Raptors’ Norm Powell fuelled by pivotal NBA playoffs dunk

Raptors guard Norm Powell revisited a career-defining moment when he helped contain Paul George during the Raptors’ playoff series win in 2016.

The Indiana Pacers were in town and Norm Powell was chatting with the media so of course the play that catapulted him into Toronto Raptors lore came up.

It was Game 5 of a first-round playoff series last spring and the Raptors were reeling, down double digits in the fourth quarter of a crucial game.

They made a run, closed the gap and Powell’s steal and thunderous breakaway dunk tied the game to complete the rally; the Raptors went on to win that game and their first seven-game series ever.

It was, in hindsight, a season-saving, historical moment and Powell can’t get away from it.

“Everybody talks about it,” Powell said Friday morning before the Pacers and Raptors met at the Air Canada Centre. “You see it every now and then on NBA TV Canada when we’re at Biosteel (the team’s practice facility) for breakfast they’re showing that play. It definitely was a big play for me.”

That play was part of a breakout post-season for the then-rookie Powell. Indiana’s Paul George had been scorching the Raptors when coach Dwane Casey tabbed Powell to try and get him under control. It certainly wasn’t a one-man accomplishment but Powell’s success caught everyone’s eye.

“It meant a lot for me to go out there and show what I can do and (to) be called upon to guard Paul George in the playoffs is what I look forward to, it’s what I work for,” Powell said. “I was just going out there tying to make an impact on the defensive end.”

SEEN AND OVERHEARD: There are spies everywhere, which is why Dwane Casey says one of his biggest jobs in the final 12 days of the NBA regular season is to instill more offensive rhythm into his team, especially its newest members.

“Right now we still have to talk to Serge (Ibaka) and tell him what to do, whereas guys who have been here three or four years, you call out a play, they’ve got it automatically, and you can go out of the box and get an old play from the past, and you’ve got it automatically,” Casey said Friday.

“The other night, I think Cory (Joseph) was explaining to Serge what to do. Guess what? The other team is standing there, too. They’re not deaf. They’re standing there listening.”

TALKING ABOUT PRACTICE: There are six potential practice days left for the Raptors between Saturday and the April 12 end of the regular season and they’re going to be able to use the majority of them.

NBA rules, part of the collective bargaining agreement, made 16 days off for each team during the regular season with strict rules on what constitutes an off-day.

After giving the players Tuesday and Thursday off this week, the Raptors are 14, leaving them four days of work before the season ends.

They will also have two or three days to get ready for the playoffs, depending on whether they open the first round April 15 or 16.

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