Norman Powell Has Saved the Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are back.
Since dropping Game 3 to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Raptors have reeled off consecutive wins and returned the odds to their favor.
Prior to the start of the series, Toronto was 74.16% likely to beat the Bucks in the best-of-seven showdown. After Game 3, their odds sat at a better-than-you-might-think 47.18%, primarily because of their stellar play over a full 82-game sample relative to the Bucks' regular-season performance.
Now up 3-2, our algorithms give Toronto an 84.16% chance to advance.
All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry overcame their postseason struggles and played well in Games 4 and 5, and we can credit them for getting back to their usual levels, but perhaps the real catalyst in it all is shooting guard Norman Powell.
At the expense of Jonas Valanciunas, Powell entered Toronto's starting lineup for Game 4, which Toronto won 87-76 to tie the series at two games apiece.
Of the 10 Raptors to play at least 50 minutes in the series, Powell has, by far, the biggest impact in terms of net rating.
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And with Powell off the floor, the Raptors take the biggest hit.
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Now, that might sound obvious, especially if he's playing with the starters, who are suddenly playing to their potential, but Powell really has been a key part in all of this.
Among the 37 two-man lineups with at least 20 minutes in this series, just 17 have a positive net rating. Only 10 have net ratings greater than 3.0 points. Powell qualifies for seven of these two-man combos, and all seven are in the top 10 in terms of net rating, and he's part of the six best pairings the Raptors have in this series.
Sure, we can call it coincidence that Powell has been on the court when the Raps have played efficiently, but he's doing big things on his own.
Powell has shot 30 field goals in the series and has made 17 of them. He's eight for nine from beyond the three-point arc. That combines for a 70.0% effective field goal percentage.
Powell, who is 12 of 13 from the free-throw line, isn't just hot from three-point range. His 75.6% true shooting percentage is third-best all-time among guards with at least 30 field goal attempts in a single postseason.
A Big Advantage
Powell will cool down eventually, unless he maintains one of the most efficient shooting performances in postseason NBA history, but he has already done enough for the Raptors to avoid an early exit.
They're at least guaranteed a Game 7, and they're roughly 85% likely to win one of the next two games against Milwaukee.
And they just flat out wouldn't be there without Norman Powell.