TORONTO – Norman Powell came down on the left side of the floor, just a few steps away from Toronto Raptors teammate Pascal Siakam, who trickled the ball across the pitch.
The two made eye contact and then, just one step inside the free-throw line, Siakam threw a sky-high blow, confident that Powell could climb the ladder and finish the ambitious-looking alley with an emphatic oops.
"I was just helping him realize his potential, that was it," joked Siakam on Tuesday afternoon, the day after this exclamation game in the Raptors' 133-113 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday evening. "He didn't know he had it, he didn't dive like that. Just make sure he knows he has it. This is my job."
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This big slam was part of Powell's 26-point outbreak as he continued his consistently strong game lately. On Monday, he scored at least 20 points in three consecutive games for the first time in his NBA career.
These three games also coincided with Powell's return to the starting line-up due to Fred VanVleet's injury. Powell has always performed better as a starter, but this season is more noticeable as his average of 17.6 points per game, 52.1 percent from the field and 43.9 percent from the three-point range than Starters are miles better than the numbers he pushed out of the bank (10.5 points, 44.8 percent field goal percentage and 31.1 percent from below).
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And both outside and inside the Raptors, people have noticed the big difference between the Powell that starts and the Powell that comes in reserve.
"Yes, that will certainly make me think again," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse after Monday's game when asked if Powell would return to the bench because of his game could when VanVleet returned to the lineup.
Following this idea, Sister was asked on Tuesday about the evolving scenario of choosing Powell or VanVleet in the star lineup and transformed into an apparent situation of a different kind.
"I don't know if it's Fred, so I'm hesitant to answer your question," said Sister after looking around the group of reporters in a funny, mocking way.
"I don't know it would be Fred. But yes, everyone wants to start," Sister continued. "We went through this a million times, didn't we? As with Serge [Ibaka] a year ago, we went through it with Jonas [Valanciunas]. "
And it seems the Raptors are going through it again – but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The versatility and malleability of the Raptors on the grid is something Nurse wants to do more to be better prepared in the postseason.
"From my past experience, we felt like we were always in a steady line-up, and then we suddenly stood in front of a team and had bad matchups to start the game," Sister said. “Then it was difficult, almost impossible, to have the conversations we brokered. How devastating this time of year.
"You start all 82 and then suddenly the playoffs come and you don't. So I think I'm just trying to reduce the destruction factor."
Siakam added: "Because we played with different casts all year round [last season] you feel comfortable on the floor with everyone."
Given that last season was over, experimenting with different lineup combinations, even on the starting lineup, isn't a bad idea for Nurse and the Raptors, especially if they have a good problem like the Powell and VanVleet -Dilemma.
Regarding the starters, in particular, there are a lot that go into deciding who starts the game.
"I think sometimes it just fits what guys might fit a little better with the first group or the second group, that's one thing. Or just a few people who may have increased their skill level and earned more minutes, and which put you in a starter rotation, and that's the easiest way to get there more minutes.
“And the other thing is, you remember that during the year I liked to use some flexibility in the starting line-up because I see in the playoffs that you have to do that sometimes. You may need to change your starting line-up, and it seems like a strange time to do it for the first time all year round or be so rigid all year round, and then suddenly make your team open-minded and flexible. So that would be another reason just to change it a little. "
The Raptors grid will have interesting decisions for Nurse, which may be based on these judgments being made sooner than later. VanVleet's knee appears to be almost completely healed, as he was seen in a single exercise exercise that looked explosive from dribbling and reached a good height when he jumped.
Sister said it was "unlikely" that VanVleet would play the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night, but he can't be too far from returning now.
A return where Powell, he or maybe someone else, could be forced into the bank.