Instead of the weekly Toronto Temperature, here are the top 54 Fred VanVleet tweets from last night. Just kidding, how could I possibly narrow it down to only 54? It was truly a special night, and it’s made for a more heated — in the best way — temperature in the city.
Overall, it was another 2-2 record for the Raptors this week with some very high highs, moral victories, and one particular low. With so much to discuss, let’s dig right in.
Fred VanVleet, Top Boy
On February 2nd, 2021, Fredderick Edmund VanVleet Sr. set a Raptors franchise high for points in a game with 54, passing DeMar DeRozan’s 52 point New Years Day master class against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2018. Let there be celebrations!
Come on, how amazing is that?
VanVleet was absolutely dialed in against the Magic on Tuesday night as he shot — well, all right, let’s maybe get into a couple of tweets for posterity. Just look at these.
Fred VanVleet tonight:— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) February 3, 2021
What a night pic.twitter.com/ouORDODEm7
Moses Malone at 26 years old on 02/02/82 dropped 53 points, (the most ever by an undrafted player).— i. (@_nopename) February 3, 2021
*exactly 39 years later*
Fred VanVleet at 26 years old on 02/02/21 dropped 54 points,(the most ever by an undrafted player)
Best True Shooting %— Mike Lynch (@SportInfo247) February 3, 2021
50-Pt Game in NBA History
Fred VanVleet - 100.1% Tonight at ORL
Kyrie Irving - 98.5% Jan. 2020 vs CHI
Dana Barros - 93.0% Mar. 1995 vs HOU
Stephen Curry - 92.9% Feb. 2016 at ORL
James Harden - 92.5% Nov. 2017 vs UTA
VanVleet had himself a whole meal — a 74/79/100 shooting slash line baked with a side of an NBA record True Shooting % and a main course of passing Moses Malone for the most points by an undrafted player. All of those accomplishments are monumentally impressive, but you know what catapults his night even higher? VanVleet was locked in on the defensive end while doing all that.
With only seconds left in the third quarter, Terrence Ross came away with a Pascal Siakam turnover and looked to be well on his way to a layup to close out the frame. Enter Fred VanVleet, who had played every single second of a third quarter where he poured in 18 points. Up 14, VanVleet sprinted full court and managed to strip Ross at the buzzer (the play was recorded as a block), forcing him to miss the layup. In a deep crouch of exhaustion immediately after the play, VanVleet reminded the NBA that he is about the win and the win first.
Yuta Watanabe & DeAndre’ Bembry, Wrecking Crew
If Freddy hadn’t dropped a career and franchise high in points against the Magic, these two would be headlining this week’s Temperature. After playing just shy of 25 minutes over the first 15 games for the Raptors, DeAndre’ Bembry finally got his first real opportunity at consistent minutes with the OG Anunoby and Norman Powell injuries — and he answered the call.
Bembry and Lowry have developed some chemistry on the offensive end of the floor as they have connected on this play, or versions of it, three times over the last three games. With Bembry though, any and all offensive production is icing on the cake, as it’s his defensive peskiness that continues to buy him his minutes in coach Nick Nurse’s rotation. Funnily enough, the exact same thing can be said for Yuta Watanabe.
HIS NAME IS YUTA WATANABE AND HE SAID NAW FAM pic.twitter.com/VgM5nKuDY0— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 1, 2021
Yuta and DeAndre’ have been a more lithe version of OG Anunoby and Stanley Johnson’s Bash Brothers. Yuta, like OG, is seemingly always in the right place at the right time and Bembry is a chaos agent à la Johnson. That Toronto has four defenders at this level and Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who could make an All-NBA Defensive team by year’s end, it’s puzzling that the team fails to deliver consistent defensive performances.
With the emergence of Watanabe and Bembry, perhaps stability on the defensive end is in Toronto’s future.
Who’s Room Temp
Most Everyone Else, Ups and Downs
In a 2-2 week, there are bound to be highs and lows for everyone on the Raptors. As mentioned above, Yuta and Bembry stayed above the pack and Fred did what he did, which obliterated any kind of bad he might have been in the games before his career-high explosion.
Oddly though, almost everyone who plays a significant role for the Raptors had shades of bad and good. Pascal had 32 points on 55% shooting and a 30 and 10 double-double but bookended those two games with an 11 and 12 point game where he shot 41% and 36% respectively. Kyle Lowry became the third Raptor in franchise history to record ten thousand points as he also recorded a triple double in the final game of the week. Unfortunately, Lowry managed to shoot 36% and 31% in two of his games as well.
Norman Powell played great, but missed two games. Aron Baynes was serviceable to more than serviceable but, as Leo Rautins inadvertently pointed out with glee when Baynes managed to fumble a pass and not throw it away after recovering it against the Magic, the bar is very low. Stanley’s minutes waxed and waned but when he was on the court, he was doing the things that can be expected of him.
That leaves only two Raptors who receive minutes to mention. Oh look below, they’re down there!
Chris Boucher, Slimm Minutes
Prior to last Tuesday night’s win against the Magic, Chris Boucher had recorded six of his worst eight games in the season over a seven-game stretch. This is especially jarring because prior to those seven games, Boucher had inarguably played six of his best games of the season, with a couple of them being the best games of his young career.
A lot of the bad play on Boucher’s side can be attributed to spatial and situational awareness. In Tuesday’s game against the Magic, Boucher was routinely out of position so badly, that he was blowing up his own team’s plays on the offensive end by running into the path of picks or standing where in the middle of a swing pass. With being so far out of position, it also meant that he was caught in no-man’s land when getting back on the defensive end.
Accordingly, the four games played this week ranked in the bottom seven games in minutes played for Boucher and it seems that Chris is back at square one with his place in the rotation being situational.
[redacted], Will Enough Ever Be Enough
There hasn’t been an update on [redacted]’s criminal case where he was arrested and charged with assault, harassment and child endangerment since late December, and yet, he continues to receive minutes for the Raptors due to injuries and the organizations inability to do anything with him.
From a basketball standpoint — a standpoint that should absolutely be secondary to the very harrowing charges against him — [redacted] has been bad this season. His minutes are down, he is a negative in OBPM, DBPM and he has garnered a 0.0 VORP. With his contributions being, at best, the literal sum of nothing, Raptors fans have to be wondering how he keeps getting minutes and opportunities. The NBPA punishing teams for punishing its workers for yet unresolved criminal cases is certainly a factor to consider. But at this point, with only [redacted]’s Per-36 minutes looking good, what are the Raptors doing? The only hope now is that there’s still a team in the league that wants to weather the optics of this particular alleged abuser joining their roster in a trade. Fingers so tightly crossed.