Thursday is go time for the Toronto Raptors as they push for the playoffs

TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Chris Boucher #25 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - MARCH 03: Chris Boucher #25 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /

With only a day left before the start of the second half of the 2020-2021 NBA season, it’s worth taking a quick look at the last two games the Toronto Raptors played pre-break and then delving into the minutiae of who needs to show up, who needs to step up and what needs to be effected in order to move the team forwards towards securing a playoff spot.

First things first. The embarrassing loss to the last place Detroit Pistons on March 3rd was just that- an embarrassment. Although they didn’t win the back-to-back game the next night with Boston, at least the Raptors tried hard. Damn hard.

It was a game that embodied the championship spirit of the 2019 Raptors. The grind, and never-give-in-never-give-up spirit that the Raptors are noted for was there in spades. It feels like this component – the esprit de corps – is what has been missing in the first half of this season.

So what is working with the team? And what isn’t? And just as relevant, who is missing on the court- and I’m not just talking about the absence of Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam.

Where can the Raptors improve in the second half?

Let’s start with Aron Baynes, who is currently averaging 6.3 points per game in the 33 games he has played this season. In his 2019-2020 run with Phoenix, he averaged 11.5 points per game in his 42-game play. Big difference.

It is hopeful as we move forward, however, to look at some of the comparative stats between Baynes and Marc Gasol, especially in light of all the swirl regarding that trade. Currently, Gasol is averaging 4.8 points per game, (versus Baynes 6.3) and Gasol’s rebounds are 4.1 to Baynes 5.4.

Now that Baynes has 33 plus games under his belt as a Toronto Raptor, here’s hoping he will show the promise everybody was looking for when acquiring him.

Will Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher stabilize the Raptors?

Admittedly, the basketball gods have been tough on Siakam these past few months, but definitely seems to be getting his groove back, in his confidence as well as his points, (20.1 points per game). He is once again beginning to light up the court. Chris Boucher, who says his three-point success is down to hard work, is becoming a reliable, own-the-ball consistent player.

Interestingly, predictions from FiveThirtyEight give the Raptors a 93% chance of making the playoffs, but only a 6% chance of making the finals. The Raptors have defied the odds time and time again over the years,

If Toronto’s key players in Anunoby, Siakam, and VanVleet can get healthy, all the while keeping Boucher’s trajectory promising and DeAndre Bembry’s juice alive, with the grinding determination with which this team played in the last game of the first half against Boston, they could easily cement themselves among the East’s elite.

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