If you’re a Toronto Raptors fan, there isn’t much you’ll want to remember about the team’s 126-108 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night. The Raptors were competitive for about seven minutes before the Pelicans ran away with it, eventually leading by more than 30 points. Sure, Gary Trent Jr. had a season high, and Pascal Siakam had some sensational early moments, but selective amnesia is the best prescription here.
However, most Raptors fans are also basketball fans in general, and for basketball fans, watching Zion Williamson dominate pretty much every aspect of the game was one heck of a show.
But one particular play stands out. It didn’t necessarily stand out in the moment, as it was a routine drive by Williamson from the right wing off a dribble handoff, with the fourth-year star getting to the rim as the defense failed to rotate. It was also the first quarter; the dunk tied the game at 12.
Why was it memorable, then? Because it gave us this incredible photo:
Yeah, I used it in the header, but go ahead and look again! It’s that good: Zion soaring to the rim, somehow behind all five Raptors defenders, every single one of whom is just looking up at him flying in for the jam.
Here’s the video, for greater context:
Now, I may not be an x’s and o’s guy, but I do love to read faces. Join me in figuring out what every Raptor is thinking here, won’t you?
Fred VanVleet: VanVleet’s face is partially obscured by the net, but I bet the diminutive point guard is thinking just one thing: Wish I could fly like that. You and me both, Freddy! I’m sure VanVleet’s basketball brain quickly transitioned to thinking about the miscommunication that led to the dunk — his basketball IQ is off the charts — but at the precise moment of this photo, only that helpful mesh is hiding the green of envy that’s creeping into his face.
OG Anunoby: Anunoby looks more confused than anyone here, which is funny, but not surprising. He’s the best defender
on the team in the league, and holds himself to a high standard. So he’s probably confused at how his teammates could have screwed up so badly as to let the best player on the other team get to the rim! And he’s surely disappointed that when the Pelicans screened him — as you can see the video, Jose Alvarado blocks his path and Jonas Valanciunas joins in when he hands the ball off to Williamson — neither Thad Young nor VanVleet sagged off to block that runway.
Thad Young: Yep, that’s the face of a man who knows he fucked up...
Scottie Barnes: ... and that’s the face of man thinking, somebody screwed up here, but it wasn’t me... was it?
It’s also fun to think about the different levels of experience behind these two — Young, the 16-year vet, Barnes the sophomore. Young knows exactly what should have happened here and where it all went wrong. Barnes is getting there, but his defense is all instinct at this point. An even more fun experiment: What would have happened if these two swapped spots? Not that you’d really want Barnes guarding JV and his 12 pounds of hair gel, but would Young have recognized the breakdown from the weak side and stepped in sooner? That would have left Trey Murphy open for the kick-out, and since Murphy ended up hitting six three pointers last night, I can’t say that would have been a good decision either. But maybe the next guy would have rotated over...
Pascal Siakam: Siakam’s face is my favourite, just a pure ooh that’s nasty look. Beyond being utterly impressed by the dunk itself, Siakam is probably thinking about the teammates who were going to get cussed out for their breakdown — as the weak side defender, Siakam bears the least amount of guilt here. Those poor bastards, he’s probably thinking.
And really, that’s all you can say about all of the Raptors Wednesday night: The poor bastards were completely eviscerated by Williamson and the Pelicans, who by the way were missing two of their top players in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram, and looked completely discombobulated throughout most of the evening.
Let’s hope they got whatever it was out of their system and are a little more prepared for the Brooklyn Nets tonight!