Back-t0-back. No Kawhi. On the road once again. Against an above-average team. Tonight’s game had every ingredient for a loss, but the 2018-19 Raptors don’t seem to like losing. It’s no miracle, but the Raptors were awesome tonight in a game that made them the NBA’s only 10-win team (until tonight’s Warriors game ends).
While the game started out slow and sloppy, and at one point Utah led the Raps with 17 free-throws to none, Toronto turned on the gas in the second quarter, outscoring the Jazz 35-23 in the frame and never looking back. No one player stood out, but rather, the combination of OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, and of course, Serge Ibaka, all delivered excellent performances.
In fact, the Raptors didn’t even have a leading scorer tonight. They had four. Everyone in the aforementioned group but Siakam had 17, which Pascal only missed out on by one. OG was awesome on defense, plus finally hit a few triples, going 3-5 on the night. Siakam pulled out his signature spin on several occasions to great success, adding a +25 on the boxscore for good measure. Lowry pulled up from Ottawa on a three (shoutout to the Senators and their Uber driver), playing excellent defense as well. VanVleet recovered nicely from an ugly performance at Staples last night and looked like his last-year self. Lastly, while Serge fouled out on some shaky calls, he was perfect once again (!!!!) on 8-8 shooting. The man can’t miss.
With performances like this, the Raptors can quite obviously afford to be more than conservative with Kawhi Leonard. Just like the Warriors with DeMarcus Cousins, there is no need to put Kawhi in any sort of danger when the team should be favoured in most games either way. As we have learned, April/May/June is all that matters, and ensuring that Kawhi is in perfect condition for those games will be huge, especially when many other Eastern Conference rivals can’t afford to rest their stars much, or simply don’t.
One unfortunate note from this game: At no point was the score 41-10.