Too much Luka Doncic was one thing.
But the trip to Dallas got a whole lot worse than a 111-110 loss when red-hot Pascal Siakam slipped as he planted his foot on a humid court at the AT&T Center and went down late in the third quarter and did not return.
A right groin strain was the result and worse news could not have come for the visiting Raptors.
The Raptors are already down point guard Fred VanVleet, who has missed the past three games with a sore lower back.
To add Siakam to that, if VanVleet isn’t return to return, will put real pressure on the remaining three starters in a stretch of the schedule coming up with includes more games than off days.
The Raptors seemed down and out with the deficit as high as 16 after three quarters.
But Siakam’s departure seemed to rally the Raptors, who got it down to three points with six minutes remaining, right back in the game.
Scottie Barnes, quiet until the fourth quarter, came alive in a big way and almost brought the Raptors all the way back in this one.
A three with a little more than two minutes to go rimmed out that would have made it a two-point game.
The Raptors did get it down to a one-possession game when Precious Achiuwa made both free throws with 35 seconds to go.
Doncic, though, would hit one of his two free throws, giving him 35 points on the night — the ninth consecutive game of 30 or more — to basically put the game out of reach.
The game did have some fine individual performances outside of Doncic and Barnes in that fourth quarter. In fact, the reigning rookie of the year notched his first career triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
OG Anunoby became just the third player in the NBA in the past 10 years to have five or more steals in three consecutive games.
Offensively, he was stellar with 27 points and a healthy seven rebounds.
The Raptors are back home Sunday when they will host Chicago.
BOUCHER’S INFECTIOUS ENERGY
It should be tough to get noticed on a team that boasts a player the likes of Siakam, a lock-down defender like Anunoby, fast-rising talents like Barnes and Achiuwa, not to mention a sure-thing scorer like Gary Trent Jr.
But, somehow, Chris Boucher manages to do just that.
It starts with his entry into the game usually around the eight- or 10-minute mark, depending on how the starters are faring that night.
Boucher and Achiuwa get the call from the coach and immediately Boucher is up and racing to the table dropping layers of clothing as he goes.
When a member of the officiating crew signals in the duo, Boucher is again at full sprint, clapping his hands and getting himself amped for the play.
It may all seem a bit much for some, but it’s very much intentional on Boucher’s part. Over the course of last season and now through this early part of the season, Boucher’s role as team energizer has become a very important one.
It’s almost impossible not to get caught up in his excitement for the game. His arrival on the court and then the follow-up full-speed approach to everything he does on the court is exactly what a guy coming into a game can do for a team. It’s a spark. He re-ignites the fire that may or may not have been lost in the early minutes of the game for his teammates.
Head coach Nick Nurse seems almost floored by the consistency with which Boucher does this and, because of that, quite often overlooks some of the things that might otherwise earn Boucher a seat back on the bench.
Case in point was Wednesday night in San Antonio.
“Chris was awesome,” Nurse told reporters. “He was everywhere. Sometimes he doesn’t always do the right thing (follow the scheme) but he makes up for it by continuing to play really hard.
“He can cover his own mistakes with his effort and his length. He was everywhere tonight.”
Again, that was after the San Antonio game, but Nurse could have said that after just about any game this season and it would have applied just as well.
Boucher has found his niche and, while it may not be starting, it’s an important role and he has jumped in with both feet.
Remember just two seasons ago, in that lost year in Tampa with the entire team struggling, Boucher was a beacon of hope, the one guy that really seemed to improve.
A lot of that was simply opportunity. Guys went down with injury or COVID-19 and Boucher stepped into the void and became a focal part of the team’s offense.
With a return to Toronto and a new year in front of him, Boucher initially struggled no longer having that role, but he figured it out around Christmas and hasn’t looked back since.
In a season in which various teammates are already pitching their own names for year-end awards, it’s not a stretch to start thinking about Boucher as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
OG Anunoby has arrived and his abilities are fueling swarming Raptors defense
RAPTORS BLOG: Anunoby, Boucher, Siakam, Trent thriving so far