Scottie Barnes nearly recorded a triple-double against the 76ers in Game 1 in his first ever NBA playoff game and while he's listed as doubtful, Raptors coach Nick Nurse has indicated he would like the rookie to play if he's healthy enough to go. Amit Mann analyzes his performance in the series opener and why the rookie is irreplaceable against the 76ers.
AMIT MANN: OK, so from the moment I left the Raptors practice facility to the moment I came home and started shooting this video, Scottie Barnes is doubtful for game four.
- But not going to rule out the possibility that he may play, but he's still doubtful.
AMIT MANN: Now some of you may have given up on the series, just accepted that the Raptors are going to lose it. And I get it. No one's ever come back from down 3-0.
Yada, yada, yada. I understand it. Is what it is.
But I still want to see Scottie Barnes play, and for one reason is because I just don't want game one to be the last time that we see him on the court-- in pain, ankle injury, all that. No, that's not how this rookie is going to go out this season. But also, the other reason, and Nick Nurse echoed this as well, is that this is valuable experience for him. So if he is able to play--
- Like I've been saying, this team needs these games. He needs them. We haven't seen him at all really in this series.
AMIT MANN: --I think that he should be on the court. Now when it comes to the series-- injuries, rookie mistakes, terrible fourth quarter execution in game three-- have all contributed to the Raptors being here. And I think it's fair to say that if Scottie Barnes was healthy, this series may be playing out just a little bit differently because as we saw in game one, he was incredible.
He is a difference maker, and he is special. Let's take a look at what he did in that game. So when the Raptors do have Scottie Barnes on the court with OG and Pascal, they've regained their identity in their front court.
It's all in mismatches. They find it. They expose it.
And in game one, they were doing absolutely that-- different kinds of actions that included Tyrese Maxey and James Harden and taking those guys one on one. And that boded did really well for their offense. That was their best halfcourt game so far. And because there is no Scottie, Joel Embiid is allowed to just hang out in the paint. And getting him out of there is key to any offense he was trying to score on the Philadelphia 76ers.
- On Embiid. Reaching over was Harris. [? Trent ?] is unmarked.
- He's open.
- And scores a 3.
AMIT MANN: For instance, Gary Trent Jr.-- in game three, he was terrific. Game one, game two, illness. He wasn't feeling great.
You can kind of see it. But game three comes around, and he's kind of getting back his legs, and he's starting to feel a little bit better. And what the Raptors were doing is that they were using Gary's gravity as a shooter in the mid-range, in 3-point range, to lure Joel Embiid closer to the level.
And when they were doing that, they're making Joel Embiid decide, am I going to go further out away from the basket, or am I going to just concede these shots and see if Gary Trent Jr. Can make them? And he did. Scottie is comfortable taking a mid-range shot, and he has some success with 3's.
And both of those cases, it's going to make sure that Joel is not underneath the basket, and you could do some high-low with OG or Pascal. And again, if he's able to hit those 3's, Scottie Barnes is making Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers think a lot more about how they're going to cover the Raptors.
And just Scottie's activity alone is going to make Joel Embiid get really tired. We saw him in game three, and he was gassed through that fourth quarter. And unfortunately, he caught his wind in overtime, and then all that stuff happened. But Scottie Barnes is going to get Joel Embiid working non-stop running up and down the court, and that's going to help the Raptors be a better team.
Another thing with the offense is that when he has the ball in his hands, that means that Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam don't, and they're able to utilize different parts of their offensive [? gains. ?] For Fred VanVleet, he doesn't have the ball in his hands. He's not going to get as tired, and we've seen him wear down over these games.
And now we're able to initiate some of his catch and shoot game. And that's been lethal throughout this season. And really not just Fred-- it's OG. It's Gary Trent.
Scottie is a mismatch when he's on the court, and he's able to use that gravity and also his court sense, his passing IQ, to find shooters. And that has helped the Raptors throughout this season. And for Pascal Siakam, now he can focus on getting the ball in his spots and just going to work.
Right now, he's having to handle the ball way too much in spots that you don't really want Pascal to be getting it. Yeah, OK, he can dribble in from the 3-point line, and that's cool. But I'd rather see him around the elbow, top of the key, doing his thing around there because that's his comfort zone. That's where he's able to be most successful. That's where he's actually been able to beat 76ers players like Yang and Tobias Harris.
- And 18 are 1 for 5. Nice pass inside, and Barnes is fouled.
AMIT MANN: And also, Scottie Barnes is a next level player when it comes to finding the gaps on the court. The timing of his cuts has been to a T. He's like a release valve for broken possessions.
And he finishes really well around the basket, all ways that we saw in game 1 was helping the Raptors find offense in the halfcourt. In the minutes of Pascal and Fred, would have been so much more manageable if Scottie Barnes was able to take on some of those point guard duties. And defensively, his impact is obvious.
He is 6'10. He's one of the players on the Raptors who is best suited to actually guard Joel Embiid. Granted, every single player is a mismatch for Joel. But Scottie Barnes can do it at a pretty high clip.
He's athletic. He's long. He's going to compete.
He's willing to rebound. He's willing to muck it up. And you're comfortable switching him on to pretty much anyone on the court. And when it comes to kickstarting their transition game, Scottie Barnes will get the turnover, get the ball, head down the court, and make smart decisions.
Injuries are part of the game. It's the reason why some teams have won and lost championships in the past. And as I said earlier, it is a factor in why the Raptors are in this position right now.
But watching Scottie Barnes narrowly miss out on a triple double in 31 minutes of action in game one, it's like it was scintillating. It was a culmination of everything he's done so far this season to get him to this point and to be ready to be this good in his first ever NBA playoff game. And it would be incredible to watch him once more. And if he doesn't, that's OK too. But if he does play and the Raptors win game four, who knows?
- And if it gets to 3-1, it's not 3-0 anymore. And 3-1's been done. OK.