With a 112-99 win over the Detroit Pistons, the Toronto Raptors advance to 19-8 on the season and a perfect 15-0 against teams with records below .500.
Toronto was led by 26 points from Pascal Siakam while Serge Ibaka stepped up big time with 25 points and 13 rebounds after Marc Gasol exited early on with a left hamstring injury.
The Raptors defence limited the Pistons to just 35 second-half points and ice-cold shooting from the perimeter the entire game.
With that in mind, here are 10 thoughts from Toronto's third consecutive win.
1. Triple-double Lowry
20 points. 10 rebounds. 10 assists.
For the 15th time in his career and the first time since March 8, 2019, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry recorded a triple-double.
It wasn't his most efficient game as he shot just 5-for-17 (29.4%) from the field but Lowry consistently provides reminders of why his impact is felt far beyond any percentages. In this one, his rebounding and distributing were on full display as he did plenty to contribute.
It resulted in a triple-double.
2. Marc Gasol's injury
With 4:15 remaining in the first quarter, Marc Gasol came up lame as he suffered a non-contact injury. The 34-year-old limped off the court and was ruled out for the remainder of the game with what is being ruled as a left hamstring strain.
Update: Marc Gasol (left hamstring strain) will not return.- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 19, 2019
His absence was immediately felt as Detroit would go on a 10-4 run over the next three minutes to briefly take the lead before Toronto settled down to end the quarter with a one-point advantage.
After a slow start to the season, Gasol had been coming strong as of late, so it's unfortunate timing for an unfortunate occurrence. Now, with his status up in the air for the immediate future, the focus shifts to…
3. Serge Ibaka stepping up
As Gasol exited to the locker room, Serge Ibaka checked in at the scorer's table, assuming starter's minutes along with the starting unit.
He would excel in his role.
Powered by a 13-point third quarter, Ibaka would go on to finish the game with 25 points (on 10-for-18 shooting) and 13 rebounds (7 offensive), posting his third double-double of the season and second in the last three games.
While Ibaka has yet to start this season, he started 51 games last year and shows just what to expect if and when he steps in for Gasol.
4. The Raptors 3-point shooting rhythm has returned
After a five-game slump from Dec. 3-Dec. 11 that saw the Raptors hit under 10 triples per game at a 27.2% clip, the team has seemingly gotten its rhythm back from beyond the arc.
Toronto finished the game shooting 13-for-35 from long range and is now shooting 43-for-107 (40.2%) over the last three games, a mark that is much closer to what we expect to see from them.
5. The Pistons rhythm has escaped them
Detroit entered the game as the second-best 3-point shooting team in the league percentage-wise, connecting on 38.5% of its 3-point attempts.
This game was a different story.
The Pistons shot an ice-cold 6-for-35 (17.1%) from deep in the loss - the six triples ties a season-low while the 17.1% shooting is the lowest mark of the 2019-20 season.
6. Toronto thrives in transition
There's a reason the Raptors lead the league in transition points per game.
While they didn't hit their average of over 27 points per game on Thursday, some of the Raptors biggest plays came in the open floor. Like this triple from Kyle Lowry:
Hype @Klow7 > pic.twitter.com/8mYBZJ2mNS- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 19, 2019
and these slams from Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka:
🗣️ Showtime - Motor City Edition pic.twitter.com/CMNuo1PLMp- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 19, 2019
When they get going in the open floor, the Raptors offence just flows better, and this game was an example of that.
7. Third Quarter Swing
The Raptors went into the halftime break with a six-point lead. They entered the final frame with a 17-point advantage.
It was a big third quarter that truly made the difference in this one, as the Raptors put forth a dominant defensive performance by holding the Pistons to just 15 points on 6-for-20 (30.0%) shooting. To put that in perspective, Serge Ibaka scored 13 points on his own in the third quarter.
As a team, Toronto didn't have the hottest shooting quarter (9-for-23) but created offence by forcing four turnovers and grabbing six offensive rebounds to extend possessions in the 12 minutes.
After building their lead, the Raptors wouldn't really look back.
8. A solid game from the Pistons frontcourt
Not great, not bad. But solid.
Andre Drummond, the league's leading rebounder, posted a 22-point, 18-rebound double-double as he shot 9-for-16 from the field. His frontcourt mate, Blake Griffin, finished with 15 points (on 6-for-13 shooting) but grabbed just two rebounds.
Outside of the duo, Derrick Rose held his own with 16 points (on 8-for-17 shooting) and those three combined to score 53 of the team's 99 points.
9. Fouls, fouls, fouls…
There were plenty of whistles in this one.
Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam were both called for five fouls while OG Anunoby and Svi Mykhailiuk were each whistled for four apiece. On top of that, there were four technicals in this one, with three coming in the second quarter.
Siakam, Kyle Lowry and Andre Drummond were each T'd up in the second while Blake Griffin was assessed a T midway through the third.
The game ended with the teams committing a total of 37 personal fouls and shooting 46 free throws, numbers that aren't exactly staggering but did have an effect on the pace, especially in the second frame.
10. What's next?
The Raptors, who have thrived against lesser opponents this season, return home to take on yet another team with a losing record when they host the Wizards on Saturday. It gets no easier for the Pistons, who travel to Boston to take on the Celtics.
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