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10 Things: Scottie Barnes is both the Raptors’ future and their present

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Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors‘ 97-94 win over the Indiana Pacers.

One — The Raptors found their identity and have won three in a row. They’re hardly the prettiest team on offence, but they can always fall back on their defensive tenacity and overall athleticism to make things difficult for the opponent.

This was an ugly game from start to finish, with both teams being dead tired playing on the second night of a back-to-back and in their third game in four nights. There was no flow to it at all, and the officials swallowed the whistle after the first quarter, which made for a tough watch. But where the Raptors pulled ahead was in the margins. They won the rebounding battle 12-8, and forced more turnovers 19-15, which translated to an additional 11 field-goal attempts, and this has been a common theme in all of their games this season.

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Two — Fred VanVleet continues to deliver in the clutch. VanVleet nailed a 30-foot three with the shot clock expiring to stretch Toronto’s lead to six points with under two minutes left, then found Scottie Barnes wide open at the basket to bump it to eight points. VanVleet has introduced a measure of calm to the Raptors offence that often descends into chaos when he isn’t at the dials.

Two areas of his game have noticeably matured. VanVleet’s playmaking continues to shine, especially in the most important moments. He recorded three assists in the final frame, with the other two coming on drive-and-kick sequences where he got into the lane, drew three defenders to him, before finding Svi Myhailiuk and OG Anunoby for open threes. The other improvement is on his mid-range game, which he is using to great effect to counter teams that drop back deep against him. VanVleet has gotten to the elbow areas with ease, and he often goes to that shot in moments where the Raptors stagnate to restore order to the offence. He is the adult in the room and the engine of this team.

Three — Barnes is emerging as a leader in his own right. In their win over Orlando, Barnes nailed seven jumpers for the bulk of his nine field goals, but it was the inverse approach in this win.

Despite facing two imposing centres in Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, Barnes was relentless in his drives to the hoop, and he got all of his nine baskets all within the paint. There was a clever drive against Turner — who is contention to lead the league in blocks — where Barnes threw his shoulder into Turner’s chest to freeze the shot blocker before going up for his shot. Against Sabonis, Barnes backed him down despite being the smaller player, and showed advanced touch and poise in throwing up hook shots over the seven-footer.

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The fact that he played an entirely different game from one night to the next, yet still came away with the same results, just shows how special of a talent he is. Barnes is not just the future of this franchise, he is the present.

Four — Barnes also shows no fear. He was intentionally fouled with the Raptors clinging desperately to a one-point lead, and the Pacers’ crowd rose to their feet in an attempt to throw Barnes off at the line where he was 1-for-4 prior to that play. But upon hearing the boos, Barnes cracked a smile and calmly swished both shots to give the Raptors the insurance of a three-point lead.

Barnes said after the game that “it was nothing” to play under pressure, and his play confirms it. He scored 11 points in the fourth, which included a barrage of three-straight baskets where he punched a hole through the Pacers in the middle, and he was so effective in the matchup against Sabonis that the Pacers benched the All-Star just to switch up the coverage. His confidence is shared by Nick Nurse, who felt that 17 attempts weren’t enough for a rookie in his seventh game.

Five — The worry is that Barnes may have hurt his hand. He reached in while trying to take a foul on the last play of the game, which left him with what the team described as a jammed thumb. He received an X-ray, which came back negative, however it was clearly bothering him in his post-game interview to the point where he struggled to take off his headset. It goes without saying that it would be a massive blow if Barnes were to miss any time, and that there is no adequate replacement for him especially while Pascal Siakam remains out.

Six — Myhailiuk provided a crucial jolt of energy off the bench. He was arguably the Raptors’ most positive player in the first half, as Myhailiuk poured in 11 of Toronto’s 24 points in the second quarter. His scoring came in a variety of ways, but it all came down to how aggressive he was. He used a clever ball fake to create a lane for himself to drive before finishing with a scoop layup under the arm of seven-footer Goga Bitaze. Then he crept behind the defence to a put-back layup off a wild airball from Chris Boucher.

