In a weird way, that was one of the most fun games of the year. In the midst of all the madness of Kobe's retirement and Golden State's chase for 73 wins, the Raptors' (or rather, the Raptors 905) matchup against the Nets barely registered in terms of importance. Once the Raptors announced that they'd be resting their entire starting lineup, this game was doomed to become a glorified D-League showdown. Instead, the Raptors young guys actually made this a fun game, overcoming a tough start to rout the Brooklyn Nets 103-97.
The start of this game went exactly as expected, with most of the starting lineup exhibiting a deer in the headlights look that Bambi's mom would be proud of. Bruno Caboclo had 3 turnovers in the first 12 minutes, and ultimately, still looked 2 years away. A lineup of Jason Thompson, Lucas Nogueira, Bruno, Norman Powell and Delon Wright was always going to lack offensive polish, but going down 21-4 to the Nets was a little bit worse than it needed to be. Luckily, Terrence Ross brought some much needed maturity and stability off the bench to get things right again (wait what?).
Powell found his stroke in the second quarter, going 6-6 from the field, and 4-4 from 3 for 16 points in frame. The introduction of Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson and Bismack Biyombo also helped swing things back in the Raptors' favour, as the Raptors made quick work of the short-lived Nets lead and closed the half up 49-47.
The D-League heavy Raptors starting lineup shook off their early jitters in the third quarter, as the Nets had no answer for Wright and Powell. Wright ended the third quarter with 12, 5, and 6, and looked terrific controlling the offence. Shane Larkin and the like had no answer for him defensively, and even while the Raptors were losing their heads early, he kept his turnovers down.
In the fourth quarter, the Nets made a bit of a run while Dwane Casey made it a point to give minutes to the Raptors' young players. Bojan Bogdanovic opened the frame with two consecutive 3s, and the Raptors went AWOL for the first eight minutes of the frame. The Nets cut the lead to 4 at one point, but Wright and Powell eventually took over and sealed the game for the Raptors 103- 96 to show us that the future is bright and the resources are plenty.
- Although the Raptors blowing a double digit made for some tense moments towards the end, it was pretty cool to see the Raptors' young guys playing real minutes in a tight game in an NBA setting. There was a moment where Bruno had a chance to hit a 3 to increase the Raptor lead to 7 with three minutes left. Even though he missed the shot, it was still good to see him on the court and involved in that sort of moment.
- Norman Powell's emergence is real. The kid's showing off the full repertoire on offence - hitting 3s, pullups, driving to the hoop effortlessly, making the extra pass, everything. He had a career high 30 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. 12-18 shooting, 5-6 from 3. He was absolutely amazing.
- Powell's emergence has afforded the Raptors a lot of breathing room while they wait for DeMarre Carroll to recover fully. He's ready to contribute NOW.
- Delon Wright had himself a great game too. 18 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and a team leading +9 on the night. I'm glad he's shown out the last few weeks when given a chance. He's another guy who's ready to play NBA minutes.
- Terrence Ross showed so much maturity. The Raptors came out shellshocked to open the game, and he brought a calm, consistent presence that we haven't seen from him in past years. He had 24 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
- Bruno's not ready. He's grown a lot this year, but he still has a long way to go. The skills are there, the potential is there, and here's hoping that another year of refining his craft in the D-League does him some good. 1-9 shooting on the night.
Hope you enjoyed the last tension-free game until October. Your thoughts?