On Friday, the Toronto Raptors defeated the New York Knicks to record their sixth-straight victory.
The Raptors were led by Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. Lowry scored a team-high 25 points, doing so on 13-for-14 shooting from the free throw line, while Siakam added 23 points, making for his highest scoring game since coming back from injury.
For more on the game, here are some quick thoughts...
1. Toronto's dominance over New York continues
The Raptors have won 16 of their last 17 games against the Knicks.
The last time the Raptors lost to the Knicks? Nov. 22, 2017. Tim Hardaway Jr., who is now with the Dallas Mavericks, led the Knicks to victory in that one with 38 points, the second-highest scoring game of his career.
The only teams that the Raptors have a better record against since 2016 are the Los Angeles Lakers (7-0) and Brooklyn Nets (17-1).
2. Is Pascal Siakam's 3-point shot back?
Prior to his injury, there was some talk about Siakam having a shot at becoming the first player in NBA history to win multiple Most Improved Player awards.
It was a testament to how much he's improved since winning the award last season, his evolution as a 3-point shooter being the biggest thing that stood out. Whereas he only shot catch-and-shoot 3s from the corners last season, Siakam was shooting above the break and pull-up 3s with far more confidence and far greater frequency.
The combination made him an entirely new player, one who was far better equipped to handle the only coverage that gave him trouble last season, as I detailed back in November.
That's why it was a little worrying to see Siakam's 3-point shooting fall off a cliff since coming back from injury. He entered this game shooting a combined 5-for-25 from the perimeter over his last six games, making for a dismal 20.0 percent.
While Siakam can still be a dominant player without a consistent 3-point shot, it will make it harder for him to be the go-to scoring option the Raptors need him to be, particularly in the playoffs when teams key in on his weaknesses.
What's encouraging is that Siakam looked more like his first half of the season self in this one by going 2-for-5 from 3-point range, his final three of the game being the one that secured the win - off the dribble from above the break, no less.
COLD BLOODED @pskills43 pic.twitter.com/jHQxr8mJOe- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 25, 2020
The Raptors can only hope that's a sign that Siakam's 3-point touch has returned.
3. Pascal Siakam is as smooth as butter
Speaking of Siakam, this was oh-so-smooth:
THAT'S AN ALL-STAR MOVE pic.twitter.com/GfbMxznGUO- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 25, 2020
Put that in the "reasons Siakam can still be dominant even without a consistent 3-point shot" file.
4. Rebounding continues to be a problem
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported last week that the Raptors are behaving as buyers, not sellers, ahead of next month's trade deadline.
It's unknown what exactly the Raptors are looking for, but the Knicks did shine a spotlight on one of Toronto's few weaknesses in this game: defensive rebounding.
According to NBA.com, there are only two teams in the league this season giving up more offensive rebounds per game than the Raptors. The Knicks punished them in that regard in the first half, coming up with 10 offensive rebounds that helped create 20 second chance points.
Taj Gibson and Mitchell Robinson were responsible for half of those rebounds, with Gibson coming up with three of them and Robinson coming up with two of them.
Mitch put back 🔨 pic.twitter.com/HHwhlhHOQm- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 25, 2020
Those second chance points were a big reason why the Knicks trailed the Raptors by only three points at the half.
In the end, the Knicks finished with 14 offensive rebounds, leading to 28 second chance points.
5. Kyle Lowry doesn't take a play off
Not that you should take any opponent lightly, but Lowry diving on the floor for a loose ball in the first half of a game against the Knicks at the end of January tells you everything you need to know about what type of player he is.
Kyle Lowry- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 25, 2020
6. Norman Powell stays in attack mode
Powell's streak of 20-point games ended in Toronto's win over the Philadelphia 76ers, but he still made a big difference with 18 points off the bench, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter when the Raptors distanced themselves.
Powell did more of the same in this one. He hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter that extended Toronto's lead to nine points and followed it up with two gorgeous bounce passes, one to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for a layup, the other to Serge Ibaka for a dunk.
N👁️rm 👉🏽 Chap pic.twitter.com/OBcC7wptoM- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 25, 2020
Powell only scored one more point the rest of the way, but he finished with 16 points and three assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
Powell has now scored in double figures in seven straight games, the longest streak of his career.
Norman Powell, Oct ➡️ Nov ➡️ Dec ➡️ Jan- StatMuse (@statmuse) January 25, 2020
PPG: 8 ➡️ 14 ➡️ 18 ➡️ 22
FG%: 42 ➡️ 47 ➡️ 55 ➡️ 58
3P%: 29 ➡️ 40 ➡️ 43 ➡️ 50 pic.twitter.com/GqeghL6owW
7. OG Anunoby comes up clutch
It was a quiet night overall for Anunoby - he finished with seven points in 25 minutes of action - but he made a couple of big plays down the stretch.
First, he hit a 3-pointer with 3:48 to play in the fourth quarter to put the Raptors ahead by three.
.@OAnunoby: Calm under pressure pic.twitter.com/gM7nWUWVuM- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 25, 2020
He then came up with his only steal of the game with 56 seconds remaining, leading to two free throws from Lowry that helped seal the deal.
8. What's next?
The Raptors will be in San Antonio on Sunday to take on the Spurs.
It's the second and final meeting between the Raptors and Spurs this regular season. The Spurs won the first matchup thanks to a 25-point performance from DeMar DeRozan.
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