It's no secret that the Toronto Raptors have been lacking frontcourt depth all season.
After losing two key big men in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in free agency this past offseason, the centre position has been a revolving door for the Raptors.
While Montreal, QC product Chris Boucher has been solid this season in a role off the bench, his thin frame has prevented head coach Nick Nurse from utilizing him as a starter, especially against bigger opposing frontcourts. But with a number of players out due to injuries and health and safety protocols, Nurse had no choice but to slide Boucher into the starting lineup over the last four games.
Yet to face a truly dominant big man in each of the first three contests against the Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards or Los Angeles Lakers, (although Gasol put forth his best performance of the season against his former team), Boucher hadn't truly been tested in matchups against opposing bigs that Nurse typically would have avoided. Facing a crucial opponent in the Chicago Bulls - the team holding the final Play-In Tournament spot ahead of Toronto - Boucher would finally be tested against a 6-foot-11, 260-pound All-Star centre in Nikola Vucevic.
And he responded with the best performance of his career.
MORE: Raptors come up short vs. Bulls despite Boucher's career night
The shorthanded Raptors would come up shy of a much-needed win, but Boucher did everything he could to keep his team in the game. Going for a career-high 38 points and 19 rebounds while shooting 14-for-24 from the field and 3-for-7 from 3-point range, he made his presence felt in a way that appeared to be personal.
And that's because it was.
"I've been getting bullied ... and I've had enough of that," he told the media following the loss, according to Sportsnet's Michael Grange.
Keeping Up With The Canadians 🇨🇦- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) April 9, 2021
Chris Boucher | vs. Chicago
38 POINTS (CH)
3 THREE POINTERS
19 REBOUNDS (CH)#WeTheNorth | @Raptors pic.twitter.com/X01tLAg82Y
Boucher's performance was not just historic for himself as a player, but something that the franchise hasn't seen in over a decade. He became the first Raptor since Hall of Fame nominee Chris Bosh in 2010 to put up 35-plus points and 15-plus rebounds in a game.
And although +/- is far from perfect, he was clearly Toronto's best option as a big man, going a team-best plus-16 in a game it lost by nine points, while reserve centre Aron Baynes was tied for a team-worst minus-22.
With frontcourt help reportedly on the way in the form of another Montreal native, a bulkier 6-foot-9, 233-pound centre Khem Birch, and a lengthy and wiry forward in 6-foot-9, 245-pound Freddie Gillespie, this may have been a statement performance from Boucher.
MORE: How Birch can help the Raptors | Fast facts on Gillespie
While Toronto needs all the assistance it can get up front, Boucher looked to make it clear that he was this team's premier big before his new teammates come to town.
The Raptors will have a chance to get back in the win column over the weekend, with a matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday and New York Knicks on Sunday.
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