2024 has been the year of moral victories for the Toronto Raptors.
Last night was no exception. Toronto went into a game against one of the hottest teams in the NBA missing their two-time All-Star and on the second night of a back to back.
Not just any back to back — but the Lakers loss that resulted in head coach Darko Rajakovic going viral for calling out NBA officiating after the game.
These facts, along with the trio of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden absolutely tearing through the NBA right now, meant most of us going into the game expected a loss.
Sure, that happened. The Raptors lost 126-120 to the Clippers, but it was a good loss.
Before everyone comes for me to say a loss is a loss and moral victories aren’t real — trust, I get it. It’s still a game against the Raptors on the record, BUT it shows how resilient these new look Raptors are.
The 2024 Raptors have been gritty, they fight until the end, they have energy — and most importantly, they are enjoyable to watch.
So yes, it was a loss, but let’s focus on the positives of the game.
RJ Barrett is Elite
When it was announced that Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett would be coming to Toronto in the Anunoby trade, most people thought that IQ was the centre piece of the trade, and Barrett was a fun bonus.
Now, IQ has been elite, but RJ Barrett is arguably playing some of the best basketball of his life.
Against the Clippers, RJ scored 24 points, five rebounds, and four assists. He shot 4-for-6 from three point range and 10-for-16 from the field.
In six games as a Toronto Raptor, Barrett is shooting 59.3% from the field and 53.6% from three point range.
Beyond the statline, RJ just looks comfortable out there. His decision-making (something that lacked in his days as a Knick) has been razor-sharp. His physicality is allowing him to get to the line (when the refs are actually calling fouls for Toronto).
Having space to drive into the lane has opened up a world of possibility for Barrett, and his three-point accuracy is welcomed on a team that was severely in need of it when he arrived.
Quickley Leads Scorers
Immanuel Quickley has also been fantastic in his first six games as a Raptor.
In the Clippers game, he led the Raptors with 25 points, six assists, four rebounds and one steal.
He is averaging 19.2 PPG, 3.1 APG and 3.2 RPG in his six games since the trade. He is shooting 42.1% from the field and 37.2% from three.
Immanuel Quickley this season:— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 11, 2024
As a Knick — As a Raptor —
15.0 PPG 19.2 PPG
2.6 RPG 4.7 RPG
2.5 APG 6.2 APG
39.5 3P% 46.2 3P% pic.twitter.com/l9NBZzGeml
A great start for Toronto’s new point guard.
Hung On Til the End
It was really only in the last quarter where the game got away from the Raptors. They exchanged leads with LA all night and were extremely competitive.
This was also without Pascal Siakam who was out with back spasms and Jakob Poeltl who has a sprained ankle. Not bad for a team missing their best player.
The bench had to step up, and it’s been Jontay Porter, the Raptors newest two-way signing, who has stepped up big time.
Jontay Porter has 6 rebounds & 4 assists, career-highs. pic.twitter.com/cD8mAmOwaP— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) January 11, 2024
They had multiple players score 20+ points, and there were 35 lead changes in the game in the first three quarters alone.
Overall, a six-point loss was admirable from this team and they showed fight.
The Toronto Raptors have more more road game, tomorrow against Utah, before heading home.