It was all going so well for the Raptors against the Washington Wizards on Friday at Scotiabank Arena.
Heading into the final few minutes of the third quarter of their last preseason game, the offence was flowing, the defence was stifling, and the look ahead to the season opener on Wednesday against Minnesota was positive.
Then, just before the third quarter ended, Scottie Barnes came down awkwardly on his right foot and limped off the court to the locker room ,with Raptors director of sports science Alex McKechnie in tow.
The initial diagnosis was a sprained right foot which ended his night and immediately set off speculation of how many games it could possibly cost.
Barnes has been outstanding throughout the preseason, including Friday night when he had 23 points in 25 minutes before going over on that ankle. His departure was the only real negative of the night.
On the positive side, head coach Darko Rajakovic downplayed the seriousness of the injury post-game and Barnes did walk out of the arena under his own power. There was no sign of a walking boot either, another good sign.
Still, the morning after with injuries of this nature is always telling.
The Raptors would go on to win the final exhibition handily by a score of 134-98 without Barnes, marking the first time in franchise history the team has run the table in the preseason.
Barnes’ play wasn’t the only positive in this one. Precious Achiuwa returned to action after a training camp injury and played 17 strong minutes with nine points, six rebounds and three assists. He did not look like he missed any time at all, easing back in seamlessly to the Raptors’ rotation where he is expected to remain this season.
Rookie Gradey Dick enjoyed his finest offensive showing to date with a 4-for-5 night from behind the arc for 12 points in his 20 minutes.
But perhaps most impressive was the defensive job the Raptors did on Jordan Poole, the former Golden State Warrior and new face of the Wizards’ offence.
Poole was coming off a 41-point night against the Knicks that tied a preseason franchise record previously set by some guy named Michael Jordan.
Poole, though, didn’t come close to replicating that against the Raptors with just seven points in the game on 1-of-15 shooting, with O.G. Anunoby primarily responsible for the blanketing but with assists from a number of his teammates.
“I have three words for you – O.G. Anunoby,” Rajakovic said of the Raptors defensive prowess. “He was outstanding, followed the game plan but the way he approaches the game is very under-estimated. The amount of time he actually spends watching film and analyzing those guys … O.G. Anunoby is as good as anybody defensively.”
The Raptors sent Poole to the line five times, accounting for five of his seven points, but contested every attempt from the field with great success.
The Raptors will have as many as four practice days, if they use them all, before they open the season Wednesday against the Timberwolves at Scotiabank Arena.