

Prior to the Raptors game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Toronto ranked 29th in the NBA in offensive rebounding percentage. Since that game, and the subsequent injuries to Ibaka and Lowry, they rank a respectable 15th.

The three biggest reasons why are: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris Boucher, and Terence Davis.

Toronto is grabbing an extra 16.7-percent of offensive boards when Davis is on the floor, 14.3-percent when Boucher is on the floor, 13.2-percent when Hollis-Jefferson is on the floor. These three junkyard dogs are going all-out every possession and oftentimes simply playing harder than opponents.

Balancing offensive rebounding with getting back in transition, is a tricky line. With less offensive talent due to injury, Nurse allowed the team to go board hunting more than he did when at full strength.

The only question is, can Toronto keep up this offensive rebounding when everyone returns?

Magic Game: Norman Powell looks more comfortable as a starter

  • Norman Powell off the bench: 8.8 points, 1.3 assists, and 1.5 turnovers in 24 minutes. 42.1% from the field. 29.0% from 3.
  • Norman Powell as a starter: 15.8 points, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 turnovers in 31 minutes. 48.1% from the field. 41.4% from 3.

Norman Powell is playing his best basketball of the season, and his improved play has lined up perfectly with his insertion into the starting lineup.

While it’s possible his improved is a result of typical shooting fluctuations a player experiences over the course of the season, that seems awfully coincidental. Powell has struggled with consistency throughout his career. Over the past 11 games, he’s shown improved consistency.

Unfortunately for Powell, he will likely return to the bench as soon as Lowry returns. Fred VanVleet has been incredible to start this season, and the risk of upsetting his confidence isn’t worth the upside of giving it to Powell.

Whether it’s the mental aspect of starting or whether he’s best suited to play off more talented players is unclear. However, it does appear definitive that Powell is more comfortable in the starting five. Soon, he’ll lose that opportunity.

Jazz game: Who can guard Pascal?

The list of players who can guard Pascal Siakam is shrinking at an alarming rate. You need to be quick enough he doesn’t blow by you, large enough he doesn’t finish over you, and strong enough he can’t post you. Royce O’Neale, of the Utah Jazz, is not those things.

Poor O’Neale was abused in this contest, going against a far superior player. Utah tried Bogdanovic for a little while, that didn’t work either. Again, the list of people who can guard Pascal Siakam is shrinking by the minute.

A few of the real athletic monsters like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, etc. have a shot. Anybody else, forget about it.

Next. OG Anunoby has taken the next step. dark

Make sure to checkout one thing from every game each Monday at Raptors Rapture.