Raptors swat Hornets despite another starter exiting with finger injury

Get the latest from Frank Zicarelli straight to your inbox

Article content

The face of the Raptors faces the real possibility of undergoing surgery to repair a broken middle finger on his non-shooting left hand after he sustained the injury during the first half of Friday’s visit by the Golden State Warriors.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Without Scottie Barnes, the Raptors find themselves in a state of uncertainty.

Article content

Virtually everything begins — and often ends — with Barnes because so much is asked of the kid, who missed his first game of the season on Sunday night when the Raptors picked up a 111-106 victory with the Charlotte Hornets in town.

Advertisement 3

Article content

One-time Raptors sharpshooter Dell Curry, TV analyst for the Bugs and dad of Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, was in the house on Sunday evening, but there was absolutely no level of excitement or any sense of anticipation featuring two teams that entered the night boasting a combined win total of 37.

Swaths of empty seats dotted the lower bowl, which was understandable given the lack of star power just two days after the Warriors visited to rekindle the buzz of their 2019 championship battle with the Raptors.

This game was not for the faint of heart on a night that began with the Raptors turning the ball six times in the game’s opening 12 minutes that led to eight Charlotte points as the visitors took a 29-27 lead into the second quarter. Charlotte, in fact, would lead by as many eight in the second period.

Article content

Advertisement 4

Article content

For fans of the Raptors, who have been asked to fork over more money next season for the privilege of watching games in person, they’ll have to get used to nights such as Sunday as the 2023-24 season mercifully comes to an end. No one could have envisioned a group featuring RJ Barrett, D.J. Carton, Gradey Dick, Jordan Nwora and Kelly Olynyk being on the floor together.

And yet this unlikely unit was asked to end the first quarter and begin the second against the Hornets. When the season began, none of the above had played a single minute for the Raptors.

Recommended from Editorial

When the season tipped off on Oct. 25 against visiting Minnesota, much was expected from Barnes and even more was being bandied about in rumours surrounding the likes of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, who would both be traded. The Raptors toppled the Timberwolves on opening night, but wins will be few as the season winds down.

Advertisement 5

Article content

At least they won on Sunday, although it was in unconvincing fashion.

Before Sunday’s opening tip, head coach Darko Rajakovic said the evaluation process on Barnes’ broken middle finger continues. Surgery is a possibility, said the coach, who also added Barnes will see specialists. In other words, all options are on the table.

For now, it’s unknown if Barnes will play again this season. Even if he is cleared, the franchise will have to decide whether it’s in Barnes’ best interest to play, knowing there won’t be much to gain in the standings.

Bruce Brown (knee inflammation) wasn’t available against the Hornets either, while newly signed two-way player Carton got his first kick at the can as the Raptors try to piece together some semblance of a rotation.

Advertisement 6

Article content

The good news was Immanuel Quickley’s play and how he took the initiative at the point.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Ochai Agbaji, in essence, took the spot of Barnes in the starting group and showed good chemistry with Jakob Poeltl. When the night began, the Raptors ran a high-post offence with the ball running through Poeltl. On three separate occasions, Poeltl dished off to a cutting Agbaji, who would finish at the rim.

Agbaji’s play was encouraging, his size much needed on a Raptors team that is short on bulk. He even got a run playing with Jontay Porter, who offers more finesse than force.

The discouraging development, however, involved Poeltl, who dislocated the baby finger to his left, non-shooting hand late in the opening half. He would not return as Olynyk started the second half.

Truth be told, the Raptors are starting from scratch in the wake of key players, at least by Toronto’s standards, being scratched. By far the most noteworthy and most consequential is Barnes. Without him, the Raptors are unwatchable.

Advertisement 8

Article content

Without the team’s obvious go-to player, Rajakovic was forced to manage an inferior lineup on the fly. When Poeltl left the game and was nowhere to be found, the rookie head coach was flying by the seat of his pants in trying to extract everything from his players. He decided to go with Porter rather than turn to Chris Boucher when Rajakovic started Olynyk.


We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Miles Bridges and rookie Brandon Miller did the heavy lifting for the Hornets, who had lost three straight and four of their last five games going into Sunday.

Toronto took an 11-point lead midway through the fourth quarter on a drive-and-kick initiated by Quickley, who used his left hand to find Dick spotting up in the right corner in front of the Raptors bench. Charlotte would respond with its own three-ball, prompting Rajakovic to call a timeout.

Advertisement 9

Article content

Despite the glaring lack of familiarity, the Raptors did a decent job, one could argue, of executing with the pieces available.

Keep in mind the Hornets had won only 15 games this season, but were in a two-possession game with three minutes remaining.

Weirdly, the night had some late-game drama following a Raptors turnover. It became a two-point game following a Charlotte put-back and suddenly a one-point Hornets lead when a shot from distance dropped.

Toronto responded as the crowd finally became engaged. They would go home happy, but not much will be remembered on this night when a finger injury would befall a Raptors starter for the second game in a row.

[email protected]

Article content