If not for Paul Watson's third quarter, the Toronto Raptors may not have turned things around against the Orlando Magic in Friday's win.
With several key players missing from the lineup due to rest or injuries, Watson received the first start of his career. The 26-year-old forward did not let the opportunity pass him by, erupting for a career-high 30 points while shooting a blistering 8-for-11 from 3-point range.
TAKEAWAYS: Watson's red-hot third quarter leads Raptors past Magic
The Raptors entered the half trailing by four points, but Watson's third-quarter explosion flipped the game on its head as Toronto outscored Orlando 38-19 in the frame, never looking back.
20 of Watson's career-best 30 points came in that third quarter, catching fire from beyond the arc by converting six of his seven 3-point attempts.
#WeTheNorth | @_PWJiii pic.twitter.com/scKGT3ShtI- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 17, 2021
According to Stathead, he is now one of nine Raptors in franchise history to knock down at least eight 3s in a game, joining Dee Brown (twice), Vince Carter, Danny Green, Donyell Marshall, Norman Powell, Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
Watson had just recently returned from an 11-game absence due to the league's coronavirus health and safety protocols, and he was open in saying that he had several days that were "pretty rough" during that time. According to TSN's Josh Lewenberg, Watson expressed to the media post-game that he had been working hard to get his rhythm and conditioning back post-recovery, trying to stay patient for his opportunity. Even with that being said, he admitted that fatigue was still taking its toll on him.
But when his opportunity arrived, he knocked it out of the park and his teammates were loving it.
Once Watson started to heat up, his teammates were going crazy on the sidelines in support of his breakout performance. After the game, Watson talked about what that support meant to him, stating, "It feels good just to see how much fun they were having with it and just having their support out there," according to TSN's Lewenberg.
"Honestly, they were probably going crazier and were happier than I was. I probably didn't show it much."
There was one teammate, however, that (jokingly) wasn't thrilled with Watson's performance - forward Yuta Watanabe.
Watanabe also had himself a night, going for a career-high 21 points in a crucial role off the bench for Toronto. After the game, he quipped about being overshadowed by his teammate's success.
"I'm really mad at him," Watanabe said. "That was supposed to be my night but he stole it from me."
Hate to see it, @wacchi1013 😂- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 17, 2021
Full Scrums | https://t.co/U1A3E2IztS pic.twitter.com/qO6KgFM3Wy
Watson and Watanabe's combined 51 points helped the Raptors come away with a much-needed victory, placing them in a three-way tie for the No. 10 seed - the final spot in the Play-In Tournament to try and reach the playoffs.
With just 15 games remaining on the schedule, Toronto may need more nights like this one from players like Watson or Watanabe if they're going to make the postseason. Especially if they plan to continue resting their star players down the home stretch of the season.
The Raptors will take the floor again on Sunday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7 p.m. on SN One.
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