The Toronto Raptors put together two consecutive games of disgusting basketball against the New Orleans Pelicans and Brooklyn Nets, as they conceded 40 points in two consecutive first quarters. Fred VanVleet and the veterans on this roster were not going to let this happen a third time.
Toronto came out firing against a depleted Orlando Magic squad, scoring 36 points in the first quarter and going up by 31 points midway through the third quarter thanks to O.G. Anunoby and others. After combining for just 12 points in the prior two losses, VanVleet amassed 13 points and seven assists while hitting three 3-pointers.
Quality of the opponent notwithstanding, the Raptors came out with the intent of not getting run over in the first quarter. After holding a players-only meeting following the Nets game, VanVleet and the team’s leadership council made sure that this would not happen again.
“Nobody really likes to be harping, yelling, cussing or fussing around here, so I think some things just go unsaid,” VanVleet said. “And there are times when you need to say it out loud, let people know what our standards are around here and just tighten the ship a little bit…Those two games were just unacceptable.”
Fred VanVleet inspired the Toronto Raptors in a meeting.
VanVleet intimated that Thad Young, who has seen a thing or two in his long NBA career, was one of the leaders in this meeting, as he stressed the importance of getting out to strong first quarter advantages and dictating the tempo of the game.
“When we throw the first punch, it makes us a completely different team, a better team,” Young said. “Pascal and Fred, they obviously said some things, and we all just talked about making sure we’re going about this thing as a team and making sure when we step out there, we’re all ready to go to battle and go to war.”
The Raptors’ schedule isn’t going to get any easier in December. In addition to more divisional games in what is probably the best division in the league, teams like the Suns, Bucks, and Warriors are all coming up in the next few weeks. Conceding 40 points in the first to them will end those respective games before they even begin.
The Raptors have their flaws, but they are way too good to get beaten down like they did against New Orleans and Brooklyn. The Raptors may be a generally young team, but they are lucky to have vets like Young and VanVleet that will not tolerate that kind of performance.