Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 110-102 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
One — Welcome: A stress-free win is exactly what the Raptors needed after dropping four of their last five games. Brooklyn jumped out to a 12-0 lead, but Toronto controlled the game from thereon. The Nets stayed within striking distance, but the Raptors had a response each time as they cruised to a wire-to-wire win. The Nets are shorthanded, but they had won eight of their last 11 coming into tonight’s game, and this was a solid win for the Raptors.
Two — Dominant: This was the rare night in which Pascal Siakam didn’t face double teams from start to finish, and unsurprisingly, he feasted. Not only did the Nets allow him to play 1-on-1, but they also lacked a true power forward with the size and agility to check Siakam, and so he promptly manhandled the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Taurean Prince, and David Nwaba. Siakam’s confidence also skyrocketed after knocking down his first few jumpers, and his midrange shot was effective from start to finish.
Three — Different: Putting aside all the other factors, Siakam just looked flat-out exhausted in the Raptors’ recent slump. Tonight, it was back to normal for Siakam, who was a standout on defense with his three blocks and three steals. Siakam was sharp in his closeouts, he made a point to attack every defensive rebound, and he was alert as a help defender. His block on Rodions Kurucs at the end of the third quarter was nothing short of sensational.
Four — Unexpected: Marc Gasol set a season-high in scoring with 17 points, to go along with 15 rebounds and his typically stellar defense. Gasol was uncharacteristically aggressive in the paint, as he scored twice on post-ups where he overwhelmed a smaller defender on a switch. That wouldn’t be a surprise for the old Gasol, but Gasol had shot just 5-of-19 on post-ups on the season before tonight’s game. The Raptors aren’t expecting Gasol to be a featured scorer, but he needs to capitalize when defenses switch guards and wings onto him, as the Sixers did to great success in last year’s playoffs with Tobias Harris.
Five — Capitalize: Norman Powell continues to have the hot hand, as he finished with 25 points before fouling out. The strange thing with Powell is that he seems to intentionally seek difficult shots, but there can be no argument as to his efficiency. Powell’s three-point shooting has been solid all season, and his conversion rate when he attacks the basket is at an all-time high. As always, Powell thrives when he’s surrounded by playmakers who can simplify his role to just strictly finishing plays.
Six — Standard: Nick Nurse finally relented and dialled back his defense. There were no zone defenses, no box-and-ones, and not even many traps along the perimeter. The Raptors just played it straight up for the entire night, which is a sharp departure from the whacky schemes that Nurse had employed for much of the last six weeks. It didn’t fix much in terms of defensive rebounding, but there was definitely less frantic scrambling. Nurse shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater by shelving his zones altogether, but it’s all about springing schemes on his opponents when they least expect it.
Seven — Positive: The most reliable lineup dating back to 2014 is when Kyle Lowry runs the second unit at the start of the second and fourth quarters. Lowry is at his best in these scenarios, as he makes a point to create for others, while also sniffing out opportunities for him to score. Lowry played responsibly and under control from start to finish, and this steadiest performance since returning from injury.
Eight — Confusing: It’s not entirely clear why Nurse has such a soft spot for Pat McCaw. Nurse always makes a point to boost McCaw when speaking to the press, and he backs that up in the game. McCaw played 29 minutes tonight despite being largely invisible on either end. McCaw even closed the game ahead of OG Anunoby, who struggled in his time but he still deserves more credit than that.
Nine — Beefy: Nurse has experimented with bigger lineups ever since the end of the Sixers game. Gasol saw extended time alongside Serge Ibaka, and for the most part, it worked well. Ibaka becomes a featured player next to Gasol, as they share a nifty high-low game that is straight out of the 1990’s. Nurse explained pre-game that the decision to go bigger isn’t necessarily just tactical, but that it’s also a way to find his players more minutes.
Ten — Expanding: It would really help if Terence Davis developed an in-between game. He’s either launching the three, or he’s darting straight to the basket, and a disciplined defense will be able to neutralize him. Davis plays at one speed right now, and it would open up so much more of his game if he could stop on a dime and hit a midrange jumper, or launch a floater in the lane. As of right now, his best move between the three-point line and the rim are the short bounce passes when he draws a second defender on his drive.
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