Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) battles Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during second half basketball action in Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Oakland, California on Friday, June 7, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

VanVleet scores 23 points in Raptors’ 112-109 pre-season win at Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Fred VanVleet knocked down a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer with Gordon Hayward in his face, then jogged toward the locker-room with a grin.

VanVleet showed no hint of rust, scoring 23 points in the Toronto Raptors’ 112-109 pre-season victory at Charlotte on Monday.

But it’s a fine line, he said, between managing his energy now ahead of what he knows will be a gruelling season.

“I’m just trying to be the voice and the example that I need to be for the team but at the same time, not overdoing it … still make sure I’m sharp and I’m already but not over-exert myself too early. I know what’s to come, I know how the season is, I know Nick (coach Nurse) runs us really hard during the season so I’m sure the minutes will be up.”

Rookie Malachi Flynn had 17 points in another excellent performance off the bench, while Terence Davis added 14 points, and Pascal Siakam finished with 12.

Terry Rozier and Jalen McDaniels had 15 points apiece to lead Charlotte.

VanVleet has plenty to be happy about this season. And so do the Raptors.

Retaining the hard-working guard was the Raptors’ No. 1 priority during last month’s free agency, and they were successful, re-signing VanVleet to an historic US$85-million extension — the richest deal for an undrafted player.

The 26-year-old scored five three-pointers and shot 9-for-12 from the field on Monday. He also had four assists and three steals in 22 minutes of action, and Nurse credited VanVleet with keeping the Raptors in the game with his terrific second quarter.

“He was getting knocked around pretty hard going to rim there at the start of the game. He was getting a little frustrated and as usual he just keeps hanging in there and playing and got some nice open looks and knocked them down,” Nurse said.

“We needed somebody to kind of step up and do that at that particular moment, felt like we were in a lot more trouble than we were in, he was letting us hang around kind of single-handedly.”

The Raptors trailed by 14 points in the first half, but Flynn’s seven points early in the fourth helped Toronto put together a seven-point lead midway through that frame. Nurse emptied his bench over the final minutes as the Raptors held on for their second straight pre-season win over Charlotte.

Toronto’s all-star guard Kyle Lowry didn’t travel to Charlotte with the team. He was permitted to stay back at the team’s temporary home in Tampa, Fla., for “load management,” according to Nurse.

Charlotte led for most of the first half, up 30-22 to end the first quarter and 60-57 at the halftime break.

Alex Len’s layup late in the third quarter briefly had Toronto on top, but the Hornets took an 87-85 lead into the fourth quarter.

The absence of fans continues to paint a strange backdrop. Siakam missed the rim on a three-point attempt early Monday, and the game operations staff piped in jeers of “Air ball!”

When DeAndre Bembry got the ball in front of Charlotte’s bench, a Hornets player could clearly be heard taunting Bembry to “shoot it!” Bembry did, and scored.

“That’s just normal, just talking smack, hoping that you miss,” Bembry said. “But I just told (Charlotte’s bench) to calm down, relax, it’s going up, and it definitely happened how I wanted it to happen. I just told them relax, take this L, it’ll be alright.”

Because of Canada’s border restrictions around COVID-19, the Raptors are the league’s only team forced to play outside its market this season. They’ll host Miami on Friday in their first “home” game at Amalie Arena, and their third and final pre-season game. They open the regular season on Dec. 23.

Adding to the frantic pace of a shortened pre-season, the Raptors are having to find time to hunt for houses in Tampa, and their practice facility there is still in the final stages of construction.

Nurse said the biggest interruption, though, is the two COVID-19 tests every player must undergo each day. Players aren’t released to go about their days until they’ve passed, pushing back the schedule.

“But it’s not a big deal and I think everybody’s handled it in stride OK,” Nurse said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eighteen inmates and four staff at Red Deer Remand Centre have tested positive for COVID-19. Advocate file photo
Red Deer Remand Centre up to 22 COVID cases

Eighteen inmates and four remand centre staff areactive COVID cases

Christine Cornelius, department manager at Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, prepares seed racks at the Red Deer County shop. (By SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Central Alberta gardeners already buying seeds to prepare for spring

Potatoes and carrots popular choices for backyard gardens

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Red Deer’s newest Waskasoo Park trail offers some bird’s-eye views of the city. It runs along the Highland Green escarpment, between Howarth Street Close and 60th Street. More information is available on reddeer.ca. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
PHOTO: New Red Deer trail offers hikers a bird’s-eye view

It links Howarth Street Close with 60th Street

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette delivers the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa on Sept. 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns

OTTAWA — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette is resigning. The news comes as… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele, left, and Kyle Connor, right, congratulate Blake Wheeler on his goal during second period NHL action against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, January 21, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Four different Jets score as Winnipeg beats the Ottawa Senators 4-1

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Canes’ season paused, while Caps play on without 4 regulars

Team Stecklein forward Allie Thunstrom (9) shoots against Team Szabados goalie Shannon Szabados in the NWHL All-Star Hockey Game Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Humphrey
NWHL expansion Toronto Six head to Lake Placid women’s hockey bubble

NWHL expansion Toronto Six head to Lake Placid women’s hockey bubble

United States defender Aaron Long (23) and Canada forward Lucas Cavallini (19) battle for the ball during second half of CONCACAF Nations League soccer action in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
Canadian men’s soccer team returns to action on weekend with scrimmage against U.S.

Canadian men’s soccer team returns to action on weekend with scrimmage against U.S.

FC Dallas forward Fafa Picault, left, steps into a kick as Nashville SC midfielder Alistair Johnston (12) defends during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. A dozen Canadians are available in Thursday's slimmed-down MLS SuperDraft, reduced to three rounds from four this year. While the draft is not the pipeline it once was, the success of players like Johnston, taken 11th overall last year by expansion Nashville SC, show there are still success stories.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Humphrey
Whitecaps go international with Nigerian forward, Jamaican defender in MLS SuperDraft

Whitecaps go international with Nigerian forward, Jamaican defender in MLS SuperDraft

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

Report on Quebec woman murdered by offender on day parole calls for better oversight

White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a press briefing in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at centre stage

Fauci unleashed: Doc takes ‘liberating’ turn at centre stage

A man wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver Wednesday, November 18, 2020.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Manitoba eases measures as COVID cases decline, but feds warn of severe illness rise

Manitoba eases measures as COVID cases decline, but feds warn of severe illness rise

Most Read