Before tonight's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Coach Dwane Casey admitted he went out every time scared to death.
"If we're looking ahead to Cleveland, shame on us." The Bucks came into Toronto as a surprising four seed in the Eastern Conference with a 7-5 record. The phrase "trap game" was being tossed around. With Jabari Parker, Brandon Knight and, in particular, young phenom Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee is not exactly the type of team you want to take lightly.
So, after the Bucks pulled out to a, um, early 3-2 lead, the Raptors responded. After three quarters the score sat at 101-57, and Toronto was in complete control heading into the fourth. As a reward, and with the crowd chanting "We want Bruno", rookie Bruno Caboclo got his first NBA minutes. It was that kind of night.
"I had butterflies in my stomach," Bruno said. "Hearing the crowd say my name was incredible." Caboclo played the entirety of the fourth quarter, scoring eight points on 3-of-6 shooting (including 2-of-3 from deep). If nothing else, Bruno got to show off some of his sly on-court confidence, which juxtaposes his bashful off-court demeanor. He tried a spinning turnaround on the baseline, made cross court passes, and dropped 3-bombs. He appears to be fulfilling the promise GM Masai Ujiri saw when he picked the young Brazilian 21st overall in the 2014 NBA Draft.
When asked if he had fun, Bruno could only smile.
Not to be outdone, tonight's game was also fellow young Brazilian Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira's NBA debut. While not as highly touted, Bebe sounds more assured, more vocal. He managed to run around a lot, grab five boards and hit a pretty alley-op dunk. "I'm not shooting yet," he said afterwards.
But what did he think of the response to Bruno: "People love him, Bruno's like Justin Beiber."
Of course, other things happened in the game: Greivis Vasquez found his shot, Lou Williams hit two straight buzzer-beating 3s, Jonas Valanciunas got off to a monster start for an 18 point-12 rebound game, everyone on the Raps' bench scored, etc.
But it was Bruno that everyone will remember.
"It was great and the crowd got to enjoy it, and I'm pretty sure he was happy," DeMar DeRozan said afterwards. "It's a memory he will have forever."
The start of the Bruno era. What did you guys think of the game?