After seeing less than a total of 20 minutes of playing time over the previous five games, Toronto Raptors undrafted rookie Matt Thomas scored a career-high 15 points (on 6-for-9 shooting), pulled down six rebounds and grabbed three steals in the team's one-point win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
Eight Thoughts: Raptors hold off Nets, win 14th straight
Thomas, a 25-year-old sharpshooter, spent the first two seasons of his professional career in Spain before signing with the Raptors this past offseason. A fluctuating role in the lineup and a fractured finger have limited Thomas' production up to this point in the season but when his number was called Saturday, he rose to the occasion.
"Any athlete, when you get in that zone and you get in that rhythm, obviously it's a lot easier." Thomas told reporters post game. "The game comes a lot (more) naturally and you play a lot more confident."
After Thomas' career performance, both Nick Nurse and Fred VanVleet expressed just why their belief in his ability never wavered.
"Our assistant coaches and stuff do a great job of keeping those guys ready,"said Nurse. "And he played great, he came in there and like always, every time he raises up (to shoot), you think it's going in and he banged a bunch of them in."
Thomas echoed Nurse's sentiment, adding that "I think it's a testament to how hard everyone works on the team, everyone stays ready." He continued, saying "we have a very deep and talented team and everyone's more than capable of coming in and making plays."
🗣️ SHOOTER pic.twitter.com/a1aJobNWeg- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 9, 2020
It was in the second frame where Thomas made the most plays, scoring 11 of his 15 points on the night by going 4-for-5 from the field 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He played in all 12 minutes of the quarter.
Find the shooter pic.twitter.com/Gx9OKBm6cf- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 9, 2020
More importantly, the Raptors turned a three-point deficit at the end of the first quarter into a 12-point halftime lead by outscoring the Nets 33-18 in the second.
Nurse added, "that was a big lift. That group was awesome, first half. They were incredible. They turned a lacklustre start to the game into an energetic game and they were great."
VanVleet, another undrafted Raptor, credited Thomas for ability to stay ready and his first-half performance: "Somebody like Matt, who doesn't play on a consistent basis, stepped up there with a big first half and some key buckets."
"He can shoot the ball, to be simple." VanVleet stated when asked how Thomas makes it difficult for teams to try to employ a zone defence. "You can't leave him and he's actually a good cutter - he's a good scorer and obviously people love him for the 3 but he's a good scorer. He's got a knack for getting his shot off and the spaces he cuts… he's a one-man zone beater sometimes."
Saturday, Thomas became the 12th Raptor to score 15 or more points in a game this season. He's averaging 5.0 points over 22 games while shooting a team-high 48.1% from beyond the arc, albeit at a much smaller sample size.
The Raptors are back in action when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET on SN1. Depending on availabilty, Thomas could again be looked upon to contribue to the offence.
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