Well, that was fun, wasn’t it?
It’s a bit difficult to do any kind of a critical recap of last night’s 41-point thrashing of the Milwaukee Bucks – the box score, in this case, tells the story. The Raptors had a huge lead from the get-go and never let up until things got ugly. Click here for the Quick Reaction, and here’s a laundry list of GIFs and videos that will give you a good idea of what kind of game this was, if you missed it (and if you did, I implore you to find a way to watch it):
- Lou Williams with yet another buzzer beater
- Vasquez 3 pointer – all five Raptors touch the ball
- Greivis Vasquez shocks the world, dunks the ball
- Lou Williams, I kid you not, with another buzzer beater
- Bruno Caboclo’s first NBA points – an alley-oop dunk
- ACC crowd chants Bruno’s name, he hits the 3
With that said, I still have a couple thoughts, and I’ll do my best to put them down here coherently (I have to admit, I’m still a bit discombobulated from that Bruno dunk). First, some quick thoughts on the two rookies:
Quick thoughts on the rooks
The most intriguing part of last night’s big win was that both Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira got their first taste of NBA action – and their first NBA points, both on alley-oop connections from Greivis Vasquez. Bruno hit a couple threes to go along with his, and had the entire ACC chanting his name (I particularly loved subbing “DE-FENSE” for “BRU-NO”). Did the guys look NBA ready? No, not exactly – both struggled with simple basketball decisions, such as how to pass the ball out of traffic – but both, particularly Bruno, showed NBA-ready skills, which is exceedingly promising going forward.
I’m a little worried that the Bruno hype that permeated the fanbase last night may lead to increased pressure on the youngin’, and that’s not entirely fair – this is a good team, and had James Johnson been in the lineup, he may not have even dressed – but last night, it just served to contribute to the feel-good atmosphere. In the short-to-medium term, he seems like the kind of guy who can get spot minutes, if needed, and that’s exactly what the team needs for him, and what’s going to be best for his development. He’s still months away from cracking the rotation, but that’s fine. This is the kind of roster that can afford to be patient, and if he keeps showing glimmers of something special, like he did last night, that should be enough for now.
Nogeuira, surprisingly, looked a bit more out of sorts than Bruno did on both ends of the ball, but it’s going to be tough to tell his overall effectiveness until he plays with a bit more conventional lineup than the one he did last night (Stiemsma/Fields/Caboclo/Nogueira/Vasquez). He’s clearly still learning how to get his feet set defensively, but, again, the Raptors can afford to be patient, and his raw athleticism was on full display. It’ll be harder for him to crack the roster with the Raptors’ deep bench depth at the 5, but the sooner he earns it, the better off the team will be (despite the fact that Chuck Hayes is a boss/badass/da real MVP).
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around for a while, you could miss it
After tonight’s win, the Toronto Raptors stand at 10-2, alone in first place in the Eastern Conference, after their largest win in franchise history. Think about that for a second. Twelve months ago, this squad sat at 6-7, almost a full month away from the Rudy Gay trade that unexpectedly brought this franchise back into NBA relevancy, and with two decades of mostly unseemly history the only thing that stood as a Raptor “legacy.”
Yes, the hyperbole is going to be flying fast and furious after a game like tonight – and no, I’m not a blind homer. This win was against what is likely a non-playoff team, the Eastern conference is weak again this year, the Raptors’ early season schedule has been reasonably easy at times and fortuitous with injuries/illnesses in others. This team might not be fools gold, but nobody who seriously follows the Raps sees this as a championship contender just yet.
With THAT being said, though: think about where we are right now. Take a deep breath, sit down, and bask it in. Last night was the kind of night Raptor fans have been dreaming about for years: blowing the doors off an overmatched team at home, getting their prized rookies in in garbage time, and every player contributing to a team-first victory. Times are good right now in Raptorland, and our fans’ wary nature (deserved, after years of disappointment) may force some people to immediately start picking apart the team’s situation right away.
So here’s my plea: don’t miss this tree for the forest. This is a landmark game in a landmark time for the franchise, and if there are any fans who deserve a reprieve, a night off, a “holy shit, were our guys ever good tonight,” it’s Raptor fans.
Don’t forget where we come from, or where we’re going – and there’ll be plenty of talk about that tonight after the Cleveland game – but for now, don’t forget where we are, either. This game should stand a celebration of all things Raptors basketball. You, of all fans in the entire association, deserve it.