3. Gasol made huge impact with 2nd unit for Toronto
Imagine how well Marc Gasol will play for the Toronto Raptors once he knows all the plays.
At one point during the first half of their game against the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night, Brooklyn center Ed Davis gave Gasol an assist by trying to direct him to where he was supposed to set up during a Raptors’ offensive set.
By the fourth quarter, Gasol knew where he was going well enough to score 11 points in seven minutes on 5-of-5 shooting, including a 3-pointer, while adding three rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block during that span as the Raptors broke open a tie game to lead by as much as seven points.
Toronto led by four at the point Gasol exited with 4:34 remaining and in 22 minutes in his home debut as a Raptor, he had 16 points and six rebounds on 7-of-9 shooting.
Before the game, Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson commented on how big an addition Gasol is for Toronto as they battle the Milwaukee Bucks for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Atkinson was prophetic, as Gasol’s ability to pass and stretch the floor were a key difference in what was a two-point win for the Raptors.
The Raptors will be making another veteran addition in the next couple of days, as soon as former Net Jeremy Lin clears waivers after being bought out Monday by the Atlanta Hawks.
One dynamic with Toronto down the stretch — and they have one more meeting at Brooklyn on April 3 — is how long Gasol, who has made the eighth and ninth appearances off the bench in his 11-year NBA career in his first two games with the Raptors, will remain a reserve.
First-year head coach Nick Nurse has been liberal with his mixing and matching of starting units, but Serge Ibaka made his 45th start at center for the Raptors on Monday.
Nurse used Jonas Valanciunas — one of three players sent to the Memphis Grizzlies to get Gasol — primarily as a reserve.
For Brooklyn, meanwhile, the performance Monday of Gasol and Kawhi Leonard was another lesson in why developing or obtaining more star power will be the key to the next step in its rebuilding process.