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Toronto Raptors

Takeaways from the Toronto Raptors win without Kawhi Leonard at Madison Square Garden

Pascal Siakam once again played well with Kawhi Leonard out of the lineup
Pascal Siakam once again played well with Kawhi Leonard out of the lineup (Getty Images)

With Kawhi Leonard out for load management, the Toronto Raptors didn't miss a beat as they rolled to a win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

MORE: Who has stepped up in every game without Kawhi?

Here are some of the key takeaways from the Raptors' win.

No Kawhi, no problem

As they've done the entire season, the Raptors took care of business without their superstar small forward in the lineup. They are now 16-5 in the 21 games he's missed which is actually a better win percentage (.762) than they have in games he's played (37-18, .673).

Pascal Siakam took over the starring role in this one, finishing with 31 points on 11-19 shooting. He also finished with a plus-minus of +31, the best of any Raptors' player.

He now has five games this season with a plus-minus of +30 or better, breaking a tie with Klay Thompson for the most in the NBA.

All five have come in non-Kawhi games.

That Siakam took over probably doesn't come as much of a surprise given how it seems like Siakam comes up big in most games without Leonard.

What might be surprising however is that this actually marked just the fourth time that Siakam has been the Raptors' leading scorer in the 21 games without Leonard. That honour as typically been reserved for either Kyle Lowry or Serge Ibaka who have each been Toronto's outright leading scorer five times in the non-Kawhi games.

Leading Scorers in Non-Kawhi Games
PPG Team Leader
Pascal Siakam 19.1 4
Kyle Lowry 17.8 5
Serge Ibaka 17.6 5

Thanks to a handful of big games - 33 points against the Hawks on February 7 and 44 points against the Wizards on February 13 - Siakam is the team's overall leading scorer in games without Leonard.

Suffocating D

In recent days, head coach Nick Nurse mentioned to reporters that he felt his team could defend well even if it wasn't consistently defending at an elite level. Nurse mentioned that at times the team did not have an identity on that end of the floor.

You would never know based on the stellar defence on Thursday as Toronto stifled the Knicks from the jump.

The Knicks missed their first 12 shots from beyond the arc with Dennis Smith Jr.'s jumper with seven seconds left in the second quarter the team's only made three-pointer in the first half.

In that decisive first half (Raptors led 55-36 at the half), they did not allow a single fastbreak point while forcing 11 turnovers and surrendering just five assists.

Sure, all of this came against a Knicks team that entered dead last in the NBA in offensive efficiency and won't be mistaken anytime soon for the sweet-shooting Milwaukee Bucks. But winning a game decisively early with defensive effort on the road without their best defensive player is a great sign for a team that will need to lock in on that end come the postseason

What's next for the Raptors?

Toronto is essentially locked into the 2-seed which makes the final six games an opportunity to either rest key players or experiment with different looks.

The Raptors' next game is Saturday against a Bulls team that is missing most of its key players and just lost by 20 to Portland in a game it played without their five leading scorers.

After that is a stretch of four straight games against potential 1st Round opponents as they host the Magic before road games at Brooklyn and Charlotte before returning home for a date with the Miami Heat.

Given the chances that Toronto could face one of those teams, Nick Nurse might opt to not give away any potential secrets and instead of experiment, roll with the same strategies that have gotten the team to this point.

The Raptors end the season on Tuesday, April 9 at Minnesota, giving them an extra day off as 22 of 30 teams finish the season on Wednesday, April 10.

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