The shorthanded Toronto Raptors got it done against the San Antonio Spurs.
In a contest where they were missing three starters in Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr., it was the other two typical starters - OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam - that raised their level of play to pick up a win against a familiar foe in DeMar DeRozan.
If you missed any of the action, we have you covered with some thoughts below.
1. Anunoby steps up
Not only was Anunoby responsible for defending the Spurs' best player in DeRozan, he was also expected to shoulder a heavy offensive load without Lowry, VanVleet or Trent in the lineup.
In Anunoby fashion, he thrived in both of those areas.
OG found his 3-point stroke early in this one, knocking down three 3s in the first quarter. He would continue in attack mode from there on out, finishing with a team-high 22 points.
He's not missing that- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 15, 2021
20 & counting for OG pic.twitter.com/cxNrklHDwo
Nurse just recently spoke about the importance of Anunoby's continued development on the offensive end, and this game was the perfect example of that. Showing confidence in his 3-point shot (as he should, knocking down 38.6 percent of his 3s this season) while also attacking the rim, the 23-year-old once again flashed potential to be one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
2. DeRozan's double-double
It's no secret that DeRozan raises his level of intensity against his former team.
He notched his first-career triple-double against the Raptors in their first meeting after he was traded to the Spurs, and the former All-Star was averaging 22.0 points, 7.6 assists and 7.4 rebounds in the five contests against Toronto leading into this contest.
Anunoby did a quality job defending DeRozan in this one, making life difficult for San Antonio's leading scorer. He still had an impressive double-double of 19 points and 11 assists while shooting 5-for-11 from the field, but it wasn't the usual high-powered production we've previously seen from DeRozan against his former team.
𝙨𝙤 𝙨𝙢𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙩𝙝, @DeMar_DeRozan 😯 pic.twitter.com/FHYLgNZuCV- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 15, 2021
3. Siakam does it all
It wasn't Siakam's most efficient scoring night but his energy was contagious, he took on the toughest defensive assignment and he played a key role in orchestrating the Raptors' offence.
With the Raptors playing big (which we'll get to later), it was Siakam's responsibility to defend on the perimeter against Spurs' guard Derrick White. Exerting plenty of energy in doing so, Siakam was still able to bring it on the offensive end, going for 20 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.
That's tough, @pskills43 pic.twitter.com/TiIFiQfF0t- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) April 15, 2021
He did shooting 7-for-20 from the field (35.0%), but on a night where his team was missing three main scorers, it was important he continued to play aggressively on the offensive end despite shooting woes and his confidence never waivered.
4. Mills and White's 3-point barrage keeps Spurs close
This backcourt tandem's 3-point shooting kept the Spurs in this contest.
In the first half, it was the 12-year veteran Patty Mills that kept San Antonio's offence clicking. Scoring 17 points by the halftime break, the microwave bench scorer kept his team within striking distance.
Back-to-back triples for @Patty_Mills! 💦 pic.twitter.com/yNXasWLWfC- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 14, 2021
In the second half, White picked up where he left off, knocking down six 3-pointers total to bring the Spurs back into the game.
D3RRICK. WHIT3.- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 15, 2021
Back-to-back triples! pic.twitter.com/HqwgX34KqR
Mills would finish with 23 points and five 3s off the bench, while White would finish with a team-high 26 points. Without this duo, the Raptors may have been able to put this game to bed much earlier.
5. Raptors jumbo lineup
Oh, how quickly things change. The Raptors went from flirting with the idea of a small-ball lineup that consisted of Anunoby essentially playing centre, to tonight's starting lineup that technically had Anunoby lined up at shooting guard.
Making due with the players available, head coach Nick Nurse started Anunoby, Siakam, Birch, Malachi Flynn and Chris Boucher.
Anunoby's versatility is typically the key to these experiments, but he still drew the expected assignment of DeRozan. This time around, it was Siakam's versatility that allowed Nurse to get creative, stepping out to the wing to defend shooting guard White. We also saw Nurse switch things up - as he so often does - with some zone defence to keep the big lineup out of trouble.
Birch was solid in his first start with the Raptors, going for 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Moving him to the starting lineup cleared the way for newly acquired forward Freddie Gillespie to get some increased run, and he thrived in those extra minutes, going for nine points, eight boards and three blocks off the bench.
Will the Nurse try something like this against a faster-paced, more perimeter-shooting-oriented team? That is to be determined. But as we've seen this season, he won't shy away from trying to get his five best players on the floor at once.
6. Best friends reunited
I know you were waiting for it. Lowry and DeRozan shared a quick moment on the sidelines in the third quarter.
Lowry and DeMar reunited ❤️ pic.twitter.com/SE4TCyd42p- Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 15, 2021
7. VanVleet's return approaching?
The Raptors have been without their star guard for the last six games due to a hip injury, but for tonight's contest, he was on the injury report for a different reason. For the first time since the beginning of April, VanVleet was instead serving his one-game suspension from the scrap that broke out between Toronto and the Los Angeles Lakers last week.
Could that mean a return is on the horizon?
Prior to the team's contest against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday, head coach Nick Nurse stated that there wasn't any "good news" surrounding VanVleet's injury and that his timetable to return was still indefinite. Ahead of this contest, Nurse had a much more pleasant update, saying that VanVleet could possibly return as soon as Friday against the Orlando Magic.
Elaborating a bit, Nurse said there's been some ebbs and flows to VanVleet's hip injury. They thought it was minor initially but didn't like what they saw on the second MRI, now he's been medically cleared. So, pencil him in for Friday, I guess. I wouldn't use ink, though.- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 14, 2021
Prior to the injury, VanVleet was enjoying a career year averaging 19.8 points, 6.1 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
8. What's next?
The Raptors will have one day off before hosting the Orlando Magic on Friday. The Spurs will also have one day off before hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday.
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