1 stud and 1 dud as Gary Trent Jr, Raptors shockingly defeat Suns

Mar 11, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) warms up prior to facing the Phoenix Suns Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. (33) warms up prior to facing the Phoenix Suns Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Gary Trent Jr. and the Toronto Raptors kicked off a grueling road trip in a fairly encouraging fashion when they took down the Spurs in San Antonio. A matchup against the Phoenix Suns, however, would require Fred VanVleet and the resurgent Scottie Barnes to play some of their best basketball.

After struggling through some very difficult offensive stretches since the All-Star break, Toronto managed to come out firing against one of the best defensive teams in the league. From the much-improved Precious Achiuwa to Pascal Siakam, some of Toronto’s biggest names turned in some nice scoring nights.

Toronto almost blew it after the Suns overcame a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter, but some incredible defensive plays by Barnes and the rest of the team helped the Raptors escape with a 117-112 victory. Nick Nurse now rolls into Denver with a two-game winning streak.

The Raptors didn’t have a ton of duds tonight, as the team looked as in rhythm and unified as they have in any single game since the All-Star break. On a night where so many played well, one star stood above the rest.

117. 81. 112. 66. Final

Gary Trent Jr. was electric for the victorious Toronto Raptors.

Trent was in the middle of his worst stretch of the season, as he was routinely clanking some wide-open jumpers. Toronto knew that they needed to stick with him if they were going to stay in the game against an elite opponent, and he was able to reward their trust with a scalding-hot performance.

Trent ended the night with 41 points on a ridiculous 13-21 shooting and 8-11 from 3-point range. When a player of Trent’s caliber has the potential to go off like this against the best team in the league, you’ll stick with him through thick and thin.

The Raptors have lost some close games against subpar competition over the last few weeks, and the lack of amazing three-point shooting is perhaps the main reason why. Even while some of his teammates were unable to be much of a threat from deep, Trent did more than enough to pick up the slack.

Toronto might make some minor additions here and there, but they will likely need to make peace with the fact that this team will have to overcome a lack of shooting on most nights. If they want any hope of becoming a postseason force, Trent will need to duplicate his hot shooting.

Fred VanVleet didn’t have his best game for the Toronto Raptors.

In 37 minutes, VanVleet only managed to hoist up 11 shots. Finishing the night with just 12 points on 3-11 shooting was not what VanVleet had in mind this morning. Nine rebounds made for a nice statistical quirk, but he was not at his sharpest for most of the game.

At one point midway through the third quarter, VanVleet had more turnovers (five) than points (four). While he did hit some of his trademark deep 3-pointers to salvage a somewhat respectable evening, Mikal Bridges made sure that Fred didn’t have his best night at the office.

This shouldn’t be viewed as a growing concerning trend. Considering how he torched Dejounte Murray and San Antonio just a few days before, VanVleet should be trusted to shoulder his usual offensive workload. Working out the kinks now is better than doing so in the postseason.

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