Raptors fall flat in Tokyo, split exhibition series against Rockets

Toronto heads home to begin North American swing of its pre-season

Norm Powell (24) averaged 8.6 points-per-game last year and looks for an increased role with Kawhi Leonard's departure.  @Raptors

The defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors split their two-game series against the Houston Rockets in Tokyo after a 118-111 defeat on Thursday.

Marc Gasol returned for his first game action since winning the World Cup with Spain last month, but these exhibition games are less about the stars and more about establishing the bottom of the rotation.

Norman Powell performed well in both exhibition matchups against Houston. In Thursday’s loss, the shooting guard led Toronto with 22 points — tying James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the game lead — and was 5-for-7 from three-point range, a meaningful stat line for someone that is looking for a starting role on the Raptors.

That much was evident after the defeat.

“Honestly I approach this season pretty much the same way. I’ve set high expectations for myself,” Powell told reporters.

“I see the opportunity and I’m really focused on taking advantage of that in doing so in a way that best helps the team. I’ve never been a guy to put my own wants and needs ahead of the team,” he said. “I’m just trying to go out there and help any way possible, but also accomplish some things that I’ve set out for myself.

“I definitely want to be the starting two guard from the start of the season on Oct. 22.”

The Raptors’ lone 2019 draft pick, Dewan Hernandez, made his franchise debut. In his 12 minutes, the big man was able to score six points and grab two rebounds.

Even though the centre is likely destined for the G-League, there is still a competition for depth big spots beyond Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. Between Chris Boucher, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Hernandez, head coach Nick Nurse recognizes that there will be some roles to be won.

“Plenty of guys there, it’s not easy to weed it out (the rotation) this time of year but that’s part of the reason we play so many guys and limit the minutes of our veterans,” Nurse said.

One player that was able to play over 14 minutes on the court Thursday was newly signed Matt Thomas. The sharpshooter was able to score four points and secure two rebounds.

Winner of the Most Improved Player award, Pascal Siakam, netted 16 points in less than 22 minutes and Fred Van Vleet was able to get a double-double, scoring 10 points to go along with 10 assists.

The Raptors are heading home to play the Chicago Bulls to open up their North American pre-season at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday.

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Posted: Oct 10 2019 8:20 pm
Filed under: Basketball Sports