Sunday, January 23, 2022

Raptors’ Fred VanVleet records first career triple-double, continues to make his All-Star case

The Toronto Raptors have been largely overlooked this season, and perhaps understandably so given the fact that they’ve spent much of it hovering around .500. But over the last few weeks they’ve kicked things into gear, and following a comeback win over the shorthanded Utah Jazz, they’ve now won five games in a row and 10 of their past 14. 

They’ve done so thanks in large part to Fred VanVleet, who is in the midst of an awesome run. He’s put up 30-plus points in four of his past five games, and finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against the Jazz to record his first career triple-double. All great, of course, but the way he singlehandedly took over the game in the third quarter was the most impressive aspect of his performance. 

After Elijah Hughes hit a 3-pointer with 4:43 left in the third, the Jazz led by 14 points at 84-70. Two minutes and 27 seconds later, the Raptors led, 85-84. The only person who scored in that span, on either team, was VanVleet:

  • Pull-up jumper
  • Step-back 3
  • Two free throws
  • Pull-up 3
  • And-one layup
  • Pull-up jumper

In all, he scored 17 straight points for the Raptors, and finished with 24 of his 37 in the frame. Watching the highlights of that run is obviously more fun, but it’s pretty incredible to look at the game log and just see “VanVleet” over and over and over. Hot streaks and big quarters are commonplace in the NBA, but you rarely see someone go on a run like VanVleet did against the Jazz. 

Following the game, VanVleet’s old buddy, Kyle Lowry, took to Twitter to both congratulate his former teammate and get in a little jab. “@FredVanVleet triple double!! About time !! Lol congrats !!!” Lowry wrote. At the end, he included the hashtag, “NBAAllStar.” 

Much like his team, VanVleet isn’t the most popular or well-known player. In the first round of All-Star voting returns, he barely squeaked into the top 10 for Eastern Conference guards in 10th place with 108,529 votes. But even though he likely won’t be a starter, VanVleet is indeed having an All-Star season. 

He’s putting up 21.7 points, five rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Save for rebounding, he’s in the top 20 in the league in all of those other categories and is one of the best defensive guards in the league. And though All-Star spots aren’t generally based on team success, it’s worth noting that the Raptors are 19-14 when he plays, and 0-3 when he doesn’t. 

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