Bad Vacation – The Raptors look out of sorts since the break, struggle in back-to-back defeats
The High 5 – Week in Review – Week 19
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 returned to action after the All-Star break, but you wouldn’t have known it considering how poorly they played in their first two games back. Up until recently, the Raptors were having their way with the likes of Charlotte and Atlanta, however this weekend, Toronto made them look like world beaters.
A spell of bad luck may have had something to do with it. VanVleet’s knees sound like the cracking of dry wood, Anunoby somehow broke his finger, newcomer Young is sputtering, and Siakam may have brought the flu back with him from vacation. But this is a team that has endured through worse and played better so their inability to show any compete is truly perplexing.
As the rest of the league ramps up the intensity, Toronto chose the worst time to stumble. With little practice time available, the Raptors will be asked to work through their struggles on the court. To make matters worse, they will now enter a gauntlet of games that could make or break their season.
It’s gut check time.
Week Record (0 – 2) Season Record (32 – 27)
Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors L 125 – 93
The Raptors started their post All Star break in the Queen city, but a broken finger to Anunoby left them shorthanded. The hyperactive Hornets pushed the tempo, they dared Toronto to keep pace. The Raps were still in vacation mode because the Hornets broke out to an enormous lead and rode an avalanche of momentum. Toronto’s defense had the durability of a cardboard house in the rainforest. The Raptors were on their heels before the first half ended. The second half was no better, they fought like pacifists. The only positive was that Scottie Barnes had a breakout night. This one was ugly.
Toronto Raptors v Atlanta Hawks L 127 – 100
Despite reports that VanVleet and Siakam were questionable to play, both were in the lineup on Saturday night. The Raps had a chip on their shoulder after their debacle the night before, they battled the Hawks for the lead throughout the first half. But something happened midway through the 2nd quarter where suddenly the Raptors forgot all the things that made them competitive. They went from a 6-point lead to a 20 plus deficit before the end of the 3rd. Everything was forced, nothing came easy for Toronto. Atlanta filled up their highlight reels of the backs of the listless Raptors.
The Index – The Leader – Player of the Week
Precious had arguably the best performance between all of the Raptors that participated on All Star weekend, and he looks to be the only one to retain any positivity from the break. Granted, this is Precious we are talking about, the bar is low. But him winning the Player of the week speaks volumes on how much the rest of the team struggled. This week was about as good as the team has seen from the young forward. As usual, he mucked it up on the glass and took a few errant shots, but you take the good with the bad. He showed heart, energy, and most importantly hustle. Coach Nurse rewarded him with more minutes. He hung tough in game 1 and really showed out in game 2.
Honourable Mention: P. Siakam, F. VanVleet, S. Barnes
The Middle – The Enemy – Best Opposing Player
Trae Young – Atlanta Hawks
Ice Trae dismantled Toronto in a masterful performance from the point. He played with a smile, toyed with the Raps, and took in the admiration of his hometown faithful. Only 9 of his points came from behind the arc or the foul line, which means he absolutely decimated Toronto’s interior. He danced around defenders and sliced through the paint with ease. Toronto moved in slow motion against his shifty momentum, sharp cuts, and soft floaters. Along with the Hawks semi retro colours, and his throwback mustache, Young looked like a hero in an 80’s basketball movie. If you listened hard enough you could hear the Globetrotters theme whenever he touched the ball.
Honourable Mention: T. Rozier (CHA), M. Harrell (CHA)
The Ring – The X Factor – Standout Performance
Scottie Barnes v Charlotte Hornets
Barnes was easily the only good thing to come out of the game between the Raptors and Hornets. As the deficit grew and defeat was all but certain, he still fought like a madman screaming against a thunderstorm. Barnes did his damage in the paint. He showed good aggression from the dunkers spot and polished back to the basket moves. He worked his way to the shots he liked and hit them with consistency. Scottie had 1 less point than the rest of the starters combined. Its unfortunate that his efforts were wasted in such a brutal loss.
Honourable Mention: F. VanVleet v ATL, P. Siakam v ATL, P. Achiuwa v ATL
The Pinky – The Unsung Hero – Key Contributor
Fred VanVleet (Knees)
This accolade goes to VanVleet, specifically to his knees, for carrying the team up to this point and because there was literally no one else deserving of recognition. Even though he has been struggling with nagging issues, VanVleet still spent two nights chasing the likes of the spastic Rozier and the high-octane Young around a forest of picks, bumping off men twice his size while still trying to ignite his squad. Game two was much better than game one, he was able to move the rock a little bit and he scored a touch, but it was obvious he is still trying to shoot his way back into form. So much relies on VanVleet’s legs.
Honourable Mention: P. Siakam
News and Notes
- Still Looming – Shout outs to the Raptors broadcast crew for seamlessly filling in when TV play by play broadcaster, Matt Devlin, contracted a case of COVID.
- Barnes is Noble – Scottie Barnes is giving back to the community by establishing an annual scholarship that will be granted to either Black or Indigenous students. This is a partnership that was developed between him, and the Skilled Trades College of Canada and it will take effect over the next 3 years.
- The Calvary has Arrived – The Raptors will receive a huge shot in the arm on March 1 when vaccine mandates are lifted in Toronto. Although fans will still need to “mask up” their support will be greatly appreciated from a team that could certainly use the help.
Around the League
- Cruel Ultimatum – Ken Mauer, an NBA official for the better part of 36 years, was forced to end his tenure as a referee due to refusing to get vaccinated. This is a curious decision considering that many restrictions have been lifted. The immediately recognizable Mauer, with his slicked back hair, will be missed, he was one of the better officials in the league.
- Going Nuclear – DeMar DeRozan continues to set the league on fire with his outstanding play. It seems like every night there is a highlight package devoted to his vast array of mid range jumpers and clutch buckets. His run of 35+ points over 50% shooting came to an end at the hands of Memphis but he was still able to score over 30 points for the 10 straight game, tying him with none other than Michael Jordan.
- Commemorating Greatness – Akron, Ohio will soon be blessed with the first ever LeBron James Museum. It will be developed by the LeBron James Family foundation and will be open to the public in the coming year.
- Clever as a Fox – Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox is feeling the heat after he suddenly cancelled an NFT project that he was developing over the course of the season. His reason was that he wanted to focus on basketball. He acknowledged that he may have been spreading himself too thin and that he was unable to devote the necessary time needed to make the project a success. In doing so, Fox was able to secure a cool $1.5 million from the project at the expense of his subscribers and supporters. This rose the ire of many who believed in his initiative. Some of Fox’s promises that were unfulfilled included a metaverse basketball court, 5 scholarships to the University of Kentucky, a chance to win All-Star tickets, signed jerseys and “more to come”. It will take time for De’Aaron to wash away the stink from this decision.
- Make Peace, Not War – The Kings and Nuggets joined in solidarity to support Sacramento centre, and Ukrainian Alex Len before their game. Players locked arms and held a moment of silence for Len’s now war-torn country. Prayers and support go out to all those effected.
The Raptors face a merciless stretch of games starting with a back-to-back miniseries against the Brooklyn Nets. Monday night they will be in New York and on Tuesday they will be in Toronto. On Thursday, Toronto will host the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are bottom feeders, but they always play Toronto well. The next night, the Raptors will welcome the Orlando Magic. Finally, they will wrap up their loaded week with a Sunday night game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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