The Toronto Raptors have earned their second win of the season, scoring a regular season franchise record 144 points to beat the Sacramento Kings.
Led by 34 points from Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam coming up one rebound shy of the first triple-double of his career, the Raptors looked like the team of old for the first time this season.
For more on tonight's victory, we have you covered with 10 thoughts below.
1. Life without Kyle Lowry
Last season, the Raptors went 12-2 without their All-Star guard in the lineup. Lowry missed his first contest of the season tonight (due to personal reasons) and the Raptors went on to pick up their second win of the season.
Lowry is reportedly expected to return to action on Sunday against the Golden State Warriors, so Toronto may not be without their floor general for long. Lowry is averaging nearly identical numbers to last season with 19.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 43.4% from the field and 35.7% from 3.
2. New starting lineup
The Raptors had used the same starting five - Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Aron Baynes - in all seven contests leading up to tonight's game. With Lowry out of the lineup, head coach Nick Nurse was forced to switch things up and he elected to do more than just replace the void of his floor general.
Nurse inserted Norman Powell into the starting five and replaced Aron Baynes with Alex Len. While moving Powell to the starting lineup paid dividends (which we'll get to in a minute), the decision to start Len didn't bare any fruit. Len only played that first shift (five minutes) in the game, whereas Baynes never saw the floor.
After a poor start to the game, particularly on the defensive end, it will be interesting to see what Nurse elects to do with the starting lineup next. It is worth noting that to start the second half, he went with Chris Boucher in place of Len.
3. Defence-less first quarter
The lineup change didn't showcase any sort of positive production as the Raptors were obliterated defensively, allowing a season-high 43 points in the first quarter, just shy of the most in franchise history in a first quarter. The Kings shot 18-for-22 (81.8%) from the field and 7-for-9 (77.8%) from 3-point range in the first period to get out to a massive lead, forcing Toronto to come from behind the rest of the way.
4. Another forward step for Pascal Siakam
Siakam began to break out of his slump in the team's loss to the Suns earlier this week and in this game, he took another step forward. The All-Star forward put together a well-rounded performance that kept the Raptors even-keeled through a game of runs.
Siakam finished with a strong line of 17 points, a career-high 12 assists and nine rebounds, falling just one rebound short of his first-career triple-double, doing a little bit of everything to push Toronto to a win.
Brand new ball game pic.twitter.com/kmkkrQXFIE- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 9, 2021
Stringing together two encouraging outings, there has to be a sense of positivity growing around Toronto's star forward.
5. Starter Norman Powell
Norman Powell was struggling mightily coming into this contest averaging 9.1 points per game while shooting just 30.5% from the field and 36.7% from beyond the arc. Despite his lack of production, head coach Nurse still felt confident in going to him as Lowry's replacement starter as he did so many times last season.
As a starter in 2019-20, Powell averaged an impressive 18.7 points per game while shooting 52.2% from the field and 44.4% from 3 - a major improvement over his numbers we've seen this year.
Nurse appeared to have pushed the right button because Powell put together his best performance of the season, going for 22 points while shooting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc. Could starting Powell be a way to add more offensive firepower moving forward? Or will this outing be enough to break his slump regardless if he's starting or coming off the bench?
6. De'Aaron Fox looks healthy
Fox suffered a hamstring injury during the Kings win over the Chicago Bulls earlier in the week, leaving him questionable for tonight's contest all the way up until gametime.
The rising star