Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. dominates without Fred VanVleet in win against Rockets

HOUSTON, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 10: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 10: Gary Trent Jr. #33 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Gary Trent Jr. and the Toronto Raptors looked like massive favorites in a road matchup against the Houston Rockets given the club’s seven-game winning streak and Stephen Silas’ struggles on defense. However, Fred VanVleet sitting this game out with groin soreness changed the makeup of the game.

Taking advantage of a Raptors team that was playing without one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. helped the Rockets put up 41 points in the first quarter. It was up to Trent and Pascal Siakam to shoot the Raptors back into this game, and No. 33 was more than willing to flex his muscles.

Trent finished this game with 42 points, which is just shy of his career-high of 44, on 15-26 shooting and 6-13 from 3-point range. The Raptors’ bench provided 36 points of production as Toronto pulled out a 139-120 win over a Rockets team that had no answer for the hot-shooting fashion icon out of Duke.

While VanVleet and Siakam are clearly the leaders of this team on the offensive end, Trent is starting to show that he should be the tertiary scoring option for this Raptors squad. With six 30-point games in his last 10 outings, Trent is playing the best basketball of his career.

Final. 139. 81. 120. 169

Gary Trent Jr. led the Toronto Raptors without Fred VanVleet.

In the four games Trent played without VanVleet this season, he has averaged 26.5 points per contest while making 44% of his 3-pointers despite a high volume. Based on how he laid waste to the Houston backcourt for most of the night, Trent continued to show that he’s comfortable dominating the ball when VanVleet is sidelined.

While Trent has earned a reputation as a knockdown 3-point shooter, characterizing him as a stationary sniper is inaccurate. A confident ball-handler who can create for himself inside the arc and make plays in transition, the Trent we’re seeing now is more refined and confident than what we saw in Portland.

Forcing five turnovers thanks to his pestilent wingspan and non-stop motor showed that his defensive improvement was not just an early-season flash in the pan. Sure, the Rockets seem to try on only half of their defensive possessions, but nights like these are becoming more commonplace for Trent.

Siakam had one of his best nights of the season as well, as a tremendous second quarter helped him reel off 30 points against Christian Wood and Alperen Sengun despite remaining in foul trouble for most of the second half. Even with that applause-worthy performance, Trent’s shooting stole the show.

The Raptors were able to sign Trent to a three-year contract that pays him less than what Evan Fournier is making on a per-year basis. The Raptors have since seen Trent exceed even the most optimistic projections this season, and that rapid growth could help accelerate Toronto’s climb back to the title contender tier.

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