The bench represents the great unknown of this series. Since both teams romped through the first round so easily, neither Nick Nurse nor Stevens have had to show their hands just yet when it comes to just who exactly they believe they can tab to spell their starters.
The Raptors’ cloaks of secrecy surround Terence Davis and Matt Thomas. Both players have logged non-garbage time minutes against the Nets, most notably with Davis coming in for an energetic 12 minutes in Game 1, in which he scored 11 points and gobbled up four rebounds.
Next time out in Game 2 against the Nets, in the tightest game of the series, Davis didn’t see the floor. This was the first game the Mississippian hadn’t played in all season.
Thomas too has seen some leverage minutes against Brooklyn. However the three-point specialist hasn’t quite gotten in his rhythm yet.
Raptors commentator Matt Devlin brought up an interesting point during Game 3’s broadcast. During a pause in the action, he asked “when do trends become facts,” in reference to the slew of three-point shooting in the NBA.
It is now safe to say that the NBA is driven by the three ball, and even though Nurse has more experienced options on his bench in the form of Chris Boucher and Malcolm Miller, nobody can shoot it like Thomas. His usage will be especially intriguing against Boston, who are the second best team in the league at defending the three. And you can probably guess who’s first.
Even with these clouds of ambiguity forming over a couple of the Raptors’ bench pieces, the usual suspects of the bench mob are still carrying the load. Ibaka has been fantastic in relief of Gasol, and Norman Powell is putting his hat in the ring for the “Playoff P” moniker (because at this point, I’m assuming Paul George may no longer want it).
On the Boston side of things, Enes Kanter provides some scoring from the five. Meanwhile, rookie Grant Williams has established himself as a reliable bench option.
Aside from that, Coach Stevens is liable to go to anybody on his bench at any time. In the Celtics’ tight eight-point win over the 76ers in Game 3, five players off of the Boston bench logged double-digit minutes.
In contrast, in the Raptors’ tightest game with the Nets, a five-point win, only two Raptors from the second unit got into double digits. The Celtics have no problem extending their rotation during high leverage minutes, whereas the Raptors have been more apt to tax their starters in close games.
Will Stevens pull the reigns back against the tenacious Raptors? Or with Lowry’s status now up in the air, and the bench going for 100 points in Game 4 against the Nets, will Nurse lengthen his bench to keep up with the rangy Celtics?