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Rainmaker Gary Trent and the Raptors look to douse Heat with another loss: Preview, start time and more

Tonight’s game completes the four game season series against the Heat. After closing in on 60 minutes a few nights ago, can the Raptors blow the roof off of an empty Scotiabank Arena with a blowout win?

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Gary Trent Jr. is on fire. With nine triples last night, the young guard tied Kyle Lowry’s team record of games in a row with at least five 3’s made at four (4) and will attempt to break that record tonight against the final matchup with the Miami Heat.

With his 31 total points last night, Trent is all the buzz in Toronto over the last handful of games. In his last six games since returning from injury, GTJ is averaging 26 points and two steals per game while shooting 47 percent from downtown — pure bucket making mentality.

The Raptors just survived an instant classic triple overtime thriller against the Heat that saw Toronto win its first overtime game of the season, displaying gut-check instincts in the waning moments despite playing all five starters at least 53 minutes. Miami followed up that game by not doing any favors for Toronto — sitting three staples in Lowry, Butler and PJ Tucker — and losing to the tune of thirty points to the Boston Celtics.

Toronto is on fire right now, looking to prove all doubters wrong when it was questioned whether their most recent tear in the win column was due to bad competition. Since the homestand and 2-3 road trip, the Raptors have knocked off the East’s best teams consistently. Falling to the Raptors is becoming a rite of passage for wanna-be championship contenders: the Bucks have succumbed, the Hornets, Jazz, Heat, Knicks, Hawks and 76ers too.

Weird losses against spiteful ex-coaches aside, Toronto has yet to be embarrassed wire to wire by any team in the new year. They’re as competitive as ever, with a young as hell team looking to sharpen its teeth on good competition. This team is looking more and more primed to be a playoff dark horse.


Where to Watch:

Sportsnet, 7:30 p.m.

Lineups:

Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam

Miami — Gabe Vincent, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, PJ Tucker, Bam Adebayo

Injuries:

Toronto — Khem Birch (nose — out), Goran Dragic (not with team)

Miami — Kyle Lowry (personal — questionable), Mk. Morris (out), KZ Okpala (wrist — out), Victor Oladipo (knee — out), Omer Yurtseven (H&SP — out)


Gary Trent is the story

Toronto continues to win when Gary Trent plays. Gary continues to play extremely well. Gary is the story right now, and there might be a second story between the syntax by the end of this section.

Pretty amazing, huh? That’s because unlike those other three players, GTJ has never been considered a HOF lock or one of the best players in the league and was drafted in the second round.

The even more amazing story is that Masai continues to find incredible players at the right price, and refuses to overpay to keep anyone (see: Uncle Dennis) on the Raptors. What Masai is doing with world-class talent is basically what the NFL discovered roughly ten years ago regarding running backs: there’s always a player we can find who can do the same thing as the player that wants way too much money. Fans were shell shocked to hear Norm Powell was dealt for this guy, Trent. Who was he aside from six years younger?

Welcome to Gary’s world, fans. I’m starting to believe this is exactly who he is and will be in his time with Toronto.

Picking up the Sl-iakam

Fred VanVleet had one of the best runs we’ve ever seen from a Raptor over the course of his 2022 January, leading to league-wide chants of Freddy All-Star. Since basically playing his legs right off his body, Fred has fallen back to Earth in a way — his shooting percentages namely — but it hasn’t stopped the Raps from winning ball games thanks to Pascal Siakam picking up the slack with his surging return to superstardom.

At 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Siakam is filling the stat sheet, and it’s directly resulting in wins. He’s posting his best win share total (.132 WS/48 min) since playing second fiddle to Kawhi Leonard during the championship season and with his lowest usage percentage (25.1 percent) since that same season.

His defense has been absolutely outstanding over the last two weeks, including this absolute gem of a hustle play in crunch time against Miami three nights ago.

I mean, what the hell Pascal. When you make the nicest guy in sports reporting “swear” publicly...

To consider the questions about his health and ceiling before the season began, and look at where his level of play is today is remarkable. Fans didn’t know what we were getting from the Spice-master Paul Atreides, going as far as dealing him for pennies on the dollar. Silly doubters.