Skip to main content

The Toronto Raptors haven't been subtle with their desire for more from Scottie Barnes. His lack of aggression, especially early in games, has been an ongoing topic of discussion this season. 

"We gotta make sure that he’s over-aggressive," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Barnes early Sunday afternoon.

Barnes has been far too passive far too often lately. He's been confounded by the hyper-aggressive drop coverage opposing teams have begun playing against him and it's taken too long for him to find a groove. In the last three first halves coming into Sunday, Barnes had scored just seven points. It hadn't been good enough.

Sunday that changed. 

Barnes got to work early against the Portland Trail Blazers. He scored Toronto's second bucket of the game, a 14-footer over the dropping Jusuf Nurkic. When Portland didn't adjust, he kept at it, using the extra space as a runway to get deep paint position. It was exactly what the Raptors needed, snapping a three-game skid with a 117-105 victory over Portland.

"Felt good early. I’ve been working on it. I wanted to step in there with confidence, be able to take up that space, shoot some, get to the mid-range," said Barnes. "I felt pretty good going early.”

There were points in which Barnes may have even gone overboard with the aggression, though nobody could really complain. He twice opted to take it up himself, drawing a pair of fouls deep in the paint rather than throwing kick-out passes to Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby who sat wide-open in the corners.

That was until the fourth. After beating Nurkic off the dribble late in the quarter, he came back down on the next possession, put his shoulder into the chest of Portland's center, and whizzed a pass out to VanVleet for an open three. VanVleet then followed it up moments later with another crucial three before spinning around and yelling toward the celebrating Raptors crowd.

If Barnes is going to side with one extreme the Raptors are more than happy to have him lean aggressive. Save for a few three-point attempts he converted one of, Barnes never stepped too far outside his comfort zone. His buckets almost exclusively came at or near the rim with floaters or close-range jumpers over Nurkic as he finished the night with 22 points on 7-for-12 shooting with nine rebounds and four assists.

"Just trying to adapt to the role," Barnes added. "I have to say, I like it, being able to facilitate the offense, moving it side to side, being able to go downhill, attacking the rim. I like it.”

The starters got it done early for Toronto. Siakam bounced back from a pair of slow games with 13 of his team-high 27 points in the first quarter. He beat Portland with his trademarked spin move early, got into his bag of tricks with a floater in the paint, and nailed a wide-open three-pointer when VanVleet found him in the corner with a beautiful high-arcing pass.

This time, though, the bench rose to the call when the starters checked out. Gary Trent Jr., Christian Koloko, Malachi Flynn, Chris Boucher, and Precious Achiuwa opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and provided six and a half minutes of rest for Toronto's starters as the Raptors' lead ballooned to 16 midway through the second.

"We need those guys," said VanVleet who finished the night with 14 points. "They pretty much won us the game tonight with that run."

Portland came back in the fourth, getting as close as three points midway through the quarter but VanVleet's threes and a picked-off pass from Trent turned into a transition three from O.G. Anunoby put Toronto back up 10 to wrap up the night.

Pre-Game Argument

Cameras picked up an argument between Barnes and Thad Young that seemed to get somewhat heated. It's unclear what prompted the conflict.

"Just a little disagreement. It was nothing serious. We have some disagreements but it was nothing serious," Barnes said post-game. "That’s my boy. I love Thad."

Young echoed his statement.

"We just had a disagreement. He actually told me he loved me. I told him I love him back," Young said. "No different than brothers going back and forth. Especially when we’re both passionate about the game."

Up Next: Charlotte Hornets

The Raptors will have Monday off before welcoming the Charlotte Hornets to town for a two-game set starting Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.