Fool’s Gold – Players find individual success but cannot win as a team

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The High 5 – Week in Review – Week 16

The High 5 is where I review the last week of Toronto Raptors basketball including how the team did, who were the impact players as well as some news and notes from around the league.

The Thumb – How was the week?

The Raptors are already having a tough season, but they are doing themselves no favours when they pick up random injuries, technical fouls, and suspensions.

All things considered, Toronto is much closer to the bottom than they are to the top, and there are legitimate discussions debating if its time to wave the white flag. The only reason to speak otherwise would be that it seems that every other night another player is notching a career high. This week we saw Gary Trent Jr., Chris Boucher, Malachi Flynn and others accomplish that feat.

With new additions Khem Birch and Freddie Gillespie, role players reaching their potential, the ascension of Trent Jr. and healthy bodies on the horizon, there still may be some fight left on this team.

But is it too little, too late?

Week Record (2 – 3) Season Record (21 – 33)

Washington Wizards v Toronto Raptors – W 103 – 101

Both Washington and Toronto were missing their scoring guards for Monday’s matchup. The Wizards sat Beal while the Raps rested VanVleet who joined an already injured Lowry. Toronto stumbled out of the gate as they tried to manufacture opportunities. The Wizards built a 19-point lead in the third quarter. The Raps could have folded but Malachi Flynn played a stretch of strong minutes that ignited their competitive spirit. Washington responded with 3-pointers and hard work, but Trent Jr. would not be denied. He nailed a triple at the buzzer to pick up a dramatic win.

Los Angeles Lakers v Toronto Raptors – L 110 – 101

The Raptors had a case of Center envy when Marc Gasol and the Lakers visited Tampa. Even without AD and LeBron, taking down the Lakers is a tough ask, especially on a back-to-back. Gasol teased Toronto with his skills as he vaulted his new squad to a lead they would not relinquish. Sparks flew when Anunoby and Schroder got tangled prompting a pair of ejections for OG and Montrezl Harrell but that was the only excitement for the night. Don’t let the score fool you, this was not close.

Toronto Raptors v Chicago Bulls – L 122 – 113

The outcome of this game would go a long way in determining if either of these teams have a place in the “play in” tournament. A huge accomplishment for the Bulls but a step back for a Raptors team used to annual playoff appearances. Flynn earned his first career start and looked right at home while Boucher had another hallmark game. Unfortunately, the rest of the team also found themselves in an all too familiar place, down double digits. Not much to say here, being down 20 may as well been 100 for this decimated Toronto squad.

Toronto Raptors v Cleveland Cavaliers – W 135 – 115

The team that blew out the Warriors by 53 points showed up to teach Cleveland a lesson on Saturday. Behind a near perfect shooting clinic by Gary Trent Jr. and a breakout game from Malachi Flynn, the Raptors opened up a 20-point lead that carried throughout the whole night. Everyone who played contributed and, be it a timely steal, a big block, a leak out or a desperation jumper, they all earned moments in the win.

Toronto Raptors v New York Knicks – L 102 – 96

After a decade of mediocrity, the Knicks are back to being competitive again with their collection of young athletic talent. OG and Fred took a seat but Lowry and newcomer, Khem Birch, made their way into the rotation. Randle was a load; he bullied his way to the rim with abusive physicality. The game was grittier than sandpaper, devoid of grace and pace. The Raps came alive at the end of the third and by the fourth, they stole a slim lead. The game went to the wire, but Canadian RJ Barrett delivered the dagger to seal the win for the Knicks.

The Index – The Leader – Player of the Week

Photo Courtesy: @BleacherReport/Twitter

Gary Trent Jr.

Trent Jr. has been magnificent since joining Toronto. This week he hit a game winning triple against the Wiz, rocked a Toronto Blue Jays jersey, became best friends with OG and had one of the most impressive shooting performances in franchise history. Against the Cavs, he only missed two shots while also picking up a career high in boards. He reads defences like Neo reads the Matrix and his confidence is at Fred VanVleet levels.

  Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG 3PT FT
v WASH 16 2 2 0 0 7/15 2/6 0/0
v LAL 11 3 2 1 0 4/15 1/6 2/2
v CHI 6 1 1 0 0 2/14 1/7 1/1
v CLE 44 7 4 1 0 17/19 7/9 3/3
v NY 23 3 1 0 0 9/17 3/8 2/2
Weekly Avg 20 3.2 2 0.4 0 39/80 14/36 8/8
5 Games           49% 39% 100%
 

Season Avg

15.5 2.4 1.5 0.9 0.2 42% 40% 78%

Honourable Mention: C. Boucher, M. Flynn

The Middle – The Enemy – Best Opposing Player

Photo Courtesy: Scott Audette/Getty Images

Zach LaVine – Chicago Bulls

Although Westbrook picked up a triple double with ease, this weeks best opposing player was Chicago’s Zach Levine. He earned this accolade off his versatility, playmaking, shooting percentage and overall impact on the game. Most importantly he picked up the win for his team in an ever-tightening playoff race. LaVine has evolved to so much more than a dunker. His offensive prowess easily makes him Chicago’s best player since MJ.

  Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG 3PT FT
v TOR 22 6 13 3 1 8/16 2/8 4/5

Honourable Mention: R. Westbrook (WASH), Z. Lavine (CHI), C. Sexton (CLE), J. Randle (NYK)

The Ring – The X Factor – Standout Performance

Photo Courtesy: @BleacherReport/Twitter

Chris Boucher v Chicago Bulls

Boucher saw that the Raptors were picking up two more big men and made a statement to lay claim to his minutes. He showed the heights of his true potential with a monster game on the glass and scoreboard. He earned career highs in points, total rebounds, offensive rebounds, and minutes played. If only this was the rule as oppose to the exception. Regardless, Boucher is building himself up and has grown significantly.

  Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks FG 3PT FT
v CHI 38 19 1 1 1 14/24 3/7 7/8

Honourable Mention: Trent Jr. v CLE, Flynn v CLE, Y. Watanabe v CLE

The Pinky – The Unsung Hero – Key Contributor

Photo Courtesy: @NBACanada/Twitter

Malachi Flynn

Injuries have opened the door for Flynn to show off his skills and he has not disappointed. He had an excellent week shouldering the PG load. While others are loose with their handles, Flynn protected the ball like he was cradling a baby. He shoots into open space with an explosive first step and he has demonstrated the poise and decision making that’s usually found in a seasoned vet. Playing behind two elite guards will only expediate his growth. This kid is special.

Honourable Mention: Y. Watanabe, D. Bembry                     

News and Notes                    

  • Sacre Bleu – With the addition of Khem Birch, the Raptors can now field a French-Canadian frontcourt.
  • Franchise best – It isn’t just individual players setting records, the Raptors as a team set a new franchise high for points in a half with 87 against Cleveland.

Around the League

  • Ain’t that the Truth – In news that everyone saw coming, ESPN parted ways with Paul Peirce after his insane Instagram live party.
  • Fresh Threads – The WNBA released their “Rebel Edition” jerseys, and they look amazing.

    Photo Courtesy: @WNBA/Twitter

Up Next

Toronto will enjoy an extended stretch at home against a handful of beatable teams this week. First up, Trae Young and the Hawks on Tuesday. The very next night, Raptors legend DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs come to town. On Friday, Toronto welcomes the ransacked Orlando Magic and on Sunday, they close out their week with an opportunity for revenge against the OKC Thunder.

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Dante Waechter

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