The Toronto Raptors returned to face the Detroit Pistons Wednesday night looking a bit like Steven Seagal in Hard to Kill—outgunned and undermanned—thanks to positive COVID-19 results and ongoing contact tracing within the organization.
The team was down to a skeleton roster, with starters Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby all ruled out in accordance with the league’s health and safety protocols, along with forward Malachi Flynn and guard Patrick McCaw. Also still absent was coach Nick Nurse, who entered protocols last week along with five members of his staff.
After noting that the Raptors’ outbreak made up most of the NBA’s positive tests over the last week, The Athletic’s Shams Charania cited sources who said the internal spread of the virus “seems to have arisen from inconsistent mask-wearing from coaching staff members.”
Charania hasn’t elaborated on the report as of yet.
The Raptors were handily defeated by the Pistons, who’ve got the worst record in the Eastern Conference, 129-105. Detroit ended the game with 40 assists—the most assists in a game for the team since 2008.
Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who led Toronto to a win last Friday before Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls was subsequently postponed, remained acting coach on Wednesday. “I’m a little surprised because I know them and I know that they’re better players, for sure,” he said of the Raptors’ bench after the game. “They will have other opportunities and I’m confident that they’ll seize those opportunities. Tonight was not their night.”
The roster hits to Toronto certainly weren’t insignificant. VanVleet and Siakam are tied as the team’s leading scorers at 20.1 points per game, while Anunoby is averaging 13.8 points. Until the outbreak, VanVleet was the only Toronto player to start all 34 of the team’s games this season.
The Raptors have one more contest against the Boston Celtics on Thursday before the much-needed NBA All-Star break. The team’s general manager Bobby Webster indicated that the players who were sidelined Wednesday won’t be expected back for the next game.