After closing out a 5-game road trip with a win in Washington, Toronto hopes to continue its winning ways.
Scottie Barnes’ incredible 27-point, 8 rebound night in Washington on Friday showed how dominant he can be.
In single coverage against fellow lottery pick Corey Kispert, Barnes took him to school with an array of hooks and post spins. Despite the collective outrage from the Toronto Raptors faithful of Barnes being noted as a “screener” from ESPN, he made some great plays in that position. In the second quarter, he set a couple of brush screens for both Gary Trent Jr and Fred VanVleet which led to easy buckets for Barnes. Again in the third, another screen for VanVleet led to another 2 points for Barnes. He’s made great decisions in that position all season. After getting the quick hook less than 2 minutes in, he came back as a different, more aggressive version of himself.
Barnes on getting subbed out after 2 minutes: "I guess (Nurse) saw something that I didn't see and just pulled me out of the game."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 22, 2022
Scottie said he was trying to be aggressive and attack when he came back in, and VanVleet saw an action that was working and kept feeding him.
In the previous matchup against today’s opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers, Barnes had an ending to forget. A couple of costly turnovers late in the fourth put the game out of reach for the Raptors. He had 18 points and 8 rebounds that night, but he very much looked like a rookie.
The good news? He has another chance tonight. Coming off a great performance on Friday, Barnes will look to keep this aggressive momentum going. Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
SportsNet, 6:00PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam
Portland – Anfernee Simons, CJ McCollum, Nassir Little, Robert Covington, Jusuf Nurkić
Toronto — Khem Birch (nose – out), Goran Dragic (personal – out), David Johnson (health and safety protocols – out)
Portland – Damian Lillard (abdomen – out), Norman Powell (personal – out), Larry Nance Jr (knee – out), Cody Zeller (knee – out)
New year, new Boucher
The new year has been kind to Chris Boucher. In January, he’s averaging 11 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block per contest. Boucher’s numbers don’t jump off the page, but his newfound enthusiasm for doing the little things and playing within his skill set have certainly been seen.
He’s played even better in his last six: 14 points and 10 rebounds on 39% from three. With most of the bench players failing to make an impact in their minutes, Boucher has taken advantage and cemented himself within the rotation, at times even closing alongside the core three. According to some trade rumors, Boucher, who is a free agent this offseason, is being made available. If the front office does decide to move on from him, his play this month has increased his value.
Anfernee Simons has simply made the most of his opportunity. In the absence of Damian Lillard, Simons has filled in nicely. In the nine games since Lillard last played, Simons is averaging 25.7 points, 7.5 assists, while shooting a blistering 43% from deep on over 10 attempts per game. Sometimes players can put up good numbers without an impact on winning but this isn’t the case for Simons. Portland’s record in January is 6-4, with CJ McCollum missing all but three of those games.
While it’s only been a 10-game sample, does this give Portland an idea of what a post-Lillard team would look like? The Trailblazers have the longest active streak of consecutive playoff appearances in the NBA despite not making any considerable moves to bolster their postseason chances. Lillard, who turns 32 this offseason, has made it clear he wants to win. With the emergence of Simons, is it time to give him that chance and move on?
The last day to vote for 2022 All-Star starters was yesterday and it’s safe to say Fred VanVleet will not be voted a starter. The Raptors have two players, Pascal Siakam and VanVleet, who have a chance at being named a reserve, but its very unlikely both will be in Cleveland. Both Jarret Allen and Darius Garland have incredible cases to be named to the team, and with the Cavaliers secure in the 5th spot, there’s a punchers chance both get in.
“I'm not sure anybody is playing better than him in the East. We’ve talked about it as a staff …. I’m sure he’s in high consideration based on how he’s been playing all season … he keeps you up at night” - Suns coach Monty Williams on Fred VanVleet’s all-star worthiness.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) January 11, 2022
That suggests at best one spot for a Raptor. Fred VanVleet has been playing like an All-Star, and if you look at the advanced numbers, you could argue All-NBA. Both Siakam and VanVleet are deserving of playing in Cleveland on All-Star Weekend, in the perfect world, they both would be. But that shouldn’t take away from Fred’s accomplishment if he makes it and Siakam doesn’t; there’s nothing like being a first time All-Star.