Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors got their preseason schedule started off in grand style, welcoming a packed crowd in Edmonton and hosting the Utah Jazz. While this game had many of the usual preseason errors and mistakes that often make it tough to get into a groove, Toronto was able to dominate during a strong second half.
After a fairly even first quarter in which Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen looked like they could match Toronto blow for blow in this game, the Raptors were able to get back on track and stop turning the ball over. The third quarter is when Toronto was able to put the clamps on Utah as their bench helped pull away.
The Raptors beat Will Hardy’s team down into the dirt in Alberta, winning 114-82 while limiting the Jazz to a minuscule 33 points in the second half. Considering how all active players got some minutes and all but one scored, this victory was the dictionary definition of a team effort.
While it was hardly a perfect game from the Raptors, as the unevenness and rust were clearly on display early, many of the key names Toronto is expecting to be reliable contributors had impressive showings. Two returning players stood out as the highlight performers of the evening.
Scottie Barnes and Chris Boucher helped lead the Toronto Raptors.
It took a lot to leave Precious Achiuwa out of the top two, considering that he was a two-way dynamo who confirmed that he will be a critical part of the team’s rotation. Ultimately, the flashes we saw from Barnes and Boucher were too enticing to leave unrecognized. Both of them appear to be miles better than last year.
Boucher, the newly christened $35 million man, recorded a double-double in just 14 minutes of play. Boucher managed to hit a 3-point shot and block, showing that the form we saw during his breakout Tampa season may be starting to return. Between Boucher and Dalano Banton, the Canadians had a fantastic evening.
Barnes recorded eight points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block in just 18 minutes on the floor. Having been used as a point guard and a big man schematically in this game, Barnes handled both of those positions with equal levels of aplomb.
Barnes was not only being more assertive offensively when he had the ball in his hands, but he showed that he made adding upper body strength a priority in the offseason. Hopefully, these trends continue into the season. If they do, he could pile up some serious accolades.
Boucher and Barnes may have piled up their numbers against lackluster competition in a game that lacked any stakes, but it was nice to see the guys get back together and execute Nick Nurse’s system to perfection. Now the attention will shift to figuring out which non-guaranteed players will make the team.