I’ve tried really hard. I’ve searched far, wide, high and low for reasons to favour the Toronto Raptors in a win tonight. But, unless you believe in the concept of “being due” a win, there isn’t much else you can say.
The Toronto Raptors will face off against the Brooklyn Nets for the fourth and final time this season tonight. The Raptors head into this game 0-3 on the season against the Nets, and riding their longest win streak of the season. Which, to be fair is only three games, so they have done a fairly good job at bouncing back from losses for the most part.
The Nets though, are heading in the opposite direction. They currently ride a four game win streak, and have won eight of their last ten. As I had predicted at the beginning of the season, they are finally beginning to look like a top three team in the East with their all star duo, or... trio?
If there is one piece of hope to hold onto tonight for Raptors fans, it’s the drastic difference in performance between games at home and games on the road. Toronto holds a .214 winning percentage when playing in opposing team’s stadiums, and despite endless complaints about the sheer lack of energy inside Scotiabank Arena this season, the team has given fans lots to cheer about, winning at a 71% clip when playing in Toronto.
And yay, this game is at home!
That sentence was the definition of a failed noisemaker at a surprise birthday party.
Where to watch:
TSN, 7:30 pm ET
Toronto Raptors — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Thaddeus Young
Brooklyn Nets — Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Nic Claxton
Toronto Raptors — Precious Achiuwa (Out - Ankle), OG Anunoby (Out - Hip), Otto Porter Jr. (Out - Hip)
Brooklyn Nets — Patty MIlls (Doubtful - Non-Covid Illness), Seth Curry (Questionable - Hamstring)
All season long, it has seemed as if we’ve just been waiting for someone to provide help to Pascal Siakam. Despite missing 10 games due to an adductor injury, Siakam has slowly earned himself All-NBA nods for what would be the third time in his career.
It just so happens that the one time Siakam finally received some help, he had what were probably the worst two games of his season. Which, to be fair, 19 points on 36.8% shooting isn’t pretty at all, but it is a solid game for your absolute floor.
Fred VanVleet on the other end absolutely rocked his previous season high in points at 32, finishing with 39 points against Sacramento, including some tough buckets near the end of a tightly contested game.
VanVleet was a man on a mission in Wednesday night’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, and despite shooting below 30% from three for his tenth time this season, Fred was Toronto’s best player.
Another player who quite honestly maybe had the best game of his season on Wednesday was Scottie Barnes. Barnes finished with 27 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds on the night. The only other time he has scored over 21 on the season was a mid-November game against the Atlanta Hawks.
He finished that game with a very similar stat line of 28 points, 9 assists and 11 rebounds. The main difference is that game he shot 50% from 3-point, and 38% from the field as a whole. Wednesday against the Kings, Barnes was extremely efficient with percentages soaring to 66.7% from 3-points, and 62.5% from the field.
Toronto fans really have to hope that this is a breaking out party for these two, and Siakam gets back on track tonight. It just seems that the Raptors can’t put a complete game together this year. Siakam and OG Anunoby have had many moments where they’ve looked like all stars, but due to injury or lack of production, have received minimal help from the rest of the team.
VanVleet was an All-Star last year, and has slowly improved his game to the level where he was expecting right near a max level contract at the end of the season. Scottie Barnes won Rookie of the Year, and was expected to make a big sophomore leap this year. And as much as I have already personally written that may have been a lofty goal, you still should expect Barnes to be a consistent contributer to an all star duo of Siakam and VanVleet.
It is also worth noting, that even though the injury report doesn’t stretch down the entire page, the Raptors still have three of their top seven rotation players out. That is nearly half of their playoff rotation!
We have already discussed at lengths about Anunoby this season. He is sitting at second in Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA’s latest instalment of their rankings for the award, and thanks to an unfortunate injury to Siakam, had the opportunity to shine an All-Star case for a brief period.
Precious Achiuwa and Otto Porter Jr. both out with longterm injuries, are quite possibly the Raptors’ two best bench pieces. Achiuwa was expected to battle for a starting spot, and showcase himself as one of the most versatile players in the league, and Porter was supposed to join Thaddeus Young as the veteran pieces off the bench that this team needs to take the next leap.
Those two players can still fill these roles, but it’s a difficult task to ask of them when they’re sitting on the bench in street clothes.
That was supposed to be humorous. I’m trying to at least be slightly light-hearted in the midst of a brutal season.
If there is one positive that Raptors fans can take away, it’s that they are still sitting in a position to compete in the play-in game, and are only two games behind for the final playoff spot. All it’s going to take is one good week of play to boost them back into the top six.
Six of their next eight contests come against teams who are currently sitting in playoff spots, and the two teams that aren’t, are the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, who everyone is just waiting to make their run.
The Raptors not only have an opportunity to remain in the playoff hunt over this difficult stretch, but get to show the league that they belong by competing against quality opponents.
One game at a time though. Tonight, they have to take down the Brooklyn Nets and put an end to their third longest in the league win streak.