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Barnes, Trent lead Raptors over Suggs, pesky Magic

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Raptors forward Scottie Barnes played down any talk of a rivalry with Orlando’s Jalen Suggs before Friday’s game, then came out and made a statement anyway.

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Barnes, the fourth pick of June’s NBA Draft, scored Toronto’s first seven points and 19 of his 21 for the game in the first half of a nail-biting 110-109 Raptors win.

The scrappy young Magic, who got 21 points from Suggs, selected a pick after Barnes and 24 from Cole Anthony, stuck with the Raptors throughout, but an ice cold Toronto offence caught fire, hitting 11-of-12 shots to start the final quarter to finally make up for torrid outside shooting by the visitors.

After starting the game 1-for-9 from the field, Fred VanVleet missed only one of seven fourth quarter attempts, which should have put the game away.

But Suggs, just after being subjected to “Scottie’s better” barbs from some fans while shooting free throws, hit a massive three-pointer while being fouled, plus the free throw, to cut the Toronto lead to four with 52 seconds remaining. When Anunoby missed a three-pointer and Orlando got the rebound, things really got interesting. The Magic called timeout, but Gary Trent Jr., outstanding defensively all season, blew up the final play, forcing Anthony back into the halfcourt and for an attempted heave that fell well short.

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“That’s a big-time play at the right time when we needed it,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.

“He’s improved at it (deflecting balls) and made it his thing, which is great.” Earlier in the game Trent had poked away a ball leading to a Raptors dunk at the other end which got the lively crowd going.

Trent had a feeling Anthony would get the ball because he’d had a strong game. And then he tried to make it tough for Anthony.

“Just trying to make a play on the ball. I swiped through. Obviously, I had a chance to get it. In that situation, they’re not gonna call a foul, so just being alert and having defensive instincts,” Trent said.

Both franchise turned over every possible rock in scouting Barnes and Suggs before the draft. Each came away fans. Nurse had talked up Suggs before the game, and his counterpart, Jamahl Mosley, did the same about Barnes.

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“Well, Scott, he’s a high motor guy, a high intensity guy, very versatile. And that’s what he brings to the table for the Raptors,” Mosley said.

“Scottie’s the best. He’s a genuine brother to me,” Suggs had said earlier, echoing the thoughts of Barnes a day earlier … “To see him succeeding at the highest level, I’m nothing but proud of him.”

Barnes got poked in the eye just before halftime, but was checked out and by the time warmups began before the third quarter, he was smiling and dancing like usual.

He was quiet from there, but Toronto still improved to 3-3, as Orlando dropped to 1-5.

Still, he had done enough, impressing yet again in joining original Raptors star Damon Stoudamire as the only rookies in franchise history to notch at least 100 points through their first six games.

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He’s impressed Trent and Nurse, amongst others.

“Obviously, you see the things he does on the floor. It’s incredible, how he’s dunking in transition, how he’s finding guys, playing defence,” Trent said. “He’s doing everything for us, helping us get these wins.”

Nurse lauded Barnes for taking what Orlando’s defence gave him — namely a bevy of midrange shots — which Barnes happily took and mostly made, looking a bit like DeMar DeRozan. He also looked like somebody else at one point, loping up the court and getting from paint to paint with only three dribbles. That’s a Giannis Antetokounmpo staple.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves with the comparisons.

The Raptors started 2-for-14 from three, but hit five of their next 11 three-pointers to help make up for scorching outside shooting by Orlando (47.1%, with 16 makes for the game).

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AROUND THE RIM

Nurse said before the game that Pascal Siakam would travel with the team to Indianapolis, though he’s not yet ready to play. Yuta Watanabe was expected to likely join Siakam on the three-game trip, though his calf issue flared up after a recent practice. The good news, Nurse said, was Watanabe was feeling much better Friday than he had on Thursday. “Hopefully he’ll get out there shortly,” Nurse said. He said ideally they both would travel because “We’re trying to keep those guys with us since we’re still in such a learning phase of things.” … Nurse, the head coach of the Canadian national team coincidentally called on a trio of Canucks as his first three substitutions Friday — Dalano Banton, Khem Birch and Chris Boucher. Nurse again opted for Banton as his backup point guard, instead of veteran Goran Dragic, who did not play for the second game in a row, and sophomore Malachi Flynn. Banton was sharp, setting new highs for points, assists, three-point makes and blocks. Nurse said he has daily chats with Dragic who has gone from starting to not playing at all and told him to stay ready.

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