The Toronto Raptors bounced back from a home-opening loss in a big way, routing the Boston Celtics on the road by 32 points for their first win of the season.
The catalyst of the victory was rookie forward Scottie Barnes, who had the first breakout game of his young career in just his second taste of real NBA action. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft looked determined to earn his first win, playing with a level of aggressiveness the Raptors desperately needed after scoring just 83 points as a team in their season opener.
Barnes exploded for 25 points, 13 rebounds and two assists while shooting an efficient 11-for-17 from the field, 1-for-2 from 3-point range and 2-for-2 from the free throw line. His stat line was impressive enough, but the way in which he did his damage shows signs of what could be a dangerous offensive player for Toronto if he continues to progress at this rate.
Barnes has long been defined by his energy, so it should come as a surprise to no one that he outhustled every player on the TD Garden parquet. His game-high six offensive rebounds created easy second-chance points for the Raptors. (They outscored the Celtics 23-4 in that category.)
The 20-year-old scored eight points off those six offensive boards, flashing his explosive athleticism and nose for the ball.
"I thought he was excellent," head coach Nick Nurse said of Barnes after the win, according to TSN's Josh Lewenberg. "What I liked the most is he was at the front of the rim a lot tonight. ... That's what we like to see, using some of that size and length."
But it wasn't his effort on the offensive glass that suggests his dangerous potential on that end of the floor. It was the first glimpse of Barnes working through his biggest perceived weakness - his jump shot - that suggests he could eventually become a terror for opposing teams.
Barnes' jumper was a blemish on his scouting report coming into the draft, but ahead of the season, Nurse seemed encouraged by his progression. When training camp opened, Nurse told the media that Barnes' jump shot had "really improved" and that "the mechanics look really good." We saw that first-hand against the Celtics.
Barnes was shooting with confidence, knocking down shots from different spots on the floor in a variety of ways. According to InStat, he went 4-for-7 on jump shots in the contest, burying three shots off the dribble (one being a 3-pointer) and one catch-and-shoot jumper at the elbow off a cut.
It was jumpers off the bounce like this one early in the game that shows Barnes' willingness to shoot if defenders don't respect him enough to put a hand up.
But if he can knock down pull-up jumpers off the dribble at full speed like this, the Raptors rookie will be more of an offensive force than anyone could have ever projected.
According to InStat, Barnes went 16-for-58 (27.6%) on jump shots in his one season at Florida State. Teams would sag off him on the perimeter, making it tougher for him to score at the rim and facilitate for his teammates.
If he can continue to perfect his shooting mechanics, it will only make him more prolific in the already-developed areas of his offensive game like passing, attacking the rim and creating second-chance points through hustle and effort.
To quote his teammate Gary Trent Jr., "They can't stop you. You're a problem."
It's obviously still very early in his career, but the Raptors look like they landed a gem in Barnes.
You can catch him in action again on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN 4 when the Raptors host the Dallas Mavericks at Scotiabank Arena.
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