RAPTORS BLOG: Loss to Lakers might sting, but thrilling return to normal was key takeaway

It was great to see a full house in Toronto and a classic game

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Yes, Friday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers was tough on the Raptors. They had many moves to win and probably should have done it. But LeBron James has found a way so many times over the years that what happened shouldn’t have been surprising. That said, Russell Westbrook’s arrival was much more surprising than a team that had just come off a long road trip and wasn’t playing particularly well (like the Raptors).

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Forget the loss. What was great to see was an entertaining and memorable game played in Toronto in front of a packed and enthusiastic home for what felt like the first time in forever. It’s been a long and difficult journey for everyone and to see a bit of normality was exceptional. More of that, please.

– There’s a lot more of that coming from Scottie Barnes, who continues to turn heads. Rookies, especially 20-year-olds, just aren’t supposed to be capable of what Barnes shows every night. Not since Vince Carter have we seen such an impressive rookie in these parts.

Barnes is absolutely right in the heart of the Rookie of the Year race. The problem is, his pal Evan Mobley had another good game on Friday (against MVP contender Nikola Jokic no less) and isn’t going away. They are both special players. It should be a close race for the award, although it’s still possible that Mobley will run away with him due to the attention his first half of the year has garnered. Of course, Cade Cunningham could take votes from either.

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Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors shoots Wenyen Gabriel #35 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of their NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on March 18, 2022 in Toronto, Canada.  Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images
Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors shoots Wenyen Gabriel #35 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of their NBA game at Scotiabank Arena on March 18, 2022 in Toronto, Canada. Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

– That shouldn’t take anything away from what Barnes is showing, because it’s a ton. Fred VanVleet is a star, Pascal Siakam has played at All-NBA level, but I’d be surprised if Barnes wasn’t the club’s best player within two years.

He’s the first rookie since Blake Griffin to go 30-and-15-and-5 (and one of only 10 players to do so this season). The last rookie to do it before Griffin (who did it three times before being named rookie of the year)? A LeBron James.

“It was Westbrook’s ninth triple-double against the Raptors. No one should be surprised that he leads all players in this category against Toronto. James has five, Jimmy Butler and Jason Kidd three each. Luka Doncic only plays them twice a year but already has two out of seven games against them. LeBron and Draymond Green have two playoff triple-doubles against the Raptors, Kidd has another Marcus Smart.

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ANCIENT RAPTOR OF THE NIGHT:

Delon Wright:

He’s quietly having a good season as a substitute/substitute for Trae Youg at times. Wright never shot the ball better and had 18 points and 6 assists in a winning start against Memphis.

Kyle Lowry also had a good game for Miami and Goran Dragic was good for Brooklyn. Big night for the former Raptor point guards.

NIGHT CANADIAN:

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander:

He’s been showing up here a lot lately. And for good reason. Gilgeous-Alexander continues to have the best second half of the season that no one is talking about. He had 26 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in a loss to Miami.

Also, it was nice to see Dillon Brooks back in action after his long injury absence. Memphis sent him straight back to the starting lineup, thinking he’d get there eventually, so might as well start the reinstatement process now.

CHOOSE THE WATCH:

Keeping track of the pick Toronto might face San Antonio (from the Thaddeus Young trade) and the pick they will recover from Detroit.

Before Saturday’s games, Toronto would send the 17and take to San Antonio and pick up the 33rd choose from Detroit. (as stated many times, if Toronto is in the playoffs and doesn’t make the playoffs, they keep the pick and send another one next year, but still get Detroit second round).

THREE STARS

1 LeBron James

2Scottie Barnes

3Pascal Siakam

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