After that it was a breakaway dunk after Turner tapped it a bit too hard off a jump ball. Myhailiuk also pulled up for three when the Pacers went under against him, and capped off his sensational second quarter burst with a slick behind-the-back move to set up a left-handed poster dunk over Justin Holiday. It’s encouraging that a shooter like Myhailiuk was able to contribute even without relying on his jumper, because it was mostly his smarts and motor that got him and the Raptors going.

Seven — One stat to track is OG Anunoby’s assist totals. It’s just as important for Anunoby to set up others as it is for him to score on his matchup in his new role as a featured player. Anunoby made two passes Saturday that were hugely encouraging.

In the first quarter, Anunoby quickly burst downhill off a handoff from VanVleet, forced a second defender to meet him at the paint, before throwing a wrap-around pass to Boucher for three. Then in the third quarter, Anunoby handled it up top with all five Pacers defenders forming a box to stop him from getting to the rim, and he wisely made a sharp move to get to the elbow, before throwing a quick outlet to Boucher for another triple.

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Given his usage and how often he touches the ball, it should be a regular sight to see Anunoby finish games with five assists as he did against the Pacers.

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Eight — Precious Achiuwa had another poor showing, which forced Nurse to limit his minutes. The skillset needs more polishing, with Achiuwa being unable to consistently capitalize on open jumpers or even short hook shots around the basket, and that’s limiting what the Raptors can do in the halfcourt.

But what’s really hard to watch is Achiuwa driving blindly with his head down and stubbornly trying to out-muscle three defenders in the paint in an attempt to get himself going. If he keeps playing like this, Nurse will have an easy choice as to who comes out of the starting five for Siakam. Achiuwa needs to find the right balance between confidence and pride.

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Nine — Nurse resisted the urge to extend his rotation even with the Raptors being tired. Malachi Flynn escaped the doghouse for only three minutes, coming in at the end of the second quarter where he did nothing but play off the ball, before riding the bench for the entire second half. Goran Dragic didn’t even get a second in this one even as the Raptors badly struggled for offence.

It’s a long season, and circumstances are bound to change, but doubts must creep in if you’re Flynn or Dragic. One might be headed for a buyout, and the other could see time in the minors, because as of right now the Raptors don’t have a spot for either of them even when they are stretched.

Ten — Props to Matt Devlin for carrying through that broadcast. It was clear from the start of the game that Devlin wasn’t feeling great, and it just continued to deteriorate throughout the game until he was reduced to a gravelly whisper during the fourth quarter. Three games in four nights isn’t easy on anyone, even for broadcasters.





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Zach Wilson to undergo an MRI after suffering knee injury in Jets’ first preseason game

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Jets second-year quarterback Zach Wilson departed New York’s preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles after suffering a knee injury. With over four minutes to play in the first quarter, Wilson took a first-and-10 snap from New York’s 40-yard line and scrambled out right. As he turned upfield, Wilson tried to make a cut towards the middle of the field to shake loose a would-be tackler and went down awkwardly. 

He initially was helped up by a teammate and had a noticeable limp. Wilson was then sent to the locker room for further evaluation and the Jets officially ruled him questionable to return with a knee injury. Wilson did not return to the game, and afterwords, Jets coach Robert Saleh told reporters that Wilson will undergo an MRI on Saturday. 

Given that this is merely an exhibition, it wouldn’t be surprising for the team to keep him sidelined for the rest of the game even if he is healthy enough to go. This injury does have some room for concern, however, because it doesn’t appear like Wilson was touched as he went down to the field. And anytime there’s a non-contact injury, it should leave the team holding its breath. 

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Prior to the injury, Wilson wasn’t off to a hot start. On the Jets’ opening drive of the evening, he threw a poor interception to Eagles linebacker Kyzir White on a pass intended for Corey Davis. Wilson completed three of his five passes for 23 yards and that pick before going down. 

The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is entering his sophomore season after a rocky rookie campaign. In 13 games, he completed just 55.6% of his passes for 2,334 yards, nine touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. 





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Tommy Pham hits walk-off single to give Red Sox a 3-2 victory over Yankees

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Tommy Pham ripped a walk-off single to give the Boston Red Sox a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in ten innings.



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Fernando Tatis Jr. suspension: An optimistic look at the Padres’ season without their star shortstop

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The Padres have lost shortstop Fernando Tatis, Jr. for the rest of the season and into May of next year. He’s been suspended 80 games for a violation of the league’s joint drug agreement

Of course, the Padres haven’t had Tatis all season, so did they actually lose him? 

If it sounds like I’m about to go on a path of optimism in looking at the prospects for the Padres moving forward during Tatis’ suspension, that’s because it’s exactly what I’m going to do. Look, I grew up a Cubs fan. I’ve had to be an eternal optimist for the entirety of my sports fandom in order to maintain sanity. It comes in handy at times like these, so I’ll channel that energy here for the sake of Padres fans — really, for any baseball fans who wanted to see new blood late in the playoffs in the form of these Padres. 

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But mostly those Padres fans who are reeling right now. Let’s get to it. 

Padres haven’t had Tatis anyway

As noted, the Padres have gotten zero games from Tatis this season, so it’s not like they lost a lineup fixture who has been doing heavy lifting for the team all season. That’s what Manny Machado has been doing, and he’s fully capable of continuing to have a huge season. He’s a 29-year-old seasoned veteran. He won’t run out of gas. 

The Padres as a whole have been in playoff position basically all season. They started 14-7 and have been under .500 just one day this season — when they started 0-1. 

A big part of the Padres’ success this season has been the rotation. It’s been one of the better rotations in baseball this season, and with Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea, it figures to remain strong into the playoffs. The Tatis injury doesn’t affect that. 

What needed a boost was the offense. 

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Trade deadline additions

Let’s just take Tatis out of the equation entirely for 2022. Let’s say he was out for the season from the get-go and we never even thought about his return. We’d be talking about a team that was 60-46 through Aug. 2. The starting pitching was in great shape. The bullpen was good as well and added elite potential in Josh Hader in front of the deadline. 

The offense needed a boost. Machado is the star while Jake Cronenworth and Jurickson Profar were having quality offensive seasons, but they needed more. 

Josh Bell was hitting .301/.384/.493 (152 OPS+) with 24 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, 57 RBI and 52 runs in 103 games, and the Padres added him. Brandon Drury was hitting .274/.335/.520 (126 OPS+) with 22 doubles, two triples, 22 homers, 59 RBI and 62 runs in 92 games, and the Padres also added him. 

And, of course, they added one of the best and most polished hitters in baseball: Juan Soto

So, we’re talking about a team that was 14 games over .500 adding a top-shelf closer, two very good offensive players and a generational talent. 

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It sure seems like there’s a chance they’ll be OK, right? 

Division title was unattainable

One area they won’t be OK is in the race for the NL West. That’s over. After being swept by the Dodgers this past weekend, the Padres were facing a 16-game deficit in the division heading into Friday. They were never, ever going to make that many games up in this short period of time. Even if Tatis came back 100 percent healthy and played exponentially better than he ever has, they’d still fall short in the division. 

Follow the Braves’ path? 

In terms of sheer talent level, age and potential moving forward, Ronald Acuña, Jr. is a fair comparison for Tatis. He finished second in MVP voting at age 21 while Tatis finished third at age 22. Acuña might have been en route to an MVP last season, too, but he tore his ACL on July 10. 

The Braves were able to rally without him for a World Series championship. This was a team that only won 88 regular-season games, making them the playoff team with the worst record. They beat a 95-win Brewers team in the NLDS, a 106-win Dodgers team in the NLCS and then a 95-win Astros team in the World Series. 

No two teams ever have the same circumstances. We all know this. The 2021 Braves doesn’t mean the 2022 Padres are going to win the World Series. No one truly believes that. It doesn’t hurt for the team to look at a situation and believe they can pull off something similar, though. Plus, as we established here at the top, the Padres didn’t technically lose Tatis this season, as he never played a game. They also had a better record through July than those Braves did. The Braves didn’t add a player the caliber of Soto at the trade deadline. 

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Hell, if anything, these Padres are better suited for a deep run than those Braves were. 

This has been your optimistic spin on the Padres’ current situation, vis a vis the Tatis suspension. 

Did it work, San Diego? 



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