Maybe in the end it just turns out to be just another game near the middle of the season, a Tuesday night at the end of January that ultimately doesn’t mean much.
But maybe it does not. Maybe this mess that exists in the NBA’s Eastern Conference lasts until April, and an otherwise undescribed game against Charlotte gets a little more interest.
And maybe the Raptors will look back on an unlikely victory as one that carries a little extra weight in breakaways and confidence and messages sent.
The Raptors delivered one of their best offensive performances of the season without two starters – including the beating heart of the series in Fred VanVleet – beating the Charlotte Hornets 125-113 in front of another sea of empty Scotiabank Arena seats.
With rarely-used guards dusting off Dalano Banton and Malachi Flynn and providing a points bonus, and with Gary Trent Jr. and Pascal Siakam who performed very heavy tasks beat the Raptors one of the teams chasing them in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
“It’s nice to be in this mix,” coach Nick Nurse said before the Raptors played the first in an odd eight-game game.
“You will have to do the work against the people right around you. If you see them head to head, you can not sit around all night hoping they lose when you look at the scores of other matches. When you have the chance to take them out yourself, you will have to do it more times than not. ”
The Raptors will once again play Charlotte and Atlanta, Miami and Brooklyn twice each over a two-week period. Given how tight the East is – six games separated fifth from the 11th coming in on Tuesday – it’s a considerable stretch. And it started in the most unlikely way, as the Raptors blew the Hornets off the opening spot and won easily.
“You could immediately see that a lot of guys became completely different than (Sunday) night,” Nurse said, referring to a terrible loss against Portland. “(It) just seemed like every time we’re going to shoot the other night, it’s not going to go in. And everyone who walked into one tonight, you thought they were going to make them.”
And it was an evening of weird lineups and rotations, as it so often has been this season.
“It’s going to be another night trying to figure out what it’s going to look like tonight, right?” Nurse said before the game. “So we’ll just keep trying to get involved in the short term, which is: whatever team we got out there on a specific night, we have to get them to play hard and let them play together and try to find a way to a victory. ”
Trent finished with 32 points, while Siakam had an almost triple with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds, but it was the secondary group that made the difference.
Banton scored 10 points and provided some defensive energy, while Flynn, who last played crucial minutes in an NBA game on Dec. 28, provided a steady 26 minutes off the bench. Both played for the G League Raptors 905 on Monday night to stay sharp and neither looked out of place in an NBA outing.
“It definitely helps, just to get up and down, to run. Get some cardio in, really. Get some shots. “So, I definitely think it helped to play (Monday),” said Flynn.
The two were a combined 8-out-15 from the field.
“I thought they both seemed like the trip to Mississauga helped them from a confident point of view,” Nurse said. “They really looked like they were playing in the rotation as usual. I thought they both fought hard, handled the ball well, made matches. Made shots to spark us too. They were both very good. ”
Somehow – and this probably has a lot to do with Charlotte’s 26th-seeded defense – the Raptors had their best offensive half of the season in the first two quarters, shooting the Hornets 62 percent en route to ‘ a rest period of 76-61 leads.
That it was possible without VanVleet (sore knee) and newcomer Scottie Barnes (joint swelling) and with Chris Boucher scoring only two points, emphasized how easy the score came for the Raptors.
Nurse said VanVleet’s injury is painful and nothing structural, while Barnes’ absence only came to the fore after he went through his pre-match training session.
“While we play all these games, everyone is confused. (VanVleet) is a bit confused, “Nurse said before the game. “They decided he was not going to go tonight, but I think it’s kind of day-to-day.”
Both went on a three-game road trip that begins Wednesday in Chicago.
“The report I received was (Barnes) was hurt this morning. “He did not do his post-walkthrough shooting, and when he arrived here tonight, they decided it was not good enough to go,” said Nurse.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION