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Guards lead­ing re­vi­tal­ized Rap­tors bench ... Ewing The­ory in ef­fect with Wizards and Wall? ... Three-point shoot­ing com­ing around ... Kawhi to Si­akam over the mid­dle

Sunday Sports - - GOLF -

Nick Nurse

fig­ures he fi­nally has his sec­ond unit fig­ured out af­ter quite a bit of ex­per­i­ment­ing.

“That’s a good crew,” Toronto’s head coach said

Fred VanVleet, Delon af­ter Wright, Nor­man Pow­ell, OG Anunoby Greg

and Mon­roe

had their way with Brook­lyn’s re­serves in Fri­day night’s 122-105 win.

VanVleet had helped sta­bi­lize things early with some stel­lar out­side shoot­ing, Wright had three steals, giv­ing the Nets fits all evening, Pow­ell slashed his way to the rim con­sis­tently, Anunoby scored eas­ily and Mon­roe was strong down low.

“We’re try­ing to get those guys to put in a lit­tle ex­tra work, pre- and post- prac­tice, and pre-game. On game day we’re re­ally try­ing to get them to­gether a lit­tle bit be­cause it looks like that’s the sec­ond unit now,” Nurse said.

“It’s taken us 45 games to fig­ure it out but it looks like if we’re healthy that’s the group. It should be a good group. It re­ally should.”

Things will change in a month or so when Jonas Valan­ci­u­nas is ready to take Mon­roe’s place, but, for now, the Rap­tors will run with this unit bar­ring any ail­ments creep­ing up with the starters.

VanVleet and Wright, along with now starter Pas­cal Si­akam, were the key forces in last year’s dom­i­nant bench mob and now that VanVleet is see­ing more time with Wright again with Kyle Lowry

back in ac­tion, it’s easy to see the chem­istry the two for­mer col­lege stars have with each other. They helped Toronto build its lead from 17 points to an in­sur­mount­able 24 in the seven min­utes span­ning the end of the third quar­ter and the start of the fourth.

“It’s two point guards. Both do dif­fer­ent things, but su­per high IQ and when he’s ag­gres­sive and locked in, get­ting down­hill, when I’m spac­ing the floor, me and Kyle, him and Kyle, it’s that two point guard look,” VanVleet ex­plained of his play along­side Wright. Nurse even briefly had all three point guards on the court at the same time.

“When it’s click­ing, we read each other very well. It’s nat­u­ral, it’s easy, it’s noth­ing forced, we just nat­u­rally fit each oth­ers’ games,” VanVleet said.

Nurse sin­gled out Wright’s play in the fi­nal 9.5 min­utes of the sec­ond as a key point of the game. Wright went +16 in that span as Toronto erased Brook­lyn’s five-point ad­van­tage and never looked back.

The bench com­bined for 60 points, two short of the sea­son high.

THE EWING EF­FECT?

John Wall

is one of the most gifted nat­u­ral tal­ents in the en­tire NBA, but some­times teams go on weird runs af­ter los­ing their top player for the sea­son. That idea, called The Ewing

Pa­trick The­ory, was named for Ewing,

the long-time New York Knicks cen­tre­piece, be­cause it was thought by some that the team played bet­ter when he was in foul trou­ble or out due to in­jury.

Wash­ing­ton went 20-21 with­out Wall last sea­son, 23-18 with him, but has been bet­ter with­out him this time around.

Wall was shut down af­ter Box­ing Day, had surgery ear­lier this month and will be gone un­til at least train­ing camp.

The Wizards host the Rap­tors on Sun­day af­ter­noon full

Bradley of con­fi­dence, with Beal

ram­pag­ing and the sup­port­ing cast find­ing its

To­mas Sa­toran­sky foot­ing.

has ca­pa­bly manned the point and the Wizards ar­rive 5-3 with­out Wall.

“They’re a good team,” VanVleet said

“I know there’s been ups and downs, they have strug­gled a lit­tle bit, in­juries and guys out and dif­fer­ent stuff go­ing on. But go­ing into the sea­son they were sup­posed to have a bet­ter team so the tal­ent is there.”

FIND­ING THE RANGE

Toronto had shot .427 on three-point­ers over the pre­vi­ous three games, mak­ing at least 10 treys in each, af­ter strug­gling might­ily to hit shots in re­cent weeks. The team then hit 10 on 38.5% shoot­ing through three quar­ters against Brook­lyn be­fore cool­ing off.

What’s changed? “I just think time,” Nurse said. “We think we stay with it, you keep giv­ing guys con­fi­dence, you look at the shots and you eval­u­ate ‘em pretty closely and they look like they’re pretty good. You tell those guys to make ‘em and keep tak­ing ‘em, let’s make sure we’re tak­ing the right ones and most of ‘em are the right ones, these are the ones we want to take in the film ses­sions, and we’re gonna step into ‘em and start mak­ing ‘em. And we fi­nally started do­ing that,” he said.

AROUND THE RIM

Si­akam com­mented af­ter the game that Lowry’s re­turn has prompted the pace to be picked up. “He just gets ev­ery­one go­ing,” Si­akam said. “He gets the tran­si­tion go­ing … al­ways knows where ev­ery­body is at.” At one point Leonard found Si­akam over the mid­dle on a long bomb, prompt­ing NFL com­par­isons … Toronto had 32 as­sists on 48 field goals against the Nets and the team is 8-0 when notch­ing 30 or more as­sists.

Raps for­ward OG Anunoby (right) was part of a unit that had their way with Brook­lyn’s re­serves in Fri­day’s win.

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