The Toronto Raptors may be down, but they're not out, as evidenced by the team's performance in a dominant 20-point victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
TAKEAWAYS: Sizzling Raptors cruise past Cavaliers
On top of that, the Raptors have brought in a few reinforcements to add to their depth, inking Canadian centre Khem Birch for the remainder of the season and signing big man Freddie Gillespie to a 10-day contract.
While Gillespie made his Raptors debut on Saturday, Birch's signing became official just hours before the game but head coach Nick Nurse confirmed that the Montrealer will be available for the team's meeting with the New York Knicks on Sunday. Nurse, who has already developed some familiarity with Birch over the years, spoke highly of the 28-year-old and what he can bring to the team.
"I like Khem, obviously," Nurse told reporters post game. "And we've seen him play some good basketball against us in the playoffs in years past."
MORE: How Birch helps the Raptors
"I think he's a guy that could become a quality backup big man in this league," Nurse continued. "He's got some length and got some athleticism and some shot-blocking and some rebounding. I'm excited to have him and hope we can help him develop."
Listed at 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, Birch joins Toronto after averaging 5.3 points and 5.1 rebounds over 48 games with the Orlando Magic this season. Birch has recorded double-digit rebounds on six separate occasions this season, including three double-doubles and a 14-rebound performance against the Sacramento Kings in which 10 boards came on the offensive end.
Gillespie, who joined the team following a successful rookie season in the NBA G League, made his NBA debut Saturday night, finishing with six points, four rebounds and three steals in 18 minutes of action. After Gillespie's performance, TSN's Josh Lewenberg asked Nurse for a few first impressions of what he saw.
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"He was interesting, Josh," Nurse began. "I think two things really stood out, maybe three but one was (that) he's a really good screener. Man, he was crushing people on screens over and over again, it was nice to see.
"And he's got really strong hands. Anytime the ball would get near him, he'd - he's got some big hands and some strong hands - and he'd gobble it up really quick."
Gillespie, 23, is listed at 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds and earned a reputation as a hard-working rebounder and defender during his time at Baylor University and with the Memphis Hustle in the G League bubble. As difficult as it is to learn a new team's defensive approach on the fly, Nurse seemed to be impressed by Gillespie's awareness on that end of the floor.
"I would say the last thing was, I thought he made some really good defensive rotations, both inside and on the perimeter," Nurse raved. "He just kinda kept playing hard."
It's clear that each of these signings will bolster Toronto's frontcourt rotation, which will be key as the team looks to make a playoff push with fewer than 20 games remaining in the season.
Birch is set to make his Raptors debut on Sunday when the team heads to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sportsnet.
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