Norm Powell continues a December to remember, powering the Raptors past Cleveland

Norm Powell’s basketball skills are undeniable even if his consistency and decision-making have always been suspect.

He is now, however, enjoying his best run in five seasons with the Raptors and you can almost feel the confidence pouring out of him every night.

Powell was at it again Monday, scoring 26 points in a 133-113 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers that was just a continuation of a wonderful couple of weeks for the 26-year-old guard.

In eight games in December, five as a starter, Powell has averaged 18.7 points while shooting 56.5 per cent from the field and 44.1 per cent from three point range. So will coach Nick Nurse contemplate a change to the starting lineup when Fred VanVleet returns from a bruised knee?

“Yep, it certainly will make me reconsider it,” the coach said.

Powell was 11-for-15 from the field Monday with four steals and five assists.

“I’m just being able to read what the defence is doing, how they’re playing, where their bigs are at, whether it is a finish or a kick-out or a drop-off to the bigs, just taking what the defence is giving me and being aggressive and thinking try to go up there and dunk the ball, even if I’m not dunking it,” Powell said.

“That mindset gets me there aggressively and (I’m) able to finish whatever it is, left, right, just reading the defence and playing my game.”

Powell’s performance against the 6-21 Cavaliers was just one of a handful great offensive games from the Raptors. Pascal Siakam had 33 points, Kyle Lowry had a 20-point, 11-assist double-double and the Raptors shot 58.4 per cent from the field.

Toronto, however, hardly defended well. The Cavs, 26th in the league in field-goal percentage coming into the game, shot 48.9 per cent.

“I think there wasn’t a ton of defence going on either way, but that’s OK,” Nurse said. “Again, you look at the numbers, we shot the ball well (and we had) 31 assists so (there were) a lot of guys with some pretty good nights there.”

  • Feeling old: Darius Garland, the 19-year-old Cavaliers guard, is the son of Winston Garland, who played seven NBA seasons and more than 500 games with five teams.

Before his NBA career, Winston Garland was a star at Missouri State University, a rival of Northern Iowa, Nurse’s alma mater.

“I said to a bunch of my teammates today, this is one of the first days I’ve really felt old in my life,” Nurse joked before Monday’s game when asked about the teenage Cavalier. “His old man and I are the same graduating class in the same conference.

“I think I held him to 29 in my senior year, and that’s back when the team scored about 45, you know what I mean? I was all over him. His father was a hell of a player.”

  • Noncommittal: Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson rightfully could not commit to playing for Canada in June’s Olympic qualification tournament because he will be about to become a free agent. He did, however, have words of praise for Raptors coach Nick Nurse.

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“He’s real close with one of our old (Cleveland) coaches, Phil Handy, so we’ve always had a relationship,” Thompson told reporters Monday morning. “And for him to take time out of his summer, especially after winning a championship, to coach the national team says a lot about his character and how much he cares about Canada Basketball.”

  • Up next: A quick trip down the 401, or a short flight right over it, and a game Wednesday at 7 p.m. in Detroit.
Doug Smith


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