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Gasol gives Raptors taste of what he brings to the table


Life for Marc Gasol has been very different over the last few days, to say the least.

Following over a decade with the Memphis Grizzlies, the 34-year-old was shipped to the Toronto Raptors just before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. Although his new squad has plenty of familiar faces on it, everything that he’s experiencing right now is very fresh.

He had to get his affairs in order, join the Raptors in New York, and attempt to soak up as much information as possible ahead of Toronto’s clash with the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Another big difference between life with the Grizzlies and his new reality with the Raptors was where he started the game: on the bench.

After years of being the biggest star in Memphis, his debut with Toronto was the first time he watched the opening tip of an NBA game while healthy from the sidelines since Dec. 26, 2008. By starting Saturday’s contest on the bench, his streak of 740 straight starts was broken.

Based on his performance, it didn’t appear to concern him very much at all.

Marc Gasol takes a shot in his debut with the Toronto Raptors against the New York Knicks on Saturday night. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Gasol stepped onto the hardwood with 2:20 remaining in the first quarter and the Raptors down 23-17. Although he hadn’t been with the team long, the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year looked comfortable patrolling the defensive end and quickly contributed to the offence. A player well-known for his intelligence of the floor, those two things should come to no surprise.

In a close contest against the lowly Knicks, Gasol provided a level of calm for the short-staffed Raptors who were struggling from the field. He defended the paint, moved the ball very nicely and rebounded effectively.

Early in the second quarter, he scooped up his first points in the black and red.

First of many buckets to come.@MarcGasol | #WeTheNorthpic.twitter.com/cxl4CYWZru

— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 10, 2019

Then, with Toronto holding onto a slim three-point advantage late in the third quarter, he likely gained some respect from his new co-workers by taking a charge from Kevin Knox.

By game’s end, he helped the Raptors come away with a grimy 104-99 victory. He finished with seven points, six rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist in 19 minutes of action.

The win boosted Toronto’s record to 41-16 while New York dropped to 10-45.

Gasol’s night wasn’t overly flashy, but that wasn’t expected from the new big man. He simply does what he does very well and on a consistent basis.

It’s exciting to think that as he settles into the organization and their systems, we should expect his impact on games to continue to grow. There’s no doubt that he’ll be a big part of this squad as the Raptors inch closer and closer to what has the potential to be the most exciting postseason in franchise history.

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