The Toronto Raptors went into halftime of their duel with the Cleveland Cavaliers up by 10 points, as OG Anunoby had Donovan Mitchell completely locked down and their Ohio-based foes had just 42 points on the night. Thanks to the play of Tristan Thompson, among others, Cleveland pulled out a 105-102 victory.
Thompson, who was nearly out of the league last season, returned to the one place where he has found semi-consistent minutes and success in the NBA. Even with Jakob Poeltl putting together a terrific night on both ends of the floor, Thompson's bench minutes managed to supercharge Cleveland's attack.
Thompson played just eight minutes, but he managed to record four offensive rebounds, dish out four assists, and make a couple of shots on his own. The Cavs started to pull away during Thompson's minutes, leaving Toronto to fight upstream and overcome a road deficit for the entire fourth quarter.
The fact Thompson was even allowed to have a night like this further speaks to how Masai Ujiri did not put together an NBA-level bench in the offseason. Many of the same retread players he has held on to failed to slow down a player that was preparing for a potential post-NBA gig as an ESPN analyst last season.
Tristian Thompson dominating the Toronto Raptors is embarrassing.
The fact that Thompson thrived in the way casts even more suspicion in Ujiri's belief that this bench is actually NBA-level. Precious Achiuwa can be good, but every great game is followed by a horror show. Chris Boucher's utility seems to be nonexistent, and Thad Young can't even get on the floor.
Thompson was a thorn in the side of the Raptors for multiple ill-fated playoff series, as his impeccable rebounding skills played a part in aiding LeBron James' superhuman takedowns of Toronto year after year. For just a brief moment, the guy from 2016 managed to come back and burn the Raptors.
Games like Sunday night only further Thompson's reputation as one of the all-time great Toronto foes out there. His name is forever immortalized on the Raptors killer Mount Rushmore alongside names like Jeremy Lamb, Gerald Henderson, and Mike Scott. The Canadian-born Thompson shows no remorse for his country.
It's one thing to watch a star take over a game, but it's another to see a player who is on his last chance to stick around in the NBA suddenly turn into Bill Russell. Thompson beat up on the Dwane Casey and Nick Nurse Raptors, and he's doing the same to Darko Rajakovic.