The Toronto Raptors emphatically put a disastrous month of March behind them with an historic 53-point win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday and will be hoping that confidence boost is what they needed to get themselves going again.
Still stuck in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and 1.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls for 10th place and the final play-in tournament spot, the Raptors have time to try to get back into the post-season with evidence still suggesting they’re better than their poor 19-30 record would say.
Despite the only .388 winning percentage, the Raptors do still feature a positive point differential and net rating on the season, giving hope still that they’re somewhat of a good team.
However, the reality of the situation is while Toronto may have the potential to be good, that’s a far cry from what its reality has been so far through the season.
So, the question remains for the Raptors: Can they turn this theoretical success into real, tangible results that become wins on the court?
The way they started April was a good start and we’ll see if they can keep it going Monday night when they take on the Washington Wizards at 7 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and Sportsnet ONE.
Here’s a look at three things to look out for in advance of Monday’s tilt.
It didn’t take long for Gary Trent Jr. to establish himself in the Raptors record book.
The prize acquisition in the Norman Powell trade, Trent finished with the second-highest plus-minus mark of all-time since the stat was started recording in 1997 with a plus-54, a mark that’s obviously now the highest in Raptors history.
That incredible stat aside from a remarkable game by the Raptors, Trent has started to look like every bit the player the Raptors thought they were getting when they traded for him and what they’ll need him to be.
On Friday, Trent finished with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and a 6-for-9 mark from deep, and in the game before that against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Trent went off for 31 on 12-of-22 from the floor and 6-for-11 from deep.
Those numbers are very Powell-esque, and while they won’t be what he does every night, the fact Trent is proving himself a reliable scorer and shooter bodes well for the Raptors’ future both in the short and long term.
Big possible test for Flynn
Fred VanVleet is listed as questionable for Monday’s game with a left hip issue that forced him to leave Friday’s win midway through the third quarter.
If he’s unable to go, combined with the fact Kyle Lowry will be out still with that foot infection, rookie point guard Malachi Flynn will be called upon to take on a big test against Washington’s dynamic backcourt of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook.
Now, there’s a chance Beal may not be available to go as he’s listed as questionable for Monday’s game and has missed the last four contests with a hip issue of his own, but in his absence Westbrook has looked like the old MVP version of himself, averaging a monster triple-double of 24.8 points, 13.5 rebounds and 13 assists per game over Washington’s last four games.
Should VanVleet be unable to play, that will be Flynn’s primary assignment as Raptors head coach Nick Nurse has already confirmed Flynn would start in that situation.
Will the rookie be able to handle it? That’s a big question mark.
Yuta vs. Rui postponed
A fun sub-plot of Monday’s game has unfortunately been erased as Wizards forward Rui Hachimura will miss the game with shoulder tightness.
This means we won’t get the treat of seeing Hachimura take on fellow countryman Yuta Watanabe.
The two stars of Japanese basketball will now have to wait until May 6, when the Raptors and Wizards will see each other for the last time this season, to see if they can share the court with each other.
Hachimura joins Thomas Bryant (knee) and Daniel Gafford (ankle) as Wizards who are out Monday, while the Raptors are confirmed to be without Lowry (foot), Jalen Harris (hip), Rodney Hood (hip), Patrick McCaw (knee) and Paul Watson (health and safety protocols).