Toronto Raptors

Seven thoughts as the Raptors escape with win against Orlando in marquee rookie battle

Nothing came easy for the Raptors in this one. Toronto survived a major scare to escape with the 110-109 win over the Orlando Magic at Scotiabank Arena on Friday night.

Holding a comfortable lead for much of the fourth quarter, Orlando rattled off an 11-0 run to close the game, giving themselves a shot at a potential game-winner.

It wasn't to be, and the Raptors now improve to 3-3 on the season.

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Let's jump into some thoughts from the latest Toronto win.

1. The rookie battle serves up the main event

Much of the talk in the pregame surrounded the first meeting between Scottie Barnes and Jalen Suggs.

You guys know the story by now, with Toronto selecting Barnes one spot ahead of Suggs in the draft.

Both rookies impressed, with Barnes recording 21 points and nine rebounds on an efficient 9-for-14 shooting. Suggs matched that point total, adding four assists and flashing some hot shooting from beyond arc in connecting on four triples.

"Both of those rooks, the league's in good hands," Fred VanVleet said in a postgame interview.

"We're happy with who we picked and I think Orlando like who they picked. Both of those guys played well tonight."

Well said, Fred. Both rookies look like stars of the future.

2. Barnes stamps early impact

More on Barnes specifically.

One of the most impressive things about the play of Barnes so far has been his ability to take over the entire offence in stretches. Playing alongside VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr., I'm not sure many expected the rookie to play with some confidence from the outset.

The first half was arguably his most influential so far this season, as he scored the first seven Toronto points of the game, leading to a 19-point first-half overall.

Stroking it from three, showing the soft touch on the midrange game and throwing it down in transition, Barnes has it all.

Just before halftime, he did catch an accidental whack to the face which appeared to hurt his eye. He returned but only had two points in the second half. It's unclear if he was impacted or his veteran teammates stepped up. Either way, it's the latest impressive performance from the early Rookie of the Year contender.

3. Fred and OG show up just in time

VanVleet and Anunoby really struggled through three quarters.

VanVleet had just three points, while Anunoby could only manage nine. Despite their struggles, the Raptors only trailed by one point, giving the pair time for redemption.

They did just that, with VanVleet exploding for 16 points in the final period and Anunoby 11.

OG got the party started by knocking down two triples in the opening minutes before VanVleet took over.

"Just whatever it takes to win," said VanVleet. "I played pretty bad all game offensively, I couldn't find my rhythm but I just gotta grind it out. It was a total team effort. Scottie gave us a boost in the first, OG in the second, Gary at the end. Just a team win."

Most Raptors fans would agree that it's better late than never!

4. 3-point battle influential

We just mentioned Anunoby and VanVleet catching fire late, but for most of the night, the Raptors struggled to make anything from the outside.

Toronto finished the night 9-for-30 from deep while the Magic were a scorching 16-for-34.

Cole Anthony was the main threat for the Magic, finishing 5-for-6 from long range in his tally of 24 points.

Overcoming a -21 differential from beyond the arc is an impressive stat for the Raptors.

5. Bench energy critical

There were stretches through the game were the Magic appeared to be outworking the Raptors starting group.

As he has throughout the season, Nurse wasted no time in pulling the cord and inserting the energy group off the bench.

Dalano Banton (10 points, five rebounds) and Khem Birch (six points, six rebounds) were impactful in this one, with Birch's three offensive rebounds providing critical second chance opportunities.

"Those guys are playing with incredible passion and energy," VanVleet said. "They are keeping us in a lot of games, that's what we need. That's what we are going to need if we're going to be successful this season."

Toronto's second unit outscored the Orlando bench unit 27-23.

6. Defence comes up clutch

The Raptors blueprint to winning comes on the defensive end.

With the offence crumbling late, it was Gary Trent Jr. who provided the game-winning play.

With the ball inbounded to Cole Anthony, Trent Jr. was right up on him providing the pressure, before poking the ball away. With only 5.2 seconds on the clock to start the possession, all Anthony could manage was a halfcourt heave.

While that play didn't count in the steal tally, the Raptors pesky defenders were at it again, leading the count 11-1 on the night.

7. What's next?

The Raptors are back at .500 and have to be feeling good after winning back-to-back games for the first time in this young season.

Such is the NBA regular season life, they won't have too long to celebrate, with the team jumping on a plane to face the Pacers in Indiana on Saturday night. Indiana will also be weary after playing the Brooklyn Nets on the road tonight.

Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

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