As Raptors coach Nick Nurse tries to decide which of his bench players he trusts the most, which of them can be counted on when the intensity of the NBA playoffs arrives, he is looking for the guys who are not going to screw up that often.
Nurse knows that a perfect game is impossible to ask for but minimizing mistakes is a sure way to get the coach’s attention.
He has seen enough in spurts over the last couple of weeks to think than any one of the bench group can get the job done. Now the players have to prove to him they can do it more consistently.
With five starters, one of Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka — whichever centre doesn’t start — and Fred VanVleet making up Toronto’s top seven, there’s not much space left in a playoff rotation that likely won’t stretch to more than nine players.
OG Anunoby, Jeremy Lin, Norm Powell and the suddenly resurgent Patrick McCaw can all lay claim to one of those last two berths if they maintain some consistency.
Nurse rattles off all of their positives, which is basically making sure no player is a negative.
“Jeremy, Norm, OG, Patrick McCaw. What can they give us defensively, first and foremost, and then what can they limit mistake-wise offensively?” Nurse said.
“That’s what OG has done. He’s been pretty out of the way, mistake-free, made a few shots, made a few cuts gotten on the glass. Patrick McCaw, the same. I kind of like the decisions that Jeremy has made. He just hasn’t made enough of his shots. And Norman, we’ve got to limit the turnovers with that unit.”
Nurse isn’t ready to decide exactly who plays for how long because each night presents different problems to solve and the versatility in the second group is good to have.