TORONTO -- Scottie Barnes was observing the top of the key as Bradley Beal turned the corner and made it into the heart of the awaiting Toronto Raptors’ defence.
The Washington Wizards star ended up getting stripped by a trailing Fred VanVleet as he collapsed into the rotating arms of OG Anunoby and Dalano Banton.
As soon as Barnes noticed the ball had been poked loose and was going to be picked up by his fellow rookie teammate Banton he took off.
Screaming down the left side of the court, Barnes filled the lane to perfection and was rewarded when Precious Achiuwa, who received the initial outlet pass from Banton, found Barnes for an easy layup plus a foul.
A three-point play that drew the Raptors, down by as much as 29, to within 10 points with two-and-a-half minutes to play.
Unfortunately for the Raptors they couldn’t cut the deficit anymore as they ended up dropping their season opener to Washington, 98-83, but the fact that they managed to cut into such an insurmountable-looking lead and make something of a game out of it -- with their prized rookie on the floor helping drive this comeback attempt -- is nothing to sneeze at.
The Barnes era has begun in Toronto and it started with a solid performance with equal parts hiccups and highlights, but more importantly, an enticing base that the Raptors will be able to build upon.
For the contest, Barnes finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and one assist while turning the ball over six times, committing five personal fouls and shooting 5-of-13 from the field.
An NBA debut that was, in his coach’s words, “OK.”
“He was OK. I think he got his feet wet,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse after the game. “I think we see a really good player there. He did make some good plays. He rebounded the ball. I thought he did push the ball pretty good, did some things like that. I see he only had one assist which is kind of low for him. I thought he had a few more passes than that that led to buckets, but maybe we didn’t make them.”
The fairweather assessment of Barnes’ night from Nurse is fair, but it doesn’t speak to some of the flashes of brilliance the No. 4 overall pick from this year’s draft showed in his first official NBA game.
There was the lefty sky hook he made in the first quarter for his first two NBA points, for one, the sequence in the second quarter when he collected a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a tough, contested layup, the perfect bounce pass he delivered to a cutting Chris Boucher during the fourth quarter and, of course, that and-one sequence late in the final period that cut Washington’s lead down to 10.
Yes, the turnovers and fouls he committed looked rough, but on a lot of those fouls called against him, let’s just say the rookie was getting something of a “welcome to the NBA” from the officials as he appeared to have been getting the short end of the stick on at least three calls against him.
And while Nurse was understandably understated in his appraisal of Barnes on Wednesday given how the game went for his team, you need only look at one stat, in particular, to know what the Raptors coach probably really thought of Barnes’ night.
Nurse has said during the pre-season that the most important stat to watch for in regards to Barnes is the minutes played, because if he’s getting a lot of burn that probably means Barnes is having a good game.
Well, Barnes both started on Wednesday and he logged about 32 minutes, third on the team Wednesday behind the likes of established Raptors Anunoby and Fred VanVleet.
And even more telling, Barnes played the entirety of the fourth quarter, when both he and Banton were helping lead the charge in the Raptors’ near comeback.
Getting that kind of experience can only serve to help Barnes as his NBA career moves forward.
“Well, I think that the one thing you first have to instill is that you have to play the full 48 regardless of the situation,” said Nurse. “That thing wasn’t much fun for a long time. It wasn’t easy. We were shooting bad, missing layups. They were dribbling it off the back of their foot right to one of their other guys. Things like that were happening kind of for the whole night and they found a way to generate some juice and keep playing through that and that is key. But again one of the first things you have to instill is you gotta play the full 48 so I think you’ll see that a little bit.”
Barnes didn’t play all 48 minutes, but during the 32 he did play, there’s no denying he played every second of it.
So while he didn’t have the most perfect of debuts, there’s little doubt he had an impact during it.
And that looks like something to build upon.