10 things: Raptors weather scorching shooting from Kings

William Lou
·NBA reporter

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 124-120 win over the Sacramento Kings.

One — Thriller: The Raptors outplayed the Kings from start to finish, but were still made to endure a nail-biting ending. Toronto’s ball movement was excellent, as four players recorded five or more assists in the win, but Sacramento hit 20 threes to stay afloat. The Raptors were never really in danger of losing, but it was more difficult than it needed to be, especially after OG Anunoby missed two free throws and Pascal Siakam turned it over within the final 30 seconds.

Two — Timeless: Kyle Lowry continues to play his best basketball in years, as the 33-year-old casually put up another 24-point performance. Lowry drained 30-foot transition threes, attacked the rim with a ferocity that was lacking last season, and he put the game away with an incisive dish to Serge Ibaka. The only concern with Lowry is durability, because he leads the league in minutes played and has already logged his third 40-minute outing of the season.

Three — Issue: Fred VanVleet should be the one to spell Lowry, but he’s second in the league in minutes played. The real concern is that Norman Powell is not pulling his weight, and so the Raptors have to rely more heavily on their point guards. Powell has his moments, but he looks lost for the most part and has not been a positive contributor. During one key stretch in the fourth quarter, Powell lost Bogdan Bogdanovic, left his feet on a late closeout, and allowed Bogdanovic to swish a three from the corner. On the other end of the floor, Powell called his own number despite Lowry having the hot hand and jacked up a pull-up three that came nowhere close to dropping. He was immediately benched at the first opportunity afterwards. Powell needs to step up and there are no excuses left. He’s been the same maddeningly inconsistent bench player for five seasons.

Four — Boost: Serge Ibaka has the opposite effect of Powell, as he never fails to impact the game when he checks in off the bench. Ibaka was nothing short of dominant, as he supplied 21 points in 24 minutes off the bench and got the nod to close the game ahead of Marc Gasol. Ibaka’s finishing around the basket is automatic, he makes smart cuts to receive the pass and he also shares great chemistry with Siakam on the big-to-big sequences that he used to run with Jakob Poeltl.

Five — Promising: Despite being left on the bench for the fourth quarter, this was arguably Gasol’s best performance of the season. He showed surprising mobility in trapping the Kings’ guards above the three-point arc, he was a factor at the basket and — for once — Gasol was willing to look at the rim for his own offense. Gasol found the gaps in the defense on the short roll with Lowry and leveraged that into layups or free throws. His 12 points may seem modest, but that represents a season-high.

Six — Effective: It’s a testament to Siakam’s development that he still managed to put up 23 points, 12 rebounds and five assists on a night where he didn’t necessarily impose his will. The Kings aggressively trapped him early on and Siakam wisely made quick passes out of the double team to create easy looks for his teammates. Siakam eventually came alive in the second half with his shifty drives to the basket, but the one area of concern is his ability to close out games. Siakam did drain an impressive fallaway jumper in the lane, but it seems as if Siakam doesn’t have a set plan for how to get to his shot. At the moment, he seems to prefer to receive attack off a high screen, but his handle doesn’t always allow him to get to where he wants in tight spaces. It’s going to be a work in progress.

Seven — Progress: The biggest difference in Siakam’s game was that he cut down on fouls. Siakam was less handsy on defense and he didn’t force drives in traffic, which cut out the handchecking and the offensive fouls that have plagued him thus far. Siakam only had one foul on the night and he also made a concerted effort to clean up the defensive glass, as he led the team with 12 rebounds.

Eight — Undefined: Anunoby’s growth is starting to mirror that of Siakam’s in that he continues to redefine his potential to the point where it’s pointless to put a ceiling on his game. Anunoby was confident from three — where he hit three out of four attempts — and he attacked the basket with purpose and finished through contact. Best of all were the assists — Anunoby set a career-high with five dimes, which is an impressive tally for a player who doesn’t usually have the ball in his hands. It’s a reflection of how quickly he reads the game that he was able to set up his teammates.

Nine — Rookie: Terence Davis had the worst outing of his professional career, as he logged five fouls in seven minutes off the bench. He simply didn’t look prepared and outside of an acrobatic rebound, Davis failed to contribute on either end of the floor. He needs reps to play through his mistakes, but Nurse was right to yank him. Nurse will give Davis every opportunity to assume the minutes left behind by Pat McCaw, who will miss at least a month after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, but Davis must show more than this.

Ten — Unexpected: Fortunately, rookie shooter Matt Thomas stepped up off the bench as he drilled back-to-back threes in the second half that brought the crowd to a frenzy. Thomas made some mistakes tracking his man off the ball, but he showed great compete when targeted in isolation by De’Aaron Fox and Harrison Barnes. So long as he can improve on defense, Nurse will find him minutes.

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