Sports

With a promising new forged, Raptors discover acquainted success in Toronto homecoming

| October 4, 2021, 11:25 PM

October 4, 2021, 11:25 PM

We take with no consideration the rhythms of “regular life” till they get interrupted, and every little thing is turned on its head.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers has been residing an NBA life for 35 years as a participant, and coach, and there have been some issues he missed desperately after a season-and-then-some performed through the weirdness of the pandemic.

And there have been some issues he missed about working in Toronto, particularly, the place he hadn’t visited since Dec. 11, 2019, when he was teaching the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I really feel like I’m sucking as much as Toronto proper now and I do not need to say it, however I simply love the followers [here] they only have this totally different vitality,” he mentioned earlier than his 76ers turned the primary visiting NBA crew to take the ground at Scotiabank Arena since Feb. 28, 2020. They have been greeted by 9,900 followers — half the traditional capability, however a promise of issues to come back.

“… I simply love how [Toronto fans] method the video games, I do,” mentioned Rivers. “It’s good coming again to followers, simply interval, across the league. It’s good being booed, listening to obscenities … it is sort of a pleasant really feel, simply to be again in regular life.”

But if it was a return to regular for thus many — it was a household reunion behind the scenes at SBA as area workers obtained to see one another for the primary time and visited with acquainted faces from their acquainted stations — it was additionally one thing utterly totally different for most of the Raptors’ new guard.

Only 4 gamers on the 20-man coaching camp roster have performed in Toronto for the Raptors. Two of them — Pascal Siakam (recovering from shoulder surgical procedure) and Chris Boucher (out for a month after surgical procedure this previous weekend to realign a dislocated center finger on his left hand) weren’t within the lineup. (Also lacking have been Gary Trent Jr., as a consequence of quad soreness and Khem Birch, as a consequence of well being and security protocols).

Most distinguished among the many newcomers is Scottie Barnes, the No. 4 choose within the draft who began for the Raptors in his first quasi-NBA sport.

It was by design. The Raptors haven’t any plans to ease him in. They need him dealing with the ball, main the break and even surveying the defence within the half court docket. In his first sport towards NBA competitors, he was given the run of the place, and largely delivered as marketed.

“Nothing totally different from what we’ve been saying or seeing,” was Raptors head coach Nick Nurse’s post-game evaluation. “Just sort of a little bit little bit of every little thing, bringing the ball, discovering a approach to get it within the bucket right here and there, making some passes. He’s an excellent, versatile, multi-dimensional man.”

Nurse even went so far as limiting the early minutes for second-year level guard Malachi Flynn in order that Barnes wouldn’t must defer to a extra conventional level guard within the second unit.

Overall? It labored out rather well. The Raptors shook off a sluggish — and even unhealthy — begin to give Rivers and the 76ers a conventional Raptors blowout that was by no means as shut because the 123-107 remaining rating would possibly recommend. As is custom, Sixers star Joel Embiid was scoreless — although it’s solely truthful to level out that the Philly massive man didn’t gown for the sport, and Embiid-stopper Marc Gasol is not within the NBA.

But issues began particularly slowly for Barnes, the energetic six-foot-nine wing who the Raptors envision as the perfect for the position-less basketball they’re attempting to make a part of their identification.

His first contact was a turnover, the place he grabbed a free ball on defence, pivoted to push it up court docket and threw a go immediately into the arms of Sixers guard Seth Curry, who was about 10 toes in entrance of him. A minute later Georges Niang — nobody’s concept of a burner — gave Barnes his first NBA blow-by.

A pair extra minutes handed and Barnes picked up his first foul, reaching on Andre Drummond and sending the Sixers massive man to the road for an opportunity for a three-point play. There was one other sloppy turnover. It wasn’t fairly.

He did thread a few good passes — one to a slicing Goran Dragic out of a post-up, one other whereas main the break and discovering a trailing Fred VanVleet for 3, so there was that.

But there was an awkwardness to Barnes’ sport when he began and shared the ground with veteran level guards Fred VanVleet and Goran Dragic.

“That’s a factor we’ll have to determine,” mentioned VanVleet. “I feel he was much more comfy with different bench guys on the market with him. That second run he had was all the time lots higher than the run he had with the starters however that’s all the time a fantastic stability of attempting to play with different prime gamers. I feel that stuff will take a while, but it surely’s there, you see it.

“He can carry the ball up the ground, he can go. He can add some stuff off the bounce, he’s sturdy sufficient. Again, in the event you go on the market with that vitality and fervour for the sport and you’ve got any sort of means, you’ll are inclined to determine it out.”

Barnes shouldn’t be missing for self-belief, no matter who he’s on the ground with.

“I’m simply going to attempt to play my sport,” Barnes mentioned. “We’re nonetheless attempting to really feel one another out. Really get an excellent really feel for one another. I would not say it is no strain in any respect. Like I mentioned, we’re nonetheless simply getting an excellent really feel for one another.”

Things started to show halfway by the primary quarter when Dalano Banton — the primary Toronto-born participant to be drafted by his hometown crew — checked in to a heat greeting from the group. The Raptors have been trailing 21-11 on the time and Banton modified the circulation of the sport. On his first contact the six-foot-nine level guard grabbed a defensive rebound, sprinted the ground with the ball and located Svi Mykhailiuk for a lay-up. A second later, Banton saved it for himself.

Soon Barnes checked in and the Raptors have been taking part in a five-man lineup the place the shortest participant was six-foot-six rookie Justin Champagnie.

The Raptors closed the primary half on a 17-4 run with loads of transition scoring, fueled by Sixers misses and turnovers as they tried to maneuver by the Raptors’ five-man swarm of fast-moving legs and arms.

“That’s what we would like it to appear like proper there, I don’t know if we will duplicate that 100 extra instances, however that’s the purpose,” mentioned VanVleet. “Credit to these guys, they got here in and performed with unimaginable spirit and vitality and that’s all you’ll be able to ask for brand new guys, younger guys particularly …that vitality and that zeal will carry you an extended methods within the league they usually’re doing every little thing the correct means so it’s onerous to be mad at something they’re doing. Now will it all the time work? Probably not, but it surely’s an excellent begin.”

On this evening they by no means let up. A 39-29 second quarter allowed the Raptors to take a 67-54 lead into the half. The peak second got here when Banton hit a slicing Barnes for a layup and, a minute later, Barnes made a intelligent no-look go to a slicing Yuta Watanabe. It was numerous tall guys slicing and working and sharing the ball and never a conventional level guard or centre in sight.

Toronto adopted up with a 33-23 third quarter and the blowout was formally in play.

There have been loads of encouraging indicators to go round.

After his shaky begin, Barnes was as marketed, counting 13 factors, 9 rebounds, six assists and two steals in 25 minutes as he made performs, completed performs and stopped performs.

Banton continues to appear like a second-round discover as he pushed the tempo at each probability and completed with six factors, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in 24 minutes. More importantly the crew appeared to play extra fluidly with him on the ground. His 5 turnovers – multiple off lengthy full-court passes he tried to drive into tight home windows in transition – must come down, however he’s obtained the remainder of his profession for that.

Watanabe, signed off a two-way deal a final season, seems extra assured and decisive, giving Nurse one other six-foot-nine ballhandler who could make performs for himself and others on offence and may change a number of positions on defence. He added 10 factors.

As effectively, six-foot-eight Mykhailiuk seems like somebody who can present a little bit of pop off the bench, as he completed with 13 in 23 minutes. OG Anunoby led eight Raptors with at the very least eight factors, ending with 21 in his 25 minutes.

Things aren’t the identical as they have been the final time the Raptors performed in Toronto. But the Raptors dealing with the Sixers at Scotiabank Arena, even with a brand new forged?

It felt like previous instances.

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