When the Loren Woods express finally went off the rails yesterday, the Raptors desperately needed Donyell Marshall to return to form.
Fortunately for the Raptors, the 11th-year pro elevated his game in a big way.
Held scoreless Friday against the Detroit Pistons, Marshall scored a bench-high 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a team-high tying 34 minutes yesterday as the Raptors beat the Portland Trail Blazers 101-97.
With Woods putting up a zero on the scoreboard yesterday after two big games in his first season as an NBA starting centre, the Raptors kept Marshall on the floor with the starters in crunch time and the 6-foot-9 Connecticut product delivered the goods.
"The first two games Loren played great and Donyell struggled a little bit," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "(Yesterday) Loren struggled, but Donyell picked him up. That's just how we've got to play."
With a career average of 12.5 points per game, Marshall obviously had trouble digesting the shutout on Friday night. A couple of his good friends gave him some solid advice.
"I was frustrated (Friday) and I really didn't go home and sleep too well," Marshall said. "My long-time friends are in town and the good thing is they're not scared to tell me what's really going on. They just told me to come in and relax and play."
Marshall thrived in the Raptors' fast-paced offence yesterday, running the floor nicely to score and create easy baskets. He was part of a 40-point effort from the Raptors bench, yet another fine effort from a second unit which has a longer leash under Mitchell.
"People aren't scared to make mistakes," Marshall said. "Sam is not going to put up with a lot of mistakes, but he's going to let you make a couple and get situated before he takes you out. Sometimes last year, if you made one mistake quickly, it was right back with the starters."
Coming off the bench isn't a problem for Marshall.
"A lot of people put a lot of emphasis on who is starting," he said. "But a lot of games are won and lost at the end and that's when I want to be in there."