Gary Trent Jr. helps Raptors survive Magic onslaught, get back to .500 with 110-109 win

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Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes (4) and Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) share a hug. (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

More RR coverage from this game:

The first order of business here is to thank Magic coach Jamahl Mosley for calling that timeout in the dying seconds with Jalen Suggs bringing up the ball. If that didn’t happen and Suggs got a shot off considering fans were chanting “Scottie’s better” minutes prior?

Boy, we would have rightfully been clowned for WEEKS. More on the clash between the latest draft’s 4th and 5th picks later.

Trent’s defensive emergence

Coming into this game, Gary Trent Jr. was ranked second league wide in deflections this season. Who was number one? His backcourt mate Fred VanVleet. Trent wreaked havoc on Cole Anthony on the final play of the game, forcing him to hoist up a half court prayer and put what would have been a hellacious collapse to bed.

Some of this is surprising even to Nick Nurse.

“That’s a big time play man, right at the right time when we needed it.” Nurse said to reporters after the game. “He’s been a pleasant surprise in that area, he’s improved at it and he’s starting to kind of make it his thing which is great.”

The Raptors were up 12 with two minutes to go, and then got complacent. Trent also played a part in the run earlier, pressuring Suggs into a turnover and finding OG Anunoby for a slam to put Toronto up double digits.

Trent also talked about the importance of bringing defence to the table.

“I’m open ears, like a sponge. I’ve been listening, I’ve been learning. Guys on the team play a certain way, OG, Freddy, everybody defends. I can’t be the weak link out there. I’ve got to be able to hold my own and show I can defend as well.

I wouldn’t say I’m too surprised at myself. I’ve always felt that I could defend, but everybody else hasn’t felt that, or seen that. So now I have the ability to showcase that I can defend, go out there, and go hard every time I can,” Trent said.

GTJ also added 19 points (7-13 shooting), knocking down two threes as well. He had 20 points and 5 steals in Toronto’s first win vs Boston, but this may have been his best performance of the season considering the timeliness of his play.

OG/Fred waking up in the 4th

Dwane Casey was notorious for describing things when not going too well as “playing in mud.” That’s basically what both OG and Fred were doing scoring wise. VanVleet only had three points before this flurry below. The first three shots are my favourite.

Now that Fred is finally the lead guard on a team like he’s always strived to be, that 15-18 footer near the free throw line or the elbow is a MUST to have in your game.

VanVleet has added that to his arsenal this season, and has also been tinkering with floaters in the paint which are equally as important. Those middies will consistently be there when he gets around screens and bigs are playing drop coverage. That opens up plenty of future possibilities as well once teams start playing Fred for the midrange shot, including opening driving lanes to the rim or kickouts to shooters on collapsing defenses.

Onto Anunoby, with big credit to Dalano Banton who really got OG going on this play.

Banton did a little bit of everything in his 23 minutes, with 10 points, five boards, two assists and two steals. It’s wild that the 46th overall pick has done this much already, making Goran Dragic minutes pointless, and also putting Malachi Flynn’s minutes in question. He’s really wrestled away the backup point guard position from those two guys, and checked in as early as the first quarter for the second straight game.

For now, Dalano has one speed….fast. Things just happen.

“There is something there that is deceiving when he’s got the ball because boom, he’s at the rim for a layup or two and he’s finishing them. He seems to get us some easier flowing type baskets when he’s out there,” Nurse said.

After that, Fred found Anunoby in the other corner for another trey, and then Anunoby also had two dunks, one I already mentioned above and the other off a full court inbound pass from VanVleet because the Magic were…I don’t know.

The Rookie Showdown

This was awesome. Scottie Barnes was on a high right away, starting with his comfortable 15 footer around the elbow. That spiked his confidence for a dominant first half that was only slowed down because of an inadvertent eye poke.

In the middle of those clips was the three dribble one man destruction of basketball which drew up some fun comparisons.

Fred and OG’s emergence in the second half meant less touches for Scottie, but that’s where Suggs gained momentum. He was impressive in his own right, and had a four point play in Orlando’s 11-0 late run which nearly cost Toronto the game.

Both Barnes and Suggs finished with 21 points and whether it makes sense or not, a small demographic of Raptors fans have created a rivalry…with themselves?

Scottie and Jalen are boys and Magic fans don’t seem to care about what Barnes is doing, so the whole one sided comparison hype up is part puzzling/lol. Especially when you consider the initial reaction north of the border to Barnes being drafted. All in all their rookie seasons (and careers) will be monitored in comparison for years to come, so this won’t go away anytime soon. Here’s to hoping both are great.

Up next: Indiana, who the Raptors saw a whole three days ago. This time to kick off a three game road trip.

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