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The Toronto Raptors avenge their season-opener and give notice to the rest of the league

The Toronto Raptors have stormed the gates. No team is safe from their 5-game winning streak. Ready yourself, Cleveland. Prepare, Brooklyn. We are coming.

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At first, we were skeptics.

The nullity of the preseason and the circumspection of the season opener left us all the more doubtful.

The Boston win was, perhaps, merely a fluke – an overconfident and tired team underestimating the potency of a young roster.

Dallas and Chicago only served to reaffirm the growing sentiment of detraction. The two teams demonstrated what superior firepower and a legion of natural-born scorers can do to a team unable to respond with its own offensive salvoes.

Then, Indiana happened. Then, Orlando, Indiana, again, New York, and, last night, Washington.

Now, we are zealots.

A fanbase devoted to the cause. One in which other teams and their supporters will fail to comprehend.

We are the few who call for aggression, for disruption, for defence, for our precocious leaders to step up to the altar and lead us worshippers of chaos onward.

That is this Toronto Raptors, our team, our fanbase, our path to victory.

And, what Goddamn fun it is.

Before our very eyes, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby are metamorphosing into All-Star level talents. Not just in scoring and playmaking, but in defence, leadership, and relentlessness.

Against Chicago, FVV had a career-high 17 assists. A week later, on National Television, OG scored a career-high 36 points and spoke a career-high more than 5 words:

The duo are omnipresent. They are the backbone of an emaciated half-court offence and the claws of a fervent full-court onslaught.

Each game, their transcendence finds new bounds.

Fred, last night, assaulted the entire court with his scoring prowess. He controlled the game, instrumentally, selecting how and where he would inflict wounds. It is something we’ve yet to see in such a voluminous manner.

Washington’s pick and roll defence was in full retreat by the end of Fred’s offensive thrust unable to counter his array of attacks.

He scythed the paint with his patented scooping lay-ups:

He fired shots spanning the mid-range with a diversity and accuracy we’ve yet seen unleashed:

He struck timely threes like a divinical metronome absolving Toronto’s offensive woes at a constant pace throughout the night. Like this desperately needed score in the third quarter (he had 14 in the period):

Even when Washington did contend, he was not to be stopped.

In OG, too, we saw a holy offensive warrior emerge – as though, he’d inhaled Arrakis’ spice.

He worked his isolation game, methodically, finding the weaknesses in his opponent and exploiting them with the patience, vision, and newfound confidence of a Master Scorer.

Neither Dinwiddie’s size – he switches on to OG to upsize from Raul Neto – nor Kentavius Caldwell-Pope’s double could apprehend OG’s intent:

It was not the scoring, though, that OG revealed this past night. Nor was it his defence – his 5 deflections, 3 steals, and 1 block are expected now, as is his nullification of the opposing team’s superstar (Bradley Beal finished with 25 points on 44% shooting). A list of his victims’ field goal percentages this season (recall matchup data is not always the most accurate or contextualized):

No, tonight OG demonstrated that he is capable of both shouldering the scoring load and creating for others.

Washington’s strategy was to encumber OG’s moves with awaiting henchmen. In response, in the first quarter alone, OG had three non-assists-assists, where he attacked and found cutting teammates who were subsequently fouled.

Svi Mykhailiuk, who has an acute understanding of spacing and timing at both ends of the floor, was a repeat recipient:

The joy of this team’s ferocity is its contagion. In its transformation, we are seeing a team wholly committed to an aggressive, unrelenting, and loyal work ethic. They want nothing more than to overwhelm opponents by combusting passing lanes, crashing boards, and plundering the scoring elite. Only together can they succeed – we’ve seen the poor outcomes when unaligned.

Khem Birch dedicated himself to the cause last Spring. Scottie Barnes joined draft night. Gary Trent Jr.’s here for it (he had 3 steals, last night, and 5 more deflections). Dalano Banton, has arrived, like a Banshee. Dalano Bantshee. Precious Achiuwa is among the troops, too; his confidence and decision-making woes a superficial challenge.

Now, Svi Mykhailiuk has enlisted.

In the last three games, including last night, he’s averaged 15 points. He’s working his damndest defensively and opens the half-court up with his deadeye shooting (72.5 true shooting percentage this year) and timely cuts to the hoop giving OG and FVV the outlets they need as defences closed. He has a rim-homing device attached to his head; every ball possession he looks immediately to attack the hoop; he’s learning to find early passes. He showed a sultry step-back in the mid-range, which, if he can harness, will make him a functional 3-level (rim, mid, three) scorer.

A five-game win streak is something to exalt in.

Our devotion leaves no room to doubt that victories against Cleveland, Brooklyn, Boston, and Philadelphia will bring us to 9.

That is the wonder of this team and its designs: no opponent is immune to the furor of Toronto basketball.

Other Scriptures:
  • Precious struggled at the rim – a season-long problem, so far – but his passing and patience with the ball were encouraging signs of development (@Precious see next bullet).
  • Khem Birch finished with a net rating of +29; against New York, it was +20. We saw similarly absurd differentials last year. He’s a versatile big on the defensive end, a hard rebounder, and makes quick, decisive shots and passes out of the pick and roll. He started the second half and will likely eat further into Precious’ playing time with such ostentatious numbers.
  • Don’t think I’d forget about Precious’ posterization of Corey KRUSHEDpert

  • My nervous-0-meter for Scottie Barnes’ injury is slowly surging

Warning: Upsetting news below. Reader discretion is advised.

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