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10 things: Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam combine for 76 points to shock Lakers

·NBA reporter
·7 min read
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Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' 121-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

One — Surprise: Everything was working against the Raptors in this game if you looked at it on paper. The Raptors rested two starters in OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet, which took out their leading scorer from the Jazz game and their best wing defender to throw against LeBron James. The bench was short both Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Boucher, and the Lakers have one of the deepest teams in the league. Add in the Raptors' 3-12 record on the second night of back-to-backs, and everything was pointing towards a loss. If you bet on this game, you either lost big or won huge.

Two — Superstar: Kyle Lowry played his best game of the season, scoring 37 points with 11 assists in a dominant showing from start to finish. Perhaps it was a show of defiance against a team that decided not to trade for him at the deadline, or maybe it was just a case of being well-rested after sitting out the Jazz game, but Lowry was on a mission to will the Raptors to victory. Lowry's playmaking was sensational as usual, but his scoring was even better. Lowry got great elevation into his jumpers, sinking a handful of contested looks by elevating over his defender, and he also showed no fear in attacking the Lakers on the interior despite all of their size in the middle. It was the type of performance that might come in handy for a championship team, or even benefit a play-in team like the Lakers. 

Three — Will: So much in sports can be quantified that there is almost a tendency to disregard anything that can't be captured by data. But what about something like leadership, where you can see when it's there and when it isn't? Lowry played with incredible confidence, and that allowed everyone else on the team to fall in line. You could break that down into Lowry's scoring creates gaps for others, or Lowry being energetic sets a faster pace for the Raptors to profit in transition, but really what it came down to was whenever there was a hint of unsteadiness in the team, Lowry came in and nipped it in the bud, and they would regain their rhythm to continue playing at a high level. There's really no stat for leadership and that's really too bad because Lowry would be right at the top. 

Four — Decisive: Pascal Siakam had one of his best games of the season, coming one free throw at the end shy of a 40-point showcase. Siakam was incredible from the start, nailing two threes as part of his 17-point first quarter, and was cooking the Lakers despite all of their size which figured to be a poor matchup. The biggest determinant for Siakam's success is energy, as it's clear that it wanes which leads to these Jekyll and Hyde performances. The second biggest variable is how quick he is in his decision making. If Siakam is pounding the ball and trying to dribble his way into gaps, it's usually going to lead to an inefficient night. But when he's attacking right on the catch and using his quickness to his advantage, even elite defenders like Anthony Davis might struggled to check him. The last factor is the outside shooting, and Siakam was prolific from both midrange and the three. 

Five — Flow: Siakam and Lowry sustained this win for the Raptors, and they worked magic together, with Lowry recording seven assists to Siakam, and Siakam returning the favour with three dimes to Lowry. The two-man game between them isn't always on display, but they have always had chemistry dating back to Siakam's first career basket as a rookie in 2016 which came from a feed by Lowry, and they most famously connected for the championship-clinching shot in 2019 where Lowry slipped it to Siakam who dropped Draymond Green like Grade 10 French before nailing the runner. It hasn't been used as much since Siakam became more of a featured player who is expected to create most of his own offense, but it worked wonderfully Sunday. Nurse explained that the Lakers playing big allowed Siakam to screen for Lowry, and gaps were there for Lowry to feed Siakam slipping into the midrange or popping out to three. 

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Six — Vital: The Raptors don't win this game without DeAndre' Bembry, who was the unsung hero who led all bench scorers with 14 points. Bembry made an instant impact in his first shift, cutting into space for a pair of and-1 finishes, and was steady whenever he was called upon. Bembry mostly delivers secondary ball handling and length on the defensive end, but most of his game just comes down to smarts. He knows where to be, he makes the right plays, his reads are sharp defensively, and he fits in a variety of lineups. And most importantly, he plays extremely hard, like when he atoned for an ill-advised save under the basket by driving through the Lakers' defense and throwing down a one-handed jam.  

Seven — Forgettable: Bembry was needed for 24 minutes because it was a massive struggle for rookie guard Malachi Flynn, who shot 0-for-7 as a starter. Flynn had issues with the Lakers' size in their last meeting as well, and it resulted in Flynn settling for pull-up jumpers. Nurse was smart to limit Flynn's minutes, slotting Bembry in his place to close both the first and second half. Flynn had been so productive of late that you almost forget that he's a rookie, and there is so much more for him to learn. The lesson from this one is just to forget this game happened and start fresh in the next one.

Eight — Valuable: Yuta Watanabe was also on the floor to close the game, and although his scoring was modest, Watanabe had a putback and got himself to the line while the Lakers were threatening to close in the fourth quarter. Watanabe was mostly on for his defense, and it's the little things that you end up appreciating in his game, such as his disciplined closeouts to shooters where he always stays in control while taking away all the space. Nurse complimented Watanabe before the game on his ability to play mistake-free basketball, and that's how you earn enough trust to close out a game the Raptors really wanted.

Nine — Improved: It was much better showing from Freddie Gillespie, who had struggled over the past week after some very promising shifts. The Raptors made a point to attack the paint, and Gillespie made himself available repeatedly in the dunker spot for layups and putbacks. Gillespie shows great strength in being able to hold his position, and he's patient so he's not rushed in his shots. He even flashed good tough on a hook shot from 10 feet out, and collected five offensive rebounds against one of the biggest frontcourts in the league. There's a reason the Raptors signed him beyond his 10-day deals, and as with any other rookie, it will take patience and hard work as he looks to grow. 

Ten — Concern: The Lakers are the champions until proven otherwise, but they looked like a mess. Their defensive intensity was non-existent until late in the fourth quarter, and there was absolutely zero movement on offense. It felt like the players just expected LeBron James and Anthony Davis to take over and do all the work, and both players are clearly not physically right. James left with a sore ankle, the same one that sidelined him for close to a month, and Davis had none of his usual quickness or burst that makes him so effective. They're running out of time to get it right. 

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