Raptors Cage

“Patman” is the unsung hero Toronto deserves, and the one it needs back healthy

Time is winding down. The Brooklyn Nets have possession with 12 seconds left and are up by a point. Deron Williams tosses the ball inbounds towards Joe Johnson. Patrick Patterson reads the pass and… he intercepts it! He gives the ball to Kyle Lowry and gets it right back two seconds later. Patterson pump-fakes and nails a 15-foot jumper with six seconds remaining. The Toronto Raptors squeak out of Brooklyn with the 104-103 win.

That was on January 27, the last time these Atlantic division rivals squared off. Today, the Raptors (35-26) sit atop the Atlantic with a four-game lead over the Nets (31-30). The Raptors have the chance to widen the gap to five games tonight at the Barclays Center.

The man who provided the late-game heroics last time won’t suit up in tonight’s rematch. The Raptors announced yesterday Patterson will be sidelined with a right ulnar collateral sprain. He aggravated his right elbow injury against the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. He will be re-evaluated in seven to 10 days.

Patterson has been playing the best basketball of his career. He has been averaging 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds since he was traded to Toronto from Sacramento last December. The power forward takes more shots and shoots at a significantly higher percentage as a Raptor than he did as a King. He is shooting 49.2 per cent from the field and a career-high 43.9 per cent from beyond the arc. His true shooting percentage is 57.3 per cent, up from the 45.7 per cent he posted in 17 games in Sacramento this season.

Patterson has benefited from the change of scenery. He was sent from a bottom-feeder in the West and has helped the Raptors become the third-best team in the East. The stretch four has solidified his role as the sixth man. At 24 years old (turning 25 on Friday), Patterson is the fourth-youngest player on the team, yet he has shown the maturity of a veteran. He is faster and handles the ball better than the average frontcourt player and has proved he can make plays in crunch time.

“Clutch” summarizes the show Patterson put on in Brooklyn. That marked the first game he played wearing a mask after suffering a displaced nose in the previous game. Fans dubbed him “Patman.” He has also been called “Two-Patt” by the Raptors PA announcer, Herbie Kuhn.

I met Patterson while reporting for BALLnROLL last week. When I greeted him as “Two-Patt,” the six-foot-nine forward told me he doesn’t like being called that. “It’s P-Patt,” he said. He also revealed that after sending the league a “very, extremely convincing” letter, he has been given the green light to wear the “Batman” mask. “[Nando] De Colo is going to be my Robin. He’s got a crazy mask I’m about to bust out for everybody.”

Patterson is quite the character off the court, but on it he has garnered respect for his effort, intensity, and versatility. He can play three positions and guard inside and out. He stretches the floor with his ability to knock down threes. He has been spending more time on the perimeter than ever before in his career. His average shot is 14.3 feet from the net. Nearly half his shot attempts are from 16 feet out and beyond. He shoots a stellar 51.4 per cent from the corners. Only three-point specialist Steve Novak is more reliable in that department.

Patterson’s net rating is 10.1, which leads all players on the team who average more than four minutes per game (sorry, Dwight Buycks). Patterson’s PIE, which estimates his impact on games, and PER trail only those of All-Star DeMar DeRozan and should’ve-been-an-All-Star Kyle Lowry. The Raptors are 26-13 with Patterson in the lineup. Head coach Dwane Casey has called Patterson a “godsend” to the team.

Patterson’s presence will be missed, especially during the upcoming stretch of games. Toronto’s next four opponents are Brooklyn, Detroit, Memphis, and Pheonix. Three of those teams will not roll over without a fight. Fortunately, the Raptors are a deep team. Last night Casey subbed in Novak, who shot 5-6 from beyond the arc and added 15 points to help the team defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves. In Terrence Ross’ absence from the court last Sunday, Casey started Landry Fields against Golden State. The forward stepped up in a Raptors win. Casey summoned Chuck Hayes last Friday night against the Kings. The eighth-year veteran did a respectable job guarding DeMarcus Cousins. Collectively, there’s a fair amount of firepower off the bench. However, none of these players individually bring all that Patterson does. The Raptors will need him back healthy down the stretch, especially come the third week of April.

While Patterson won’t dress tonight, he will be supporting the team. He tweeted:

Patterson has embraced the Raptors. He brings it on the court to help the team win. When circumstances bar him from doing that, he tries to help in other ways. Just like Bruce Wayne, it’s not who “Patman” is underneath, but what he does that defines him.

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