Without Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors were looking for a deep bench player to step up.
Instead, it was the Sixers who got that performance from Jonah Bolden with Wilson Chandler out in a 126-101 win Saturday night (see observations).
Bolden, a second-round pick in 2017, spent last season overseas before signing a deal with the Sixers for this season. He’s played the majority of his minutes with the Delaware Blue Coats, the team’s G-League affiliate.
While the Australia native was expected to get more time with the big club soon, two quick Mike Muscala fouls saw Bolden get into the game in the first quarter as Joel Embiid’s backup five.
“When I looked a week ago at our schedule coming up and we weren’t entirely healthy, we all kind of had a gut feeling that the West Coast road trip that Jonah would come in and start to play,” Brett Brown said. “We came into it tonight with Wilson injured and you know Mike gets those two quick fouls. He was going to be playing regardless of the quick fouls. And so it happened sooner. It was calculated. It was pre-planned that he was going to play. Not to the volume of minutes that he did, but for all those reasons it played out like it did.”
In 25 minutes, Bolden recorded just four points but collected nine rebounds and four blocks. You saw some of the things that made Bolden appealing to the Sixers in the draft. His length, athleticism, rim protection and ability to switch one through five were on full display.
His activity level was noticeable Saturday night.
Just a compilation of all those wonderful Jonah Bolden blocks.— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) December 23, 2018
The rookie is making a big splash early! pic.twitter.com/Pq4FxpMEbj
Every year it seems the Sixers have at least one player that shuffles between Philly and Delaware on what feels like a daily basis. Unfortunately, Bolden has been that guy this year.
But give the rookie credit. He’s taken it all in stride.
Coming here from the beginning I knew we were a title-contending team. My whole mentality was just knowing what my role or position Coach had for me coming in, I just had to do it. Obviously I’ve been back and forth between the G League, so I’ve kind of embraced that and used it to the best of my ability. Stuck with a positive mindset and used it in preparation for games like tonight.
Even before Saturday, the Sixers had been desperate for a player to come in and provide a spark off the bench. Especially with Amir Johnson struggling and the Sixers needing all the help they can get at the five position.
Perhaps the 22-year-old could be that player going forward.
“He is a deer in open court,” Brown said. “When you watch him run, he really can move, he gets up and down the court, and I just loved his energy. He’s somebody that we’ve paid attention to for a while in relation to trying to get him on a court, and tonight he did a good job, and we felt it was his time.”
Hopefully, for Bolden, his time is just beginning.
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