It might be hard to believe but the Toronto Raptors are offcially in the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.
On a night where the Raptors had all the excuses in the book to be below their best, they led for the majority of the night to beat the Houston Rockets 122-111.
A new coach, a big night for Kyle Lowry and continued hot form of Norman Powell contributed to the win so let's dive into it!
Ok, this headline is downplaying the unprecedented situation that faced the Raptors prior to their meeting with the Rockets.
In the hours prior to tip, the team announced that head coach Nick Nurse and five other members of the coaching staff would be placed in the NBA's health and safety protocol.
While many joked that Kyle Lowry may take player-coach duties, it was assistant Sergio Scariolo that took the main job. As if the situation wasn't crazy enough, TSN's Josh Lewenberg reported that Scariolo cleared quarantine protocols just hours prior after coaching the Spanish National Team at the EuroBasket qualifiers in Poland earlier this month.
The final sprinkle of salt in the wound came when Pascal Siakam was also placed in the protocol and ruled out for the game. Talk about a rocky start!
Coach @sergioscariolo will act as Head Coach tonight. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/xAXvTbmzrM- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 26, 2021
Lowry's big night
Fortunately for the Raptors, Lowry was able to shake off the disappointment of not getting the coaching call to casually put up a triple-double.
The veteran guard finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in 33 minutes of play.
Make that a triple-double for Kyle Lowry! pic.twitter.com/aJoseqYEtQ- TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 27, 2021
It was the 16th triple-double for Lowry, which trumps a total of 13 for the rest in franchise history.
An early tick in the box for Scariolo!
The shorthanded Raptors could ill-afford key players in foul trouble, so when Chris Boucher was charged with a third foul on a block attempt on Houston guard, Victor Oladipo, the stand in coach went to work.
.@sergioscariolo's career coaches' challenge record: 1-0 pic.twitter.com/hTfYrATYU8- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 27, 2021
Not only did the block look clean, Oladipo used his off arm to ward off Boucher in flight. The call was reversed and Boucher remained on the floor.
The important big man finished the night with seven points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Rockets skid continues without Wood
One of the surprises of the first stretch of the season, Houston have hit an extended skid.
It should be hardly a shock that the rough patch lines up with the absence of Christian Wood. Averaging 22.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, the 25-year-old was an early candidate for Most Improved Player until a serious ankle injury has left him on the sidelines.
The athletic big man missed his tenth straight game against the Raptors. The game was also Houston's tenth straight loss.
Those two things are very much related.
Starter Norman continues to sizzle
Norman Powell's hot streak continued against Houston, with the guard pouring in 30 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
The fact Powell continues to put up big numbers should hardly be a surprise when you look at his splits so far this season in 20 games as a starter.
While the raw box score numbers would be expected to go up with increased opportunity, it's the absurdly efficient shooting that stands out with Powell.
Powell has started the last 18 games in which he has been active, topping 20 points in 13 of those appearances.
Casual 27 points on 9/14 shooting for @npowell2404 pic.twitter.com/qRtLYqQ6tZ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 27, 2021
Both teams will have one night off. The Raptors will then host the Chicago Bulls, while the Rockets head home to meet the Memphis Grizzlies.
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