Mobley of the Cavaliers towers over Barnes of the Raptors at the start of the Battle for Rookie of the Year – .

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Mobley of the Cavaliers towers over Barnes of the Raptors at the start of the Battle for Rookie of the Year – .


TORONTO – No matter how you put it, there is something special about this class of rookies.
Now we can’t say it’s a class similar to legendaries like 1984, 1996 and 2003, but early feedback has been good so far.

There have been hot starts for Chris Duarte of the Indiana Pacers, Josh Giddey in Oklahoma City, and it looks like the Orlando Magic could have some good ones in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs – to name a few. in what appears to be a deep and talented 2021 draft class.

However, even among what appears to be a bumper crop of rounds, there will always be those who shine the most and, so far in this season, the two names that have popped up the most among the rookie’s early conversations. The years have been Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors and Evan Mobley of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And the best part about these two fabulous looking first-year players is that they don’t just do it on the offensive end of the pitch – where they’ve both been strong, stepping into the action. of Friday as the leader (Barnes) and fifth – the NBA’s rookie top scorers (Mobley) – but also managed to make a significant impact on the game on the defensive end.

“I think they’re special,” Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff of Barnes and Mobley said on Friday. “You watch a lot of AAU stuff and a lot of that comes from who wants to score the ball. This is how you get your notoriety, your Twitter followers and everything that becomes more and more important is offense – and always has been. Like you always have your name in the newspaper to mark the ball. But now you have [two] guys who pride themselves on being two-way street players. And it’s a mixture of “wanting” and the ability to do it.

“These two guys have a unique frame, they are mobile and agile and that gives them the opportunity to have a defensive impact. “

Raptors coach Nick Nurse added, “These two guys, both of them, the tools and the talent that we gave them, they made it happen. They used it as a force and played with it. Much of the defense begins with the desire and desire to do it. I think they both understand that this is how they can make hard-hitting and winning games. So they both do it.

Perhaps because of this tilt seen from the two rookies, the initially thought ceiling of the respective teams has probably increased. The Raptors came in on Friday with a healthy 6-3 and the Cavaliers at 5-4.

In a contest equated to a clash between 2021 draft picks 3 and 4, Mobley and Barnes, Friday’s game lived up to the bill as the Mobley Cavaliers walked away with a 102-101 win. over the Barnes Raptors, slamming their five-game winning streak.

Barnes, who returned to the Raptors roster after missing two games with a thumb injury, finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds, while Mobley finished with 18 points.

“Two very good players. I think some really good players have a bright future and you see the size and skill mix they both have, ”said Nurse. “They’re going to be there for a long time, I guess, both of them, and keep improving. It will probably be an interesting game to watch over the years. “

More important than the offense of the two rookies, however, is how each player helped impact the game defensively by sometimes checking themselves in and taking turns locking themselves in on possessions. Barnes, in particular, impressed at this end of the pitch, highlighted by a monstrous off-bounds block in the second quarter during a Ricky Rubio lay-up attempt.

This fly swatter-like play was indicative of the kind of activity the Raptors exemplified on Friday night, making big defensive plays to help fuel their offense.

In total, Toronto forced Cleveland to make 18 turnovers and converted them to 23 points while keeping the Cavaliers just 46.3 percent from shots from the field and a 10 of 30 mark from deep.

This domineering defense seen by the Raptors saw them in control for most of the game. They were leading up to 15 points, but in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers made a comeback and pulled it down to one point with just under six minutes to go. Fred VanVleet immediately responded with a long two-point pointer that was initially considered a triple until the official review changed it to give Toronto a 94-91 lead.

Right after that game, Jarrett Allen hit a lucky three to tie the game at 94-94 with 4:22 remaining. And then after a back-and-forth game that saw VanVleet and Anunoby hit a few clutch shots for Toronto, the Raptors hung on to a 101-100 lead with 24.8 seconds left.

The Cavaliers had final possession of the game and had three failures. At first it looked like the Raptors’ Gary Trent Jr. had a steal against Cleveland’s Darius Garland, but the ball went out of bounds, giving Cleveland another shot.

It wouldn’t be much more successful in attempt 2, however, as Colin Sexton dived into the paint and ended up getting tied up for a jump ball. Then, finally on the third attempt, after Cleveland won the jump ball, Darius Garland was fouled by Anunoby and calmly hit both free throws to give Cleveland a 102-101 lead with 4.8 seconds to play and ultimately win the game.

On the last possession of the game, the Raptors asked OG Anunoby to head for the basket and then disappear along the end line. He missed the shot, but Barnes came flying in and looked like he could tip him over, but he also missed before time expired.

For all the good the Raptors defense did for most of the game, there were times when they played on that side and got burned as a result – something Nurse said he would just have to to live with.

“If you watch a game in its entirety you’re going to have breakdowns in defense and if you have one where you’re too aggressive and sometimes you pay for it, you’re probably going to be okay with that,” Nurse said.

“It’s just when you destroy plans and don’t do anything right, and it happens sometimes, when you just have bad defensive possession or a streak of it. We haven’t had too many bad ones, I think most of those mistakes are down to aggression and that’s okay. “

In the end, Friday night didn’t turn out to be the electric duel between Barnes and Mobley, perhaps it could have been, but both players were solid and brought him to both ends of the pitch. Ultimately, Mobley helped his team move to 6-4 in the young season and bolstered their record in the rookie’s first battle of the year between him and Barnes.

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