Rejuvenated Raptors get off to good start on road trip

Toronto has won consecutive games for the first time since November 24.

Are the vibes back again? This is apparently what happens when you’re in Memphis, its Jack Armstrong’s birthday and the Raptors are one win away from a free team dinner, courtesy of Darko Rajakovic’s wallet.

Toronto led most of the game against a Memphis team that was on the second night of a back to back, but came in 5-2 with Ja Morant in the lineup. The Raptors led by as many as 20 until a fourth quarter drought helped the Grizzlies make it a five point game before falling short.

The new look squad is 2-0 in 2024 and since the trade. Plenty of performances to talk about.

Immanuel Quickley

Quickley showed why he averaged 22.6 points and 5.1 assists in 21 starts for the Knicks last season. He got off to a slow start, missing his first four shots. Assists in transition to RJ Barrett and Gary Trent Jr. seemed to get IQ going. Once his shot started falling late in the second quarter, Quickley was lights out.

Pull-up three point shooting is something the Raptors dearly lacked before the trade. Memphis didn’t do itself any favours, giving up too much space on numerous occasions. Quickley’s patented floater is also something a Raptor guard hasn’t possessed in a while. The one element to Quickley’s offensive game that could use tuning is his finishing at the rim. IQ got to the rim on hesitation moves but only was 1-4 in the restricted area. Nitpicking aside, 26 points, five assists and a season-high tying five threes is great stuff in game two!

Quickley mentioned postgame how everybody his helping him get acclimated in the Raptors system.

Darko is also loving his new point guard.

RJ Barrett

The Raptors also lacked slashers pre-trade. Barrett has constantly been driving with force in his first two games, finishing with 14 points and seven boards. RJ was also tremendous on the defensive end, especially in the first half.

The knock on Barrett is tunnel vision. He’s aggressive on his takes however sometimes they are ill advised into traffic, which either lead to low percentage finishes or turnovers via offensive fouls and last second passes. Knowing when to drive all the way, or stop for a midrange jumper, or find a teammate will be the challenge for RJ as he gets more comfortable.

Jakob Poeltl

Jakob has also been rejuvenated since the trade. He’s now played 35-plus minutes three games in a row, something Poeltl hadn’t done previously since late November. The Raptors were turning to Precious Achiuwa or going small instead. Darko even mentioned the need to talk to Poeltl and get him back on track at one point.

With a now rather thin frontcourt (especially on the bench), Poeltl has been providing much needed rebounding and rim protection. Jakob had a season-high five blocks, now up to 11 over his last three games. The chasedown on Marcus Smart in the fourth was a timely one while Toronto was in an offensive drought and flirting with giving away the lead.

Dennis Schroder

Schroder had already transitioned to the bench pre-trade, which is the right role to prioritize handing the keys to Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam. For most of the night Dennis was brilliant, putting up 16 points, seven boards and five assists. Schroder’s behind the back bounce pass to Barrett for a corner three was a thing of beauty. Dennis also had the most crucial basket of the game, catching the Grizzlies defence off guard with a ball fake before driving to put the Raptors up seven with just over a minute to go.

One point of emphasis though. If Dennis is going to be closing games alongside Quickley in a two point guard lineup (a correct sub by Darko for Barrett who started playing erratic), the offence should still be run through Siakam and Barnes as often as possible. There were a couple instances of Dennis waving off Pascal, who finished with 24 points on only 14 shots. Desmond Bane was guarding Siakam (a mismatch) occasionally and didn’t get the ball. Scottie was able to take advantage a few possessions later with Bane on him.

Jontay Porter

Porter (brother of Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr.) made his Raptors debut, checking in near the end of the first quarter. He shot 68 percent (!!) from three in five games with the 905, averaging 18.8 points, 9.2 boards, four assists and 2.6 blocks. Porter missed both his threes in this game but played solid defence and gives the Raptors a different look. Rajakovic said after the game that Porter will continue to get opportunities to play.


  • A quick check on O.G. Anunoby’s second game with the Knicks. He finished with a game-high plus-35, with 11 points and eight boards while playing his typical All-NBA level defence. Both New York and Toronto are 2-0 with the new rosters.

Up Next: in Sacramento on Friday. Will the Raptors finally win three games in a row?