Whether you tuned into TSN’s broadcast or attended the game, its clear that the cloud of negative vibes surrounding the Raptors a month ago has completely evaporated.
Performances from Caribbean Heritage Night all night long had a packed house loud, something that hasn’t always been said this season and I’m being nice.
The dancers and steel pans were out in full effect, Kevin Lyttle and Patrice Roberts performed and numerous Raptors talked postgame (Scottie Barnes, Chris Boucher, Jeff Dowtin Jr.) about how special the energy was.
The broadcast crew added to the fun.
Contributing to the change of fortunes was the return of O.G. Anunoby for his first game in nearly a month. His shooting was off (1-8 from three) but the defence wasn’t, as Anunoby had two very O.G-like steals for transition baskets.
Fred VanVleet missed this game for personal reasons.
Raptors play of the Season?
Chris Boucher has thrown down a few vicious slams lately, but what he did to end the third quarter was next level.
Boucher’s last dribble was at the half court logo. He gathered at the three point arc and took off just a foot inside the free throw line. To top it off, Boucher ended that sequence by blocking a three at the buzzer.
Best Raptors play in 2022-23? Has to be. Hopefully not falling victim to being prisoner of the moment, it’s hard to think of a better Boucher highlight in his career period.
Nick Nurse was also impressed even though he’s seen that before.
The Yak effect…continued
Inquiring minds are starting to wonder what exactly the Spurs were doing utilizing Jakob Poeltl this season.
Look no further than his final game as a Spur in Toronto, hours before he switched locker rooms and was attacked at will by Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet. Poeltl had 12 points and seven boards in that game but also missed quite a few bunnies where fans had to wonder, “This isn’t the Poeltl we are getting right?” when the trade was announced.
The answer has been a resounding hell no.
Poeltl already had a high basketball IQ so his re-connection with Pascal Siakam and VanVleet was easy to predict. Scottie and Jakob have also quickly developed on court chemistry, as both have found each other as finishers via rolls and cuts.
Poeltl’s takeover in the fourth while the Pelicans were playing small with Jonas Valanciunas resting was crucial during a period where Toronto was struggling to score.
Poeltl finished with 21 points and a career-high 18 boards. He’s averaging 19 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 3.3 blocks in three games as a starter for the Raptors. Jakob has also shot 27-33 (81.8%) from the field during that stretch, which looks more like a free throw percentage.
Pascal said after the game that Jakob wearing 19 instead of 42 is weird as opposed to the Bench Mob days when they were one number apart. Other than that, its been three years since the Raptors have had a legitimate centre that can anchor the defence, rebound and finish. The Poeltl return couldn’t have played out any better so far.
The Pascal-Fred play, without Fred
New Orleans refused to go away, notably Brandon Ingram scoring 26 of his 36 points in the second half. A double digit lead turned into a two-point game with 20 seconds left.
Enter the Raptors patented 1-4 ghost action, except that it turned into 2-4.
CJ McCollum knew where Gary Trent Jr. was but decided to help out on Siakam getting into the paint. McCollum did a solid job of getting back to Trent, but that’s a shot Gary has made before to ice a game and he delivered again.
Up Next: A really early noon game in Detroit on Saturday. The Raptors are now percentage points ahead of Washington for ninth in the East.
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