I guess the Toronto Raptors didn't get the message.
No Pascal Siakam, no Fred VanVleet, no Kyle Lowry, no chance, right? Wasn't this supposed to be a team trying to tank? I guess nobody told Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, and the rest of the Raptors motley crew of bench players who knocked off the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers 135-115 on Saturday night.
"I don't know, what we're missing 60 [points]? At least 60 with Fred, Kyle, and Pascal out, probably, something around there," Raptors coach Nick Nurse joked after the game. "But, yeah, one of those nights."
The Raptors were red-hot in the first half. How hot, you ask? Yuta Watanabe hit a fadeaway buzzer-beating 3-pointer to put Toronto up 47-26 in the first quarter. Trent nailed his first nine shots and first five 3-pointers in the first half to score 25 of the Raptors' franchise-record 87 first-half points.
"He was certainly feeling it," Nurse said of Trent. "It’s funny too, right, because just in the last game a lot of those same shots were all going in and out and tonight, they were no doubters, they were right in the heart and right in there."
It was seemingly the type of game the Raptors have played in so many times this season either on the winning side or the losing side. Toronto shot 71% from the floor in the first half and 13-for-20 from behind the arc. They essentially put away the Cavaliers early and just toyed with them the rest of the way.
For Malachi Flynn, it was another career night. He bounced back from an off night on Thursday to record his first career double-double with 20 points and 11 assists.
"He had a good game," Nurse said. "Just all the things we've been talking about, just a little more aggressive, a little more into the paint, a little more at the rim. I thought he made really good decisions most of the night."
Five of Flynn's assists led directly to 12 of Trent's career-high 44 points.
"He caught fire super early and then it never left," Flynn said of Trent. "So when a guy's that hot, you just try to give him the ball, and then stuff for everybody else gets easier."
It wasn't just Flynn feeding him the ball though. After that red-hot first half, Trent didn't let up in the second. But unlike his shot chart that mostly relies on mid-range floaters and 3-point jump shots, Trent got to the rim in this one, scoring six points in the restricted area.
His 44 points were the most he said he's had since his high school days.
The problem, if you will, is that Toronto is still two games back of Chicago who holds the tie-breaker for the play-in tournament. Considering the Raptors remaining schedule — the fifth toughest in the NBA — it's tough to see Toronto squeaking into the playoffs. If they don't, it'll be wins like Saturday's over Cleveland and last Monday's over the Washington Wizards that could have the Raptors kicking themselves when the NBA lottery is held on June 22. If they do, however, make the playoffs, Saturday will certainly be a turning point in the season. It'll be the night Toronto's bench unit shocked the Cavaliers and spurred the Raptors on a run to wrap up the season.
Up Next: New York Knicks
The Raptors will be right back at it on Sunday with the New York Knicks on the schedule. It'll be the Raptors debut for Khem Birch who officially signed with the team on Saturday afternoon. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam are both expected to be be back as well.