On a night where the Toronto Raptors couldn't find a groove, it was Norman Powell who led them to victory.
In Toronto's 90-83 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday, Powell scored a career-high 33 points, doing so on 12-for-18 shooting from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range. He scored 19 points in the third quarter alone, which helped the Raptors turn a seven-point deficit at the half into a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
"Sometimes a guy just finds a groove in the middle of the game where there wasn't any for anybody," Fred VanVleet said of Powell afterwards. "He was the only one who was able to find some offensive flow there, so you want to ride that out as long as you can. He was huge for us in that third quarter."
Norman Powell exploded for a CAREER-HIGH 33 PTS on 67% (12-18) shooting in the @Raptors win! #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/aWJmJCEfT2- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) November 30, 2019
Powell is now averaging 12.7 points per game on the season, up from 8.6 points per game last season. Consistency, however, has once again been a problem for him at times. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse touched on it prior to the team's win over the Magic on Nov. 20, saying he wishes they could count on Powell to be a more consistent presence.
"We've seen some really great play, right? A little bit up and down. I mean, listen, I wish we could pencil him in for about 16 each night, rather than 26 one and zero the next, 21 and four, or whatever. But he's certainly capable, obviously. … He's been good. We're happy with Norm. He can be an impact player for us this year, more impactful."
The Raptors are a different team when Powell gives them a scoring punch. According to Basketball-Reference, Powell has scored 16 or more points in 36 games to this point in his NBA career. Toronto's record in those games? 27-9, giving them a winning percentage of a 62-win team.
The Raptors have been even more dominant when Powell scores 20 or more points, winning 13 of the 15 games in which that has happened.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that the Raptors are better team when Powell gives them a boost in the scoring column. First and foremost, he's one of Toronto's better 3-point shooters. Having someone who is shooting 43.3 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts - as Powell is doing this season - is a huge asset for a team built around Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, three players who are among the league leaders in drives per game.
Secondly, Powell is capable of putting the ball on the floor himself. He's not someone the Raptors can run their offence through, but he can get out in transition and attack closeouts. He had a couple of impressive drives against the Magic, his dunk off of a baseline drive against Evan Fournier being the most memorable.
Understand this 😤 pic.twitter.com/cy8hzLmZgS- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 30, 2019
To Powell's credit, he has been more consistent since being promoted to the starting lineup due to Lowry's injury. Whereas he's averaging 15.9 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting as a starter this season, he's averaging 8.8 points per game on 42.1 percent shooting as a reserve.
The problem? Powell could return to the bench as soon as Sunday, when Lowry is expected to return.
The Raptors can only hope Powell's recent play is what he needs to be more consistent for the rest of the season, whether he starts or comes off the bench.
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