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One — Wow: Did anyone see that coming? The Raptors dismantled the Warriors to such a degree that it was embarrassing. The Warriors were without Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, and it was the second night of a back-to-back, but that was a shocking performance on all fronts. The Raptors got to the rim at will all night, were locked in defensively to the repetitive and basic sets that the Warriors were running, and dominated every single facet of the game. The lead grew to as many as 62 points in the fourth quarter.
Two — Wiser: Pascal Siakam led the way on his 27th birthday, scoring 36 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists. Siakam posted up on almost every trip down at the start and the Warriors had no answers, nor any counters. Siakam took it strong each time and by the third quarter, he even found the touch on his three-point shot that had been missing for most of the season. Siakam's aggressiveness on both ends set the tone, and Nick Nurse's gift was a court side seat to witness the biggest blowout in franchise history in the fourth quarter.
Three — Forceful: OG Anunoby followed Siakam's lead in attacking the rim. On at least three possessions, Anunoby took it strong against James Wiseman at the basket and was able to beat the 7-footer with a variety of tricks. On one drive, Anunoby kept his pivot foot after coming to a hard stop, allowed Wiseman to run past, before getting the scoop layup. On the other two, Anunoby just took it in strong, created the contact to neutralize the contest, and showed his strength by keeping his balance to still hit the shot. Anunoby's confidence remains sky-high this season, and he seems to have only grown more bold since returning from his long layoff.
Four — Wet: Gary Trent Jr. is already becoming a fan favourite after just a week with the Raptors, and he's already set two records. On the heels of his career-high 31-point game, Trent Jr. followed it up with the second-highest plus-minus in NBA history at plus-53. Trent Jr. remains incredibly confident in his jumper, and he's showing an unexpected level of craftiness going to the basket with a short floater in the lane and a reverse layup in traffic. Nurse sees more potential in Trent Jr. on both ends, and while it was incredibly sad to move Norman Powell at the trade deadline, Trent Jr. is showing you why the Raptors made the deal. He's like the guard version of Anunoby in that he's already a starting level two-way player at the age of 22, so it's exciting to imagine how his game will grow as he comes into his prime.
some joy for the raptors, finally pic.twitter.com/p7A8u0kbkk
— William Lou (@william_lou) April 3, 2021
Five — Finally: Malachi Flynn had his best game as a rookie, scoring a career-high 16 points with five rebounds and five assists. Flynn showed good instincts on defense as usual, especially on his two steals which he dug down into the post and caught the driver by surprise, and his scrappiness on loose balls under the basket is a crucial trait for smaller guards. But the most promising part was Flynn's ability to create his own offense. For most of the year, Flynn has operated without the ball in his hands, and when asked to create in a short clock situation, the end result was almost always a pull-up jumper. Flynn was finally able to get downhill and create shots at the basket, showcasing his layup package, his midrange jumper, and his floater that was such a crucial weapon for him in college.
Six — Compact: The Raptors did an incredible job of defending in the paint, limiting the Warriors to just 11-of-35 shooting in the paint. Much of the credit goes to Chris Boucher who had the toughest assignment guarding 7-footer James Wiseman, who Boucher blocked repeatedly, but it was also a great effort by the team as a whole. Nurse complimented his squad for being more timely with their help defense on drives, and that contributed to creating turnovers to spark their fast-break offense. The biggest issue for the Raptors all season has been their inability to protect the paint and it is no coincidence that their biggest win of the season coincided with their best performance defensively.
Seven — Unfortunate: The win did not come without a cost, however, as Fred VanVleet sustained a hip injury and walked straight to the locker room. Nurse didn't have a concrete update after the game, but postulated that VanVleet would likely receive an MRI. VanVleet was seen in tunnel giving high fives to his teammates in street clothes as they came off the floor. It goes without saying that losing VanVleet while Kyle Lowry is also missing would be a huge loss for the team, so hopefully it isn't anything more than a precautionary move.
Eight — Missed: The Raptors at least got DeAndre' Bembry back after he missed the last week due to COVID-19 protocols. Bembry was back to being a solid connector of the team on both ends, filing in the gaps as a smart team defender, a responsible secondary handler for the offense, while also making timely cuts to the basket. Bembry should see more minutes and remain a key bench piece for the remainder of the season, especially now that Terence Davis and Matt Thomas were moved at the trade deadline.
Nine — Activity: It was also good to see Yuta Watanabe get in some extended run in the fourth quarter. Watanabe actually looked for his shots, which had been an issue in previous outings, while also playing hard and collecting every rebound in sight. Watanabe has enough of a skillset to contribute at the NBA level, and he was in a good rhythm earlier this season before he got hurt. Watanabe's hustle and effort is always high, he defends well, and is almost unselfish to a point. If he can find the right balance in terms of impacting the offense, he will move further up the rotation for Nurse.
Ten — Relief: This was a much-needed sigh of relief for the team as a whole. March was a literal nightmare between the nine-game losing streak, the COVID-19 cases, the buzzer-beating disappointments, the trade deadline, and even more losing, that you could tell it was weighing on the Raptors mentally. This one result doesn't change anything for their season outlook, nor does it suggest that everything is magically fixed, but they just one ray of positivity in a dark and miserable season. Siakam was all smiles for once, Nurse was relaxed telling his British Basketball League stories, and there were smiles on everyone's faces because they all contributed to a win.
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