Not all was bad in the Toronto Raptors' 113-103 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night.
Gary Trent Jr., who was acquired just six days earlier at the trade deadline, turned in the best scoring performance of his young career in the loss, scoring 31 points while shooting 12-for-22 from the field and 6-for-11 from beyond the arc.
Career night for @gtrentjr pic.twitter.com/HUPfYQhJVH- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 1, 2021
While it was evident that it would be Trent's night from the onset of the game (he scored 10 points in the opening frame and 20 in the first half), there was a sequence in the final seconds of the third quarter that encapsulates exactly why Toronto sees the 22-year-old as a key part of its future moving forward.
Let's get into it.
After splitting a pair of free throws to bring the Raptors within one with 5.5 seconds on the clock, Trent hangs back to pick up rookie guard Théo Maledon full court, or at the very least make things difficult on the inbound catch.
In doing this, Trent forces Tony Bradley to make an errant pass, earning a deflection and steal with 4.8 seconds left.
Preventing a final possession from the Thunder would have been a positive in itself, but Trent wasn't done as he quickly gathered himself upon corralling the loose ball and created space from the 19-year-old Maledon with a dribble towards the wing before turning into a step-back 3-point attempt to beat the clock.
. @gtrentjr WANTS IT pic.twitter.com/uEwTZuk4SU- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 1, 2021
As the copy of the tweet shared by the Raptors social team fittingly reads that "@gtrentjr WANTS IT." It's exactly why he's a seamless fit within the organization.
In the landscape of the NBA, when you think of the defenders willing to pick up 94 feet in a similar situation, several might come to mind. In fact, it's pretty common in late-clock situations to see defenders sent up the floor to disrupt the inbounds play to prevent a buzzer-beater or an action that could lead to free throws.
It's not as common to see the disruptor actually come up with a steal but are there are a handful of players that are capable of doing so? Sure.
Among that handful of players, very few - if any - have the dexterity, offensive talent and skill to immediately turn around and make the play that Trent does upon stealing the ball.
Trent's awareness of time remaining on the clock is evident as he quickly finds his spot and wastes no movement in his efforts to create space to get off a shot attempt within three seconds of gaining possession. And it's a high-degree-of-difficulty shot, to boot.
That he was able to stick the jumper speaks to how special of a talent Trent is at just 22 years old.
It's what both players and coaches refer to as a winning play.
In under six seconds, Trent was able to string together a sequence of winning plays that very few players in this league are capable of completing in succession. This combination of grit, toughness, skill and talent is what makes Trent such a perfect fit within this organization.
It might have taken a few games for Trent to find his shooting stroke with his new team but the effort was there from the moment he made his debut. And effort is often rewarded in the form of good fortune.
For years, Raptors fans have watched Kyle Lowry make winning plays, setting the precedent that has been followed by the likes of OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, among others. In just his fourth game as a Raptor, Trent put forth the type of sequence that we've come to expect from Raptors players although, in a down year, such moments haven't been as prevalent.
While Trent is an impending restricted free agent, moments - and sequences - like these are a reminder that his future as a Raptor really shouldn't be in question. At 22, Toronto's next two-way ace fits perfectly within a timeline that also includes the 23-year-old Anunoby and 27-year-olds Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
That's a nice young core to build around.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.