After ugly start to season, Raptors' Boucher stopped focusing on his three-point shot

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) celebrates with Chris Boucher (25) and Yuta Watanabe (18) after Boucher scored a three-point basket late in the fourth quarter of a basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

TORONTO -- Playing poorly and clearly miserable, Chris Boucher found himself as an afterthought in coach Nick Nurse's rotation just 20 games into this NBA season.

So the 28-year-old from Montreal threw himself into watching video, both the good highlights and the bad. The bad was enlightening.

``Watching the games when I play bad, (and saying) ''Show me the reason why I'm out, why I'm not playing,`` Boucher said after Sunday night's win over Washington.

``Sometimes I'm like, 'Why am I not playing?' and then you watch the clip and you're like 'That's why.' So, I'm trying to fix the reasons for why I'm not on the floor because I can help this team the way I'm playing.''

Boucher had developed into a key player on the Raptors roster, and expected to continue that trajectory this season. But his three-point shooting has been dreadful, dropping from 38.3 per cent last season to 18.5 this year.

Sunday's 14-point performance in Toronto's 102-90 win over Washington was his best game this season, and his energy off the bench was part of a terrific night by the second stringers.

He missed the lone three-point attempt he took, instead focusing on what he knew he does well, including a couple of cuts to the basket for dunks off smart passes from rookie Dalano Banton.

``I can shoot but I'm not showing it right now,'' Boucher said. ``I had a couple of in-and-outs ... it's going to fall eventually but if I'm not looking for it and just taking it when it comes, it's a lot better. I can do a lot of different stuff. I can set screen and roll, cut, slip screen. There's a lot of stuff I can do (that) I kind of forgot about trying to figure out where my three was.''

Boucher said he's been studying film twice a day. He also meditated before Sunday night's game. He practises meditation regularly, but hadn't done it right before taking the floor. Raptors' athletic trainer Ray Chow suggested it.

``I just need to be the Chris that I've always been and for that I kind of needed to get all the stuff out of my head before the game,'' he said. ``Ray told me he felt like when I was playing there's so much going on in my mind. So, gave me a little meditation, and that really helped out, going into the game flowing, and knowing that I'm able to do certain stuff and be confident with it.''

Boucher signed a two-year contract extension in the 2020 off-season worth US$13.5 million, the richest contract in NBA history for a Canadian who went undrafted.

Pascal Siakam, who had 31 points on Sunday in his best game this season, praised the play of Boucher and the rest of the bench.

``It was huge, and honestly, as much as we get on him, we gotta give him credit when we do well,'' Siakam said. ``Shout out to all of them. They came in ready to play, execute the game plan, play hard. And they gave us a huge boost out there, and we need that from them.

``I hope that we'll take that and build on it and continue to do that, and I think that we can. Just them knowing that you're going to get an opportunity, you've got to come in, and those minutes that you have, you have to play them like it's your last, you have to go out there and give it everything you have, and credit to them, they did that (Sunday).''

The Raptors (11-13) host the struggling Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday in the fifth game of this season-high seven-game homestand. On Friday, the Memphis Grizzlies demolished the Thunder 152-79, shattering the NBA record for the largest margin of victory.

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