The Toronto Raptors couldn't make things easy on themselves, but they came out of Chesapeake Energy Arena with a hard-fought victory over a scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder squad.
The Raptors led by as much as 30 points in the second quarter but allowed the Thunder to cut that lead to 18 by halftime. They led by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter, but a late 22-4 run helped OKC trim that deficit to just three points late in the game.
Kyle Lowry stepped up down the stretch with a couple of clutch buckets and Toronto had seven different players score in double figures to sneak out of Oklahoma City with a win.
For more on this wild contest, we have you covered with some thoughts below.
1. In Marc Gasol's first game back, he and Serge Ibaka both got the start
For just the second time since Gasol was traded to the Raptors last February, head coach Nick Nurse elected to start both him and Ibaka in the frontcourt.
But don't get used to it - after the first five minutes of the game when Norman Powell checked in for Gasol, Nurse staggered the two centres minutes the remainder of the game.
According to Eric Smith, Nurse wanted to give Ibaka the start against his former team, and it paid off.
2. Ibaka's red hot start
Ibaka set the tone early for the Raptors in this one, sparking what became a dominant first quarter where Toronto outscored the Thunder 38-25.
Ibaka literally didn't miss. He went a perfect 6-for-6 in the opening period for 13 points, powering the Raptors' offence to what became a monster first half.
Let the big dawg EAT. @sergeibaka: 13 Pts, 6/6 pic.twitter.com/RTEZQ9oPR8- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 16, 2020
3. Gasol made his presence felt in his return game
Gasol had missed the Raptors' past 12 games with a hamstring injury but looked right back to his usual self in his first contest back.
Gasol recorded 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and a steal, shooting 6-for-9 (66.7%) from the field and 3-for-4 (75.0%) from 3. He immediately made an impact as a rim protector and playmaker, and his three 3-pointers were an added bonus in an all-around quality first game back, finishing with the second-best plus/minus on the team at +16.
The hoops - or backboards - were even kind to him in his return.
Did you call it, @MarcGasol? pic.twitter.com/oWOu03dERU- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 16, 2020
4. Hectic first half closed with a Thunder run
The Raptors were firing on all cylinders in the first half, scoring 75 points on 28-for-44 (63.6%) shooting from the field and 8-for-15 (53.3%) from 3. They had five different players reach double figures by halftime and built their lead up to as much as 30 points late in the second quarter.
But the Thunder didn't go into the half without putting up a fight.
One of the league's most relentless teams showcased exactly that, closing the first half on a 12-0 run to make things interesting. Mike Muscala, Dennis Schroder, Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all buried 3-pointers, one after another to cut Toronto's lead from 30 to a more manageable 18 points heading into halftime.
🚨 At. The. Buzzer. 🚨@shaiglalex | #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/jcOD6Ewjxo- OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 16, 2020
5. Steven Adams left the game with a knee contusion and did not return
Adams had subbed himself out after a weird tweak at the start of the second quarter and immediately headed to the locker room.
He didn't come out to start the second half and shortly after play resumed, it was announced he would miss the remainder of the game with a right knee contusion.
Adams finished the game with two points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in just seven minutes of playing time. Reserve centre Mike Muscala filled his absence and had himself a solid outing, posting 17 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block.
6. Norman Powell seems just fine
Powell returned from an 11-game absence due to a shoulder injury in the Raptors' loss to the San Antonio Spurs over the weekend and scored 20 points in his first game back.
He's clearly healed from that shoulder injury because he was on the mark again in this one and helped save the Raptors from allowing OKC to complete a 30-point comeback.
Powell had a team-high 23 points off the bench, shooting 9-for-11 (81.8%) from the field and 3-for-4 (75.0%) from 3, including a prayer double-pump 3-ball at the end of the third quarter that helped spark what became a 10-0 Raptors run into the fourth quarter to give his team a needed boost.
Since returning from his injury, Powell is shooting 17-for-25 (68.0%) from the field and 7-for-11 (63.6%) from 3 for 43 points in two games, picking up right where he left off.
7. Pascal Siakam is slowly getting back to his normal self too
This was also Siakam's second game back, as he returned in the same contest Powell did against the Spurs over the weekend.
Siakam also showed flashes of the player we saw prior to his groin injury, showcasing moments of being the best player on the floor, as he should.
Makin' it look easy- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 16, 2020
Vote @pskills43 ⭐️ https://t.co/kQYeprYRUk pic.twitter.com/6mENUhuP55
Siakam finished with 21 points, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 31 minutes of playing time.
After a sluggish return game where he had just 15 points, five rebounds and four assists on 6-for-17 shooting from the field against the Spurs, it was encouraging to watch Siakam take a step closer to looking like the All-Star the Raptors know and love in this one.
8. How did Shai Gilgeous-Alexander respond from his historic performance in his last game?
In OKC's last contest, Gilgeous-Alexander had a historic outing, posting a massive triple-double of 20 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists. He became the youngest player in NBA history with a 20-20-10 triple-double and made a couple other marks in the history books, too.
The Toronto native responded with a solid performance against his hometown team, filling up the stat sheet again with 21 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block. He shot 6-for-10 from the field and went a perfect 2-for-2 from 3 and 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
9. Raptors nearly allow another second-half comeback.
Just last week, the Raptors led the Portland Trail Blazers by as much as 14 points before allowing a late comeback capped off by a Carmelo Anthony game-winner.
Over the weekend, the Raptors led the Spurs by as much as 18 points and allowed another late comeback that resulted in a loss.
Coming into tonight's game, Toronto had been outscored by 26 points combined in the second half of their last three games, and the story was the same against the Thunder.
Leading by as much as 30 in the first half, the Raptors allowed OKC to cut that lead to just three points in the fourth quarter. They eventually halted the Thunder's comeback, but gave up 66 points in the second half, being outscored by nine points to bring that issue to a combined 35 points over the last four games.
If nothing else, it's something to monitor over the upcoming games.
10. What's next for the Raptors?
The Raptors advance to 26-14 with this win, placing them in fourth place in the East, just 1.5 games back from the Boston Celtics. They'll have one day's rest before a back-to-back against the Washington Wizards in Toronto and the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road.
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