What a way to open the season restart.
Thanks to a masterful performance from Kyle Lowry, the Toronto Raptors outlasted the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time this season. The Raptors got it done on both ends of the court. Their offence came alive in the fourth quarter and they were able to make life difficult for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, limiting the Lakers duo to 34 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists on 9-for-22 shooting from the field.
For more on the game, here are some instant reactions...
1. Let's talk about OG Anunoby
There's a good chance you heard a lot about the improvements Anunoby displayed as a ball handler during Toronto's scrimmages last week.
It didn't take him long to show off those improvements against the Lakers.
Anunoby started the game with seven quick points for the Raptors - two layups and a 3-pointer - but it was this drive on Davis that made my jaw drop:
Sooping lefty finish by OG Anunoby driving the closeout from Anthony Davis. Pass from Gasol to FVV starts the advantage -- kick out to Siakam, swing to OG. Pretty ball movement from Toronto. pic.twitter.com/jvbGgHECRx- Brian Geisinger (@bgeis_bird) August 2, 2020
He had another drive against Davis in the third quarter in which he broke out the same spin, only he then got Davis up in the air with a pump fake and drew the foul.
Anunoby still has a long way to go development-wise, but it's encouraging to see him confidently put the ball on the floor against a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Davis. I'm not sure that's something he would've thought about doing before the season was suspended, mind alone at the start of the season. The Raptors can only hope it's a sign of what's to come.
It was an impressive showing overall for Anunoby against the Lakers. He finished with 23 points, making him Toronto's second-leading scorer.
If that's the Anunoby the Raptors are going to get in the bubble ... my oh my.
2. Sharing is caring
Words can't do this justice:
Count the @Raptors passes!#WholeNewGame on ESPN pic.twitter.com/N35nXeIKWR- NBA (@NBA) August 2, 2020
That's Spurs-ian level ball movement. What a sequence.
3. The charge drawing machine strikes again
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Lowry drew another charge.
Charges Drawn- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 2, 2020
1. Kyle Lowry (31) pic.twitter.com/0Zv1Mz4r2D
According to NBA.com, Lowry entered this game averaging 0.58 charges drawn per game. I'm a little surprised that number isn't higher, but it's still the third-best rate in the league. The only players drawing charges at a higher rate than Lowry on the season are Moritz Wagner (0.68) and Victor Oladipo (0.62), although neither of them have played in as many games as Lowry has.
With 31 charges now drawn on the season, Lowry breaks a tie with Montrezl Harrell to lead the league.
Speaking of Lowry...
4. Take a bow, Kyle Lowry
As I alluded to, Lowry was the best player in this game and it wasn't close.
Lowry led the way with 33 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. He was relentless attacking the basket, leading to a game-high 15 free throw attempts. (Everyone else on the Raptors combined for 11). He was up to his usual Lowry ways on defence, drawing charges and generally being a pest. And he came up time and time again when the Raptors needed him most, sparking a run in the third quarter to take the lead and making big shots in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS ⌚️ pic.twitter.com/mdhbYqDIST- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 2, 2020
There's not much else to say. Just a gritty, masterful, much-needed performance from Lowry. As Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said after the game, it was a vintage Lowry game.
5. A spicy finish from Pascal Siakam
It wasn't one of Siakam's most memorable games of the season - he scored 15 points on 5-for-17 shooting from the field - but he did have an important basket late in the fourth quarter to put the Raptors ahead by five points.
The play? A high pick-and-roll with Lowry functioning as the screener.
Sweet move. Spicy finish. pic.twitter.com/0xO7ysxulj- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) August 2, 2020
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how that is Siakam's favourite way of attacking teams late in games. Once again, it serves its purpose.
Ironically, LeBron James made those big-small pick-and-rolls famous when he was teammates with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Siakam is neither the scorer nor passer that James is, but he's still a handful on those possessions. Once he gets downhill, there's not much that can be done to stop him.
6. Danny Green's weird disappearing act
Green is a very good 3-point shooter who, for whatever reason, can't buy a shot when he plays against his former teams.
In two games against the San Antonio Spurs last season, Green combined to shoot 2-for-12 from 3-point range. In two games against the Raptors this season, he went a combined 0-for-10. Green shot 0-for-4 from the perimeter in Toronto's win over Los Angeles earlier in the season and 0-for-6 on Saturday, almost all of which were open shots.
The Lakers aren't that great of a 3-point shooting team to begin with - they are below the league average in 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage on the season - so they can't afford for Green to go cold. It's not like last season's Raptors, who had enough shooting at other positions to overcome an off-night or stretch from Green. If he's off, it puts a lot of pressure on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Dion Waiters, Markieff Morris and J.R. Smith, players who aren't exactly the most consistent 3-point shooters.
Fortunately for the Lakers, Kuzma was able to get going in this one, but it still wasn't quite enough.
7. The impact on the standings
The Lakers either needed to win this game or needed the LA Clippers to lose to the New Orleans Pelicans, which they did not, to lock up the No. 1 seed. Technically, that means it's still up for grabs.
For the Raptors, they now have a four game cushion on the Boston Celtics for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. It's going to be difficult for the Celtics to make up that ground, even if they beat the Raptors in their showdown next week, which means Toronto is likely destined for a first-round matchup with either the Orlando Magic or Brooklyn Nets.
8. What's next?
The Raptors will take on the Miami Heat at 11:00 pm on Monday.
It'll be the third and final regular season meeting between the two teams. Jimmy Butler led the Heat to an overtime victory in the first with a 22-point, 13-rebound, 12-assist triple-double. Butler struggled in the second, but the Heat got enough from their second unit to win the low scoring affair.
It should be a good one. Catch you then.
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