The Toronto Raptors sure like to make things interesting.
Led by Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors picked up a thrilling 119-118 win over the Indiana Pacers.
Lowry nearly had a triple-double with 32 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds while Ibaka scored a season-high 30 points. The two of them helped the Raptors overcome a triple-double from Domantas Sabonis and some hot shooting from Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott.
Here are some quick thoughts from the game...
1. A new franchise record
The Raptors have now won 12 straight games, setting a new franchise record.
A first for Toronto sports. #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/YMLdSzQYwH- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 6, 2020
The previous record was 11 straight wins, which has been done twice in franchise history - first in 2016, more recently in 2018.
For the most part, the Raptors have beaten up on teams with losing records during this stretch, but Thursday's victory over the Pacers marked the third time they have taken care of business against a winning team. The streak started with a win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City and the Raptors have since defeated both the Philadelphia 76ers and Pacers, two teams they could meet in the playoffs.
The Raptors are now 29-2 against teams below .500 and 8-12 against teams at .500 or above on the season.
2. You know what they say about basketball
Something about it being a game of runs?
The Raptors came out strong in this one, leading 30-20 after 12 minutes of play.
However, Indiana's bench came alive in the second quarter. Led by McDermott and Holiday, the combination of whom scored 27 points on 6-for-9 shooting from 3-point range in the second quarter alone, the Pacers outscored the Raptors 43-18 to take a double-digit lead heading into the half.
Brogdon delivered the knockout punch, making a tough layup over Pascal Siakam at the buzzer.
🚨🚨 Brogdon Buzzer Beater 🚨🚨 pic.twitter.com/f5tvOvWTPP- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 6, 2020
Then it was Toronto's turn to go on a run.
The third quarter belonged to the Raptors as they outscored the Pacers 34-23 to close the gap and make things interesting down the stretch.
It took a group effort to get it done, but it was Lowry who set the tone with 11 third-quarter points. Siakam added eight points, doing so on 6-for-6 shooting from the free throw line, while Terence Davis came off the bench to knock down a couple of big 3s.
The rook can ball pic.twitter.com/YijTRL1PnI- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 6, 2020
The fourth quarter wasn't much different - the Pacers took a lead, only for the Raptors to close the game on an 11-0 run to come up with the win.
All in all, this was a highly competitive game between two highly competitive teams.
3. Kyle Lowry's driving game has been on point this season
A smart observation by Nate Duncan of the Dunc'd On Basketball Podcast: Lowry has looked great as a driver this season.
KLow's already hype pic.twitter.com/x0qi9M77mD- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 6, 2020
The numbers back it up.
According to NBA.com, Lowry is averaging 10.2 drives per game this season, the second-most on the team behind only Fred VanVleet (15.6). That's way up from the 7.8 drives per game he averaged last season, which ranked him behind Kawhi Leonard (13.6), VanVleet (8.7) and Jeremy Lin (8.6) for most on the team - although it's worth noting that Lin's number is inflated because that's what he averaged over the entire season, not only his time with the Raptors.
Lowry's efficiency hasn't waned much either. He entered Thursday's game shooting 53.8 percent on drives, down only slightly from 54.4 percent last season.
The result? It's helped bump Lowry's scoring average back up to nearly 20 points per game, giving the Raptors a much-needed boost following the losses of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Lowry probably doesn't get enough credit for how much he sacrificed last season and how much he's stepped up this season.
4. A season-high for Serge Ibaka
Someone else who probably isn't getting enough credit for what he's doing this season? Ibaka.
He continued his strong play against the Pacers with a season-best 30 points on 13-for-21 shooting from the field. That made him Toronto's second-leading scorer in the game, Lowry being the only one who outscored him.
As if that wasn't impressive enough, Ibaka hit a huge 3-pointer with 30.4 seconds that turned out to be the game-winner. He was 1-for-6 from 3-point range prior to this shot:
CERTIFIED 100% PURE pic.twitter.com/eq5IJfTElZ- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 6, 2020
I made a note of it in a recent recap, but it is remarkable how much better Ibaka has been when he's been inserted into the starting lineup this season. Prior to this game, he was averaging 18.2 points and 9.1 rebounds as a starter compared to 13.4 points and 7.2 rebounds as a reserve.
His shooting percentages have been much better as well.
Ibaka is now averaging a career-high 15.8 points per game on the season. At the age of 30. Incredible.
5. Pascal Siakam never quits
Siakam was having a miserable game through three quarters. He had 15 points, but he had missed 10 of his 13 shot attempts, doing the bulk of his damage from the free-throw line, where he was a perfect 8-for-8.
Siakam just couldn't get going. He wasn't finishing at the rim and his jumper wasn't falling.
Even so, Siakam kept his foot on the gas and it paid off in a big way, as he scored 10 points in the fourth quarter on 4-for-5 shooting from the field.
Siakam also came up with a big steal and an assist in the fourth quarter, not to mention the hockey assist that set Ibaka up for the game-winner.
Siakam finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. The shooting percentages weren't great, but the Raptors still outscored the Pacers by 14 points with him on the court, giving him the highest plus/minus on the team.
Even when he's struggling, Siakam always seems to find a way to make an impact.
6. Terence Davis probably should be in the Rising Stars game
Other rookies might be putting up bigger numbers than him on the season, but Davis continues to make an impact on a team that looks like a contender.
He was a difference-maker in this one, scoring 11 points, grabbing three rebounds and dishing out one assist in his 27 minutes of play. Nick Nurse trusted him down the stretch, playing him alongside Lowry, VanVleet, Siakam and Ibaka over OG Anunoby to close the game.
According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN, Nurse said afterwards that he decided to stick with Davis for the threat of his scoring.
There's not really much else to say about Davis at this point. (You can click here if you want to read his case for being snubbed). It just would've been cool to see him recognized for how well he's been playing this season.
7. This Raptors team continues to defy the odds
It's wild that this team is on pace to win 60 games this season.
The Raptors had a 58-24 record in their championship-winning season last year.- StatMuse (@statmuse) February 6, 2020
They then lost their best player in the summer.
Siakam, Lowry, Gasol, Ibaka and VanVleet have all missed double-digit games this season.
They're on pace to finish with a 60-22 record. pic.twitter.com/cHR1T7I9co
That would be a new franchise record by the way. The current record is 59 wins, set in 2017-18.
8. What's next?
The Raptors head to Indiana on Saturday for another matchup with the Pacers.
FiveThirtyEight's played-based forecasting model gives the Raptors a 47 percent chance of winning that game, whereas the site's Elo forecast gives them a 55 percent chance of winning.
It should be a good one.
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