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Toronto Raptors

Eight observations: Pascal Siakam's bounce back leads the Toronto Raptors past the Memphis Grizzlies

It was the bounce-back performance most expected out of All-Star Pascal Siakam after a subpar performance in his last outing.

Siakam led the way with a game-high 26 points in the Raptors' 108-99 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday.

The win secured the second seed for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference and also clinched the Atlantic division title for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.

Here are eight observations from the Raptors' win.

1. These are the best jerseys in the world

How nostalgic did it feel to see the Raptors in their Dino unis and the Grizz in their Vancouver colours?

If you're anything like me, you probably went straight to the NBA store online and contemplated purchase of a throwback Mike Bibby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim or Big Country Reeves jersey.

2. Matt Thomas stays ready

Other than some garbage time play in the blowout loss to the Celtics, Matt Thomas hasn't had much opportunity to contribute in the bubble.

After the Raps struggled to get any shots to fall early in the game, Nick Nurse called on Thomas to see if could help get the lid off the rim. He did, as Thomas nailed two of his first three triples which seemed to energize the offence leading to a 40-point second period.

Thomas may not factor into the game-to-game rotation but he's shown all season long that whenever he's called upon he'll be ready to do what he does best which is make shots.

3. Siakam shows his defensive versatility

Other than Marc Gasol, no one has had a bigger impact on the Raptors' defensive rating this season than Pascal Siakam. We also know that Siakam is one of the most versatile defenders in the league, with the ability to guard one through five.

On Sunday, Siakam was switched onto one of the most dynamic ball-handlers in the league in Ja Morant and instead of being put on the highlight reel, he locked the potential rookie of the year down and swatted his shot attempt into the virtual fans.

Siakam's offence hasn't been to his standard in the bubble, but one thing we can always count on is that his defence will be top-notch night in night out.

4. Siakam bounces back offensively

While we're on the topic of Siakam, he had his typical bounce-back effort after a poor game, finishing with 26 points shooting 56.3 percent from the field on Sunday.

There's no question that Raptors fans should be happy to see Siakam get a good game under his belt in the bubble, but as I said on the Raptors Podtable Podcast after the Boston loss, Siakam has been great against lesser competition but he's failed to live up to his standards against great competition and defences. Monday against the Bucks, he may not see the typical scheme Milwaukee would throw his way if they meet in the conference finals, but a big Siakam game could go a long way for his confidence.

5. Keep betting on Fred

Fred VanVleet has been a bubble All-Star. Coming into Sunday's game, VanVleet was averaging 20.8 points, 7.3 assists shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range during the restart. He was great again on Sunday, finishing with 14 points and five assists while shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

While his offence has been excellent, his defence shouldn't go unnoticed, either. VanVleet is one of the most active defenders in the league averaging a league-leading 4.2 deflections per game and his disruptiveness has shown in the bubble.

According to NBA Stats, prior to Sunday's game with VanVleet on the floor opposing teams are averaging 11.0 turnovers per game. With him off the floor, that number falls to 4.3 per contest.

The two-way effectiveness is what makes Steady Freddy such a brilliant player.

6. Sloppy play continues...

The Raptors were averaging 18.0 turnovers per game in the bubble ahead of Sunday's game. They've been one of the worst teams in the restart in that department. Sunday, they were at it again coughing up the rock 25 times leading to 23 points of turnovers for the Grizzlies.

It didn't hurt them against Memphis, but it's the sort of thing that could crush them in the playoffs.

7. CanCon

For Raptors' fans who only watch Raptors' games, they'll only get a chance to see Canadians Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke twice a year. Brooks has turned himself into a solid two-way player for the Grizz and Clarke may end up being the steal of the 2019 NBA Draft.

On Sunday, the Canadian pair combined for 41 points in the loss.

Neither of them is near their ceiling and will continue to develop which is a good thing for the future of Canada Basketball.

8. What's next?

The Raptors are back in action on Monday when they take on the Milwaukee Bucks.

It will be the final time the two teams meet this season unless they square off in the conference finals.

The game could be a classic or it could a dud depending on how Nurse and Mike Budenholzer approach it. I wouldn't be surprised to see either team rest key players, but fingers are crossed they don't and we get a battle of the two best teams in the conference looking to send a message.

Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. on Sportsnet ONE in Canada and ESPN in the U.S.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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