Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 115-109 win over the Indiana Pacers.
One — Heart: Excuses are nothing to the Raptors. So what if they were short Norman Powell and Marc Gasol, or that their two best players were banged up on the road against a vengeful opponent. The Raptors always find a way to get it done, and someone always steps up. The determination and toughness that this team exhibits on a nightly basis makes them irresistible. They are the walking embodiment of the phrase, “never underestimate the heart of a champion.” Players come in and out, but that swagger remains.
Two — Scary: The turning point came towards the end of the third quarter after Kyle Lowry’s head clattered violently against Serge Ibaka’s leg on a drive to the rim. Lowry was nothing short of sensational up to that point, amassing 11 assists in just 28 minutes while also getting to his own shot at will, but he wisely checked himself out for the night. Fortunately, the prognosis post-game was that X-rays came back clean and that he is just suffering soreness, but odds are good that Lowry won’t suit up on the second half of a back-to-back against Brooklyn. But who knows? Lowry is just that tough that he might still play.
Three — Rally: The Raptors staggered in Lowry’s presence, as the offense went scoreless in the remaining three minutes of the third. That created a perfect opportunity for the Pacers to avenge their humiliating defeat on Wednesday where they choked a 10-point lead in two minutes, but Lowry’s teammates rallied in the fourth quarter. Toronto dialed up their defensive pressure in the fourth and held Indiana scoreless for three-and-a-half minutes, while the Pacers struggled to contain Toronto’s multi-dimensional attack.
Four — Surprising: Terence Davis stole the show in the fourth quarter, where he scored 11 of his 17 points on the night. Davis drained a three, drove inside for a layup over two defenders, slipped behind the defense for a cutting and-one finish, crashed in on the weak side for a putback dunk, followed up a drive from Fred VanVleet for another baseline jam, and capped it off with a hit-ahead layup to VanVleet that stretched the lead to a dozen with 87 seconds left. The best part of Davis is that he just isn’t afraid, and his confidence keeps rising by the game. He can shoot it, he’s athletic enough to finish above the rim, and he can hold his own on defense. Davis is the best surprise of the season.
Five — Mentality: Davis was asked about injuries after the win, to which he answered: “Perseverance. This team has always been next man up ... it’s in our DNA, man." That’s the story of the season right there.
Toronto Raptors rookie @TerenceDavisJr’s mom was in the building to watch him play in an NBA game for the second time.— NBA (@NBA) February 8, 2020
He scored 17 PTS (11 in 4th) with 8 REB in the @Raptors 13th straight win. pic.twitter.com/EehOMY2SkW
Six — Unfortunate: Pascal Siakam was having his way with the Pacers until he too was undercut by an injury. Siakam caught friendly fire from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on a play under the rim, and he immediately headed for the locker room. Siakam re-emerged with a bloody eye and he clearly wasn’t at his best. One wonders if he was seeing straight, as he went 0-of-7 in the third quarter and only made one of his shots in the fourth, but Siakam didn’t use that as an excuse.
Seven — Resurgence: This game might have been the first step towards OG Anunoby snapping out of his funk. His scoring has been extremely hit or miss of late, and it bottomed out on Wednesday where Anunoby went scoreless in 28 minutes. Anunoby was much better tonight, as he delivered an efficient 16 points on just five shots. Anunoby’s role is to capitalize on open looks, and he did so tonight with three triples, but he can also create his own offense off his defense. When he is locked in, Anunoby is the best one-on-one defender on an entire team of shutdown defenders, and he can create deflections to fuel the Raptors’ fast-break attack. Anunoby came up with two crucial steals in the fourth just by swiping at the ball from a help position, and he was finally rewarded with a chance to close out the fourth.
Eight — Reliable: Serge Ibaka is guaranteed for roughly 20 points and 10 rebounds every time he starts, and he is in an incredible groove. Ibaka was calmly knocking down threes in Lowry’s absence, finished every chance he had inside, and did yeoman’s work in keeping Domantas Sabonis from scoring in the post. Ibaka is averaging over 19 points and 10 rebounds as a starter, and he continues to improve with age.
Nine — Recovery: This was a much better outing by Hollis-Jefferson outside of his accidental swipe against Siakam. Hollis-Jefferson played much more under control, he didn’t force his offense, and just made contributions within his role. His toughness on the interior was much needed with Chris Boucher having an off night, and he stuck to only shooting around the basket. His fit alongside Pat McCaw is still an issue for the bench’s offense, but they were much better tonight as compared to Wednesday.
Ten — Streak: Not to get ahead of ourselves, but there’s a very real chance that the Raptors could extend their 13-game win streak even further ahead of the All-Star break. Beating Brooklyn with a shorthanded roster will be difficult, but Kyrie Irving is sidelined and the Nets are a painfully average team. Past that, it’s the hopeless Minnesota Timberwolves who have lost 13 in a row, and Brooklyn yet again. There’s a chance that the Raptors could be riding an 18-game win streak when they face the Milwaukee Bucks in two weeks.
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