Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 123-114 win over the Phoenix Suns.
One — Heart: This game is a perfect example of why the Raptors are second in the East despite every circumstance working against them. Despite being on a three-game losing streak, despite trailing by 17 points, despite having no viable centers for a third-straight game, the Raptors still found a way. It took a while to sort out how they wanted to play, but the Raptors sorted out their defense, and got just enough offense from their remaining scorers to get the win.
Two — Fundamentals: Forget the 33 points, the best part of Pascal Siakam’s game was how natural he looked in this game. He got back to basics, and didn’t look to be forcing things as he did in recent outings. Siakam was active on defense and recorded two spectacular blocks. He got the spin move to work after faking right before coming back to his left. He squeezed through the crevices to get to the rim, and when defenders sagged back, Siakam went to the threes, of which he made five. He just looked more like himself, and this is partly a reflection of Phoenix’s ineffectual defense, Siakam’s process tonight can also translate in games against tougher competition.
Three — Awareness: Siakam gave a great quote on the difference between this win over Phoenix as compared to the loss in Denver. “Being at this level, every day is just learning. I kinda lost just enjoying the process, and just playing, man. Having fun, playing defense, rebounding, doing the little things that I always do. I’m just happy to be back to what I do, and I just gotta do that every single day,” he said.
Four — Timeless: It’s incredible that Kyle Lowry is still able to take over games at his age. Aside from catching an elbow to the eye from teammate Terence Davis which incapacitated him for much of the second quarter, this was another masterclass by the Raptors’ six-time All-Star. Lowry carried them early on with 12 points in the first, and he finished strong with two daredevil drives to get to the line, along with a pull-up three to keep the Raptors ahead in the fourth. The same formula has been true of the last seven years: when Lowry is on, the Raptors win.
Five — Powerful: This was yet another strong showing by Norman Powell, who provided excellent secondary scoring with 26 points on eight shots. Powell had a stretch in the second quarter where he was carrying the entire offense with his relentless drives to the rim, and he remained a factor later in the game. He confidently knocked down a three in the fourth, and assisted OG Anunoby on the next trip down to erase a six-point deficit. Powell also had a particularly impressive drive in the fourth where he ripped down the rebound then beat all five Suns down the floor to get to the basket and draw the shooting foul.
Six — Heroic: Having lost the last two games with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson starting at center, Nick Nurse decided to go even smaller with Pat McCaw in the starting five. This failed miserably to start, as the Raptors found themselves constantly scrambling between swarming the paint and recovering to the perimeter, and the end result was that they guarded neither. What really stabilized the game was when Chris Boucher subbed into the game. Boucher was the last rotation player to see the floor, but his impact was undeniable. Boucher collected five offensive rebounds in his first shift, and earned the right to start in the second half.
Seven — Conscience: On top of his 19 points and 15 rebounds off the bench, Boucher also provided a huge boost in crunch time. After missing a three on the previous possession, Boucher caught a kickout in the corner and launched his trebuchet jumper with no hesitation to extend the lead from one to four points with two minutes left. Then, Boucher calmly stepped to the line and swished two free throws after securing a key defensive rebound a minute later which sealed the win. There’s no telling what Boucher will provide on a night-to-night basis, but tonight, he saved the Raptors.
Eight — Tricky: Anunoby is one of the league’s best defenders, but he struggled to check Devin Booker and ended up fouling out. Booker got a few generous calls along the way, but credit the first-time All-Star for his craftiness and strength inside the paint. The Suns smartly sent Booker curling around burly screens from Deandre Ayton, and Anunoby was always a step behind in contesting the shot.
Nine — Surprising: McCaw remains a lightning rod for the Raptors’ fanbase since he is the least productive member of the rotation, but even he delivered the goods tonight. He surprised the Suns defense with a quick crossover in the fourth and got all the way to the rim in a three-point game with 96 seconds remaining. McCaw also provided a change of pace in defending Booker, as he pressured his dribble and made Booker expend extra energy to execute simple actions.
Ten — Relief: Thanks to a 51-point game from Caris LeVert, the Raptors have pushed their lead on the second seed to 1.5 games up on the Boston Celtics. Boston looked to have the win, but a furious comeback and an unfortunate foul on a three-point shot with 0.2 seconds left allowed LeVert to force overtime and for the Brooklyn Nets to ultimately steal the win.
More coverage on Yahoo Sports Canada