As if this crazy season couldn’t get any crazier, here come the Toronto Raptors — losers of 15 of their previous 17 games, with a -6.7 point differential — obliterating the Golden State Warriors by 53 points.
Were these the “real” Golden State Warriors? No, of course not. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all out of the lineup. But a win is a win, and the Raptors, tank or no tank, desperately needed the sort of good vibes a good old-fashioned blowout can bring.
1. March? What March? We Don’t Acknowledge that Month In This House
February just ended, right? March? March who? Never heard of it.
Unfortunately, the Raptors’ 1-14 March is still reflected in their record. But a game like last night’s can go a long way toward erasing the misery of the past 31 days. It’s not gonna turn the season around or anything — the team’s flaws, which I wrote about the other day, are all still there, and with Kyle Lowry still sidelined and Fred VanVleet possibly hurt as well, the team’s ceiling is still super low.
But for the vibes, it matters.
It matters for guys like Fred, and Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, who have only ever been on a winning team. It matters for Gary Trent, if we want him to stick around past this season. And it matters for me, because damn, was I getting tired of writing about losses.
2. Flynn Getting His Feet
Earlier in the season it seemed that every time Malachi Flynn drove the ball, he lost his footing; it was like his upper body was trying to move faster than his feet could carry him. Lately, though, he looks to have found his balance.
Twice in the second quarter he drove into the teeth of the defense, and remained under control. On the first play, he probed, pulled the ball out, and nailed a short fadeaway J. On the second, he Nashed right under the hoop and continued the dribble out the other side. He also had two nice drives and finishes in the second half as well.
He finished with a career-high 16 points. If Fred VanVleet’s hip injury is at all serious, we might be seeing a lot more of Flynn in the near future.
3. 36 for 43 on his 27th
It’s tough to judge a player’s individual performance when the opposition is as weak as Golden State was last night, but was still great to watch Pascal Siakam put up big numbers and play lockdown D on his birthday. He really mixed it up on offense last night, getting inside and picking his spots from downtown.
Siakam’s 29% shooting from downtown on the season has seemed like an oddity to me. Which some recent exceptions, likely thanks to tired legs, his stroke from outside has looked really nice. He’s shooting with his shoulders square and following through nicely. The shots just haven’t been dropping; he was 3-for-15 over the previous four games.
So it was refreshing to see him hit 4-of-9 last night, even against poor competition. It’s another glimpse of the player he was before March 11, 2020; I hope that player is still in there and eventually finds his way out.
4. Zack Snyder’s Toronto Raptors
I have to wonder if the Raptors digital media team spent the past week watching the “Snyder Cut” — which takes about a week to watch — because of how many slo-mo highlights the team is posting on social media.
.@gtrentjr's not missin' that pic.twitter.com/l2mejozupD— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 2, 2021
I counted four slo-mo highlight videos on the team’s Twitter account last night, out of nine total video highlights! I noticed a bunch posted against Oklahoma City, too.
Q3 Scoring— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 3, 2021
Them: 7 pic.twitter.com/mlnseAE4WD
Why am I noticing this? Probably because I did watch the Snyder Cut — and it did take four viewings spread out over a week — and my brain is twitchy about slow motion. Why does the “fastest man alive” move soooo sloooowlyyyyy???
While I’ve got Snyder on the mind…
5. Blocks v Steals: Dawn of Defense
Fred VanVleet had another strip-steal last night that was recorded as a block, rather than a steal. I’ve never really noticed this — or paid attention to this, really — in the past, but it’s top of mind now since Fred would pretty easily be leading the league in steals if his “strips” were being recorded as steals rather than blocks.
Obviously this is just stat talk and the outcome on the court is the same either way, so it doesn’t really matter. Except it does matter, because leading the league in a statistical category is pretty freakin’ cool thing for a player!
Quick last thing here, coming off of one of Pascal’s postgame quotes:
Siakam said he woke up to his niece singing happy birthday. "I think that was the greatest happy birthday I've ever had... Today was a beautiful day."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 3, 2021
"It's been a crazy year... All I want is to look back at these times (and say) this was tough but look what came out of it"
It is very true, in my experience, that you gotta go through the bad to get to the good. I’ve seen Shea Serrano say this on Twitter, that winning a Game 7 might be the greatest thing ever — but that still means you had three losses.
The Raptors are going through it this year. Tampa, COVID, flawed roster, injuries, trades, the whole deal. But it can only get better, and whatever does come next, it’ll be that much sweeter for the players having gone through this.