My goodness, how fun was that basketball game last night? I mean, sure, the first 45 minutes were kinda blah, but those last three minutes? Stanley? Paul? Dewan? STANLEY!?!?
Before we dive into it, surely you’ve seen the numbers: COVID-19 has hit racialized and lower-income communities incredibly hard. Here in Toronto, racialized people make up 52% of residents, but they make up 83% of COVID-19 cases.
The income inequality that economically depresses our BIPOC communities is the direct result of decades of systemic racism and oppression. It will take decades to change this, but right now, during this pandemic, is a great place to start. Check out the Black Health Alliance and see how you can help.
On to the game:
1. What a Finish
We start at the end of course. I mean, where else? Can you even believe this sequence of events, with the Raptors trailing by 6 and two minutes to go:
- Dewan Hernandez three-pointer
- Matt Thomas three-pointer
- Stanley Johnson forces a backcourt turnover
- Paul Watson driving layup
- Raul Neto three-point play
- Stanley Johnson driving layup
- Stanley Johnson offensive rebound off a blocked Hernandez shot
- Stanley Johnson five-foot turnaround jumper for the win
A 13-3 run where four different guys scored, and Stanley Johnson had the winning points!? And all the while, the 76ers and Raptors benches were chirping at each in the middle of an otherwise empty arena? Brett Brown double-teaming Stanley Johnson 40 feet from the hoop!?
You literally cannot make this stuff up. The NBA remains the greatest.
2. Kyle Lowry, Fun Guy
To be fair, the Raptors didn’t just wait until the fourth quarter to bring a smile to my face. Sure, the starters were mostly a step slow on this night, but this Kyle Lowry inbounds pass to a cutting Pascal Siakam sure was fun:
Lowry also provided the other memorable moment in the first half when, after an inexplicable technical foul, he went into “angry Kyle” mode and scored eight of Toronto’s next nine points over the final two minutes of the half, including a gorgeous coast-to-coast layup as time expired. He had 18 points in the quarter.
3. Boucher Block Party
Chris Boucher might have been the best Raptor on the floor last night not named Kyle Lowry. Following his career night against Milwaukee, Boucher chipped in 19 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, including a couple of third-quarter beauties:
Boucher was also 4-for-6 from downtown, which puts him at 9-for-16 in the Bubble. That’s an extremely small sample size, but if he’s improving on his 28% pre-Bubble mark, and can make teams actually respect him from downtown… well, let’s just say he might be making himself a more intriguing free agent prospect this offseason.
4. But What About That Fun Save?
OK, OK, there was another fun thing that happened in the first half. After one of Boucher’s four blocks — this one a two-hander on Josh Richardson — the ball was heading out of bounds, until Pascal Siakam saved it by tossing it back through his legs to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. (Unfortunately Pascal missed a three at the other end that would have made a nice capper!)
What’s interesting to think about though, is that this play probably doesn’t even happen under normal circumstances, right? There are camera people and fans and staff sitting over there in the corner in a typical arena; Siakam probably doesn’t have room to save that ball. I wish there were some way we could make the baselines this empty all the time!
5. Wait, Wait: How About All the Stanley Slander?
I mean, I’m not gonna take it all back now, but you know what: I’m happy for the guy. He has had a rough season; he got called out by Nick Nurse early, found himself in the doghouse and never worked his way out. And yeah, this game doesn’t mean much, and it’s not like he’s gonna be in the playoff rotation because of it or anything, but why shouldn’t the guy get a moment to shine?
I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy season for him. We all need those little victories in life, especially at work, that buoy us and keep us going during the down times. NBA players don’t generally lack for confidence — you don’t get to the NBA without it — but even so, I’m sure this feels good for Stanley, and I hope he savours it.
One more of these to go! The Raptors’ opponent on Friday, the Denver Nuggets, are also locked in to their seeding in the West. For that one, we’ll mostly be praying for health, but hey, if it turns out to be as fun as this one was, that’d be just fine too!