Here are 10 things from the Toronto Raptors’ 112-99 win over the Detroit Pistons.
One — Costly: The Raptors were in control from start to finish and showed great determination to beat the Pistons, but they lost Marc Gasol and Norman Powell in the process. With several busloads of Raptors fans invading an otherwise vacant Pistons arena, there was bound to be tension in the air and it translated to the floor. Four technicals were called on the four most prominent players in the game and there was plenty of physical play from both sides. Gasol left early on, Derrick Rose took two massive shots to the head and Powell exited it late. Toronto survived with the win, but there were shades of their trip to New Orleans back in early November.
Two — Stellar: This was Kyle Lowry’s best performance since coming back from injury. Lowry collected the 15th triple-double of his career with a statline of 20-10-10, and it was the do-it-all type of performance that the very best version of Lowry is capable of. The Raptors won in large part because they dominated in transition and Lowry was the main driver behind that. He also spun gold out of the pick-and-roll with Serge Ibaka, and was instrumental in getting OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam into rhythm early in the game. Best of all, Lowry won three offensive rebounds in the second half as the smallest player on the floor.
Three — Star: Siakam battled foul trouble and was slapped with a technical, but he fought through it and delivered in crunch time. Siakam was hot early on as he hit three triples in the first quarter, but went through a dry spell in the second half. He got blocked at the rim while trying to posterize Andre Drummond, and Siakam followed that up with an ill-advised midrange jumper and a needless foul. However, Siakam did step up to end the game, as he nailed two 3s in the last six minutes to finish with a game-high 26 points. The Pistons were careful to keep Siakam out of the paint, but he’s unguardable when he makes his 3s.
Four — Development: The next step for Siakam is learning how to draw fouls. Siakam used 25 possessions between his 23 shots and two turnovers, but he didn’t attempt a single free throw. Part of this speaks to Siakam’s ability to elude contact with his spin moves, but it’s hampering his efficiency. Maybe it’s just a matter of incorporating more fakes into his game, or getting more comfortable with the dribble so he can wedge himself into tighter spaces, or getting stronger so that he can take on more contact, but it’s a glaring weakness in his game. Siakam is the only player in the league averaging more than 25 points while attempting less than five free throws per game.
Five — Intriguing: Anunoby continues to show his potential in flashes. He wasn’t a factor in the second half, but he was a star to begin the game. Anunoby was in rare form, as he pulled a spin move on Tony Snell that would make Siakam proud, crossed up Drummond before driving inside for a dunk, nailed a 30-foot 3 to beat the shot clock, and he capped it off with a 3 and an and-one post up on Snell.
Six — Revival: Ibaka stepped up exactly when the Raptors needed it and played his best game of the season. Ibaka was spry and active on both ends of the floor and that’s always when Ibaka is at his best. Ibaka got to his sweet spot early and often courtesy of timely passes from Lowry and Pat McCaw, and that got him engaged for the rest of the night. Ibaka was so active that he even won offensive rebounds over the league’s best rebounder in Drummond, on top of scoring 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting. This game should do wonders for Ibaka’s confidence moving forward.
Seven — Costly: Gasol strained his hamstring rushing back in transition and immediately asked to come out of the game in the first quarter. Nick Nurse didn’t have a definitive update on his condition, but Gasol will probably miss a couple of weeks. This creates yet another opportunity for Chris Boucher, although Nurse only gave him six minutes tonight as the backup center behind Ibaka.
— Nils Linnenbrügger (@DocNaismith) December 19, 2019
Eight — Devastating: Powell suffered a left shoulder injury after getting crushed by a legal but brutal screen by Blake Griffin in the fourth quarter. Powell stayed down for the entire possession, was immediately taken to the locker room and ruled out for the night. The timing could not have been worse as Powell was playing the best basketball of his career and was possibly in line for a promotion to the starting lineup. This is shades of 2018, when Powell missed 21 games with a separation of his left shoulder.
Nine — Smart: Nurse made a vital adjustment at halftime by switching Siakam’s defensive assignment from Griffin to Bruce Brown. This was largely due to Siakam’s foul trouble, but it also worked to neutralize the Pistons from attacking the paint. Brown is a non-factor on offence, which allowed Siakam to help freely at the rim, which translated to his four blocks on the night.
Ten — Clutch: As always, Pat McCaw was invisible on the boxscore, but he was useful in a pinch. The Raptors needed someone to guard Rose off the bench, and McCaw's unique combination of length and quickness allowed him to squeak through screens and stay attached to Rose's hip. With Powell out, McCaw will be needed more than ever for his defence, even if Fred VanVleet returns to the lineup on Friday.
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