It’s a good thing I don’t write any sort of predictions column (what’s up Jay) because it would be an utter mess this season. Does it make any sense that this Toronto Raptors team, missing three starters, can barely hang with the G-League Lakers, but dominate the mostly-healthy Cleveland Cavaliers — a Cavs team that beat them down just a few weeks ago?
No, it does not. But you know what? Let’s embrace the chaos! I have no idea what this team is gonna play like from one game to the next. Unpredictability is good! Bring on the next random outlier stat or record-breaking performance, I’m ready.
1. Some Kinda Start
So who saw that first quarter coming? 17-of-20 from the field, 10-of-11 from the line, 47 points and a 21-point lead after one? An 87-point lead at halftime!? Sure, why not! Chaos, baby!
Naturally, the Raptors cooled off in the second half — there’s no way they were gonna shoot 71/65/91, as they did in the first half. The Cavs even threatened to come back in fourth, cutting the once-38 point lead to 12 points. Thankfully, the Raptors hung on, because that would have been a level of unpredictability that would have hurt.
But, as with the Warriors game last week — the Raptors deserved that fun half. We deserved it, as fans! We’ve sat through so many brutal offensive droughts this season, it was awesome to see a stretch where the team couldn’t miss.
2. A Sign of Things to Come
Was giving Pascal Siakam the night off a pro-tank move? Maybe. But, I think the guy legitimately deserved a break; he hasn’t had a break since coming back from his long layoff, and has averaged 36 minutes per game the last 10. The Raptors are starting a four-games-in-five-nights stretch (and are in the midst of a seven-games-in-10-days stretch). And, hey, Pascal’s been playing extremely well of late. He deserves it!
But I do wonder if we’ll see more of these “rest” nights coming up. There’s no point in overextending your core players down a meaningless stretch run. Let Pascal, Fred VanVleet, Kyle Lowry, even OG Anunoby take a night here and there. Let Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., Yuta Watanabe, heck, even Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie, get more time in and see what they have for next season.
And hey, if Flynn’s play is any indication, maybe this team is too good to tank!
3. Moar Flynn
Malachi Flynn continues to impress. He dropped career highs in points and assists last night, and the offense looked like a complete mess whenever he was on the bench. I don’t mean that as a backhanded compliment! They were light-years better with him on the floor. And defensively, he’s getting his hands on more balls than Fred VanVleet, and switching on to bigs like Kyle Lowry.
Meanwhile, he continues to flash new moves, like the teardrop he floated in through traffic late in the first. But I was mostly amazed by this:
How? How did he not travel or double dribble or both? Whatever, I’ll take it!
4. Gary Trent Jr. is a Toronto Raptor
I’ll admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Norman Powell-Gary Trent Jr. trade. Not because I have anything against Trent, but I just hated the fact that the Raptors had to dump a guy they developed for six years because he was going to be too expensive this summer.
But Trent has pretty much made me forget all those thoughts. This man has now set his career high twice, set a Raptors plus/minus record, and hit a buzzer-beating game winner.
Last night he dropped 44 points on an insane 17-of-19 shooting night.
44+ points scored on 89+% shooting in NBA history:
Jerry West: Jan. 25, 1967
Mike Woodson: Feb. 20, 1983
Gary Trent Jr.: April 10, 2021
— Joseph Casciaro (@JosephCasciaro) April 11, 2021
gary trent jr since norman powell’s players tribune essay:
– career-high 31 points vs. okc
– +54 vs. the warriors
– game-winner vs. the wizards
– willing to fight the entire lakers team for OG
– wore raptors shorts + blue jays jersey pre-game
– career-high 44 points vs. the cavs
— alex (@steven_lebron) April 11, 2021
(I kid! Love ya Norm. But I’m falling hard for Gary. Phew!)
5. OG Hulking Out
It’s hilarious every time we see evidence that OG Anunoby doesn’t know his own strength. Maybe that’s why he tossed Denis Schroeder to the court the other day? No other explanation makes sense!
I found this latest example one extremely enjoyable as well — though of course I’d feel differently if it was my larynx OG was crushing:
When OG learns how to harness all his powers for good, he’s gonna leave a lot of guys battered and bruised.
The Raptors are back at it again tonight against the Knicks. What will we see from the Bizarro Raps tonight? I have absolutely no idea. If I had to make a wish, though, it would be that Freddy Gillespie takes all of Aron Baynes’ minutes. Did you see that play in the fourth where Gillespie deflected a pass, saved it from going out of bounds, and protected it from the defense with one hand? Three “hands” plays in three seconds! That’s more than Baynes has made all season.
I digress. Enjoy the unpredictability! Embrace the chaos.