The past few games for the Toronto Raptors have been marked by some impressive offensive outbreaks from some rather unusual players.
It’s sort of that time of the year for the Raptors who have opted to sit their best players in order to give their lesser-used players more playing time. So it’s not particularly surprising that Toronto has seen these incredible offensive performances from players like Stanley Johnson and Jalen Harris. Frankly, if it wasn’t happening every once in a while for some of these players it would be a little bit concerning considering the way things have gone. But still, that shouldn’t take away what it means for these guys, particularly Harris whose career-high 31 point night came in front of his family in his hometown in a 114-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
“Definitely a little extra juice knowing that my family was here, being in Dallas, being home, and against this team. I think there was a little extra motivation there,” Harris said.
Growing up in Dallas, the 22-year-old used to idolize the Mavericks. He fell in love with those early 2000s Mavericks teams led by Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Michael Finley, and Josh Howard. In 2011, when Dallas finally broke through to upset LeBron James and the Miami Heat, Harris was ecstatic.
“I was in middle school. I was sitting at middle school tables with me and my homies talking about it and how exciting it was,” Harris said Thursday.
Coming into Friday’s game Harris said he expected to play well. It wasn’t just that his family was in attendance, sitting in a private box, but he wanted to do it on the Mavericks’ court.
Prior to the game it looked like Harris might not even make the start. He was battling a foot injury and Toronto had spent the day preparing to go without their rookie. It wasn’t until just before tipoff that Alex McKechnie cleared Harris to play and Nick Nurse made the last-second adjustment to start Harris.
“It was kind of a gutsy calm,” Nurse said of Harris. “He wasn’t really letting much get to him at all. [I] thought he showed some good explosiveness that really just, first step by people explosiveness at the rim, changing some directions as well. That was probably what I liked the best.”
It didn’t take long for Harris to start making a difference. After a five-point first quarter, he exploded in the second for 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around Harris had 29 of his 31 points.
While Harris certainly stole the show on his big night, his fellow rookie backcourt mate, Malachi Flynn, got back on track after an underwhelming night on Thursday. The 23-year-old San Diego State grad finished the night with 26 points, five assists, and zero turnovers. His final two points of the night came as he sliced right through Dallas’ defence to pull Toronto to within two in the final seconds.
“I think he made the right decisions just time after time. He didn’t do that all game long, but he did, once he got kind of cooking there he was pretty hard to handle,” Nurse said.
The Raptors played the foul game late, but a 19-point third-quarter deficit was just too much for Toronto to overcome.
Up Next: Indiana Pacers
The Raptors will conclude the season on Sunday when they welcome former assistant coach Nate Bjorkgren and the Indiana Pacers to Tampa for a 1 pm E.T. start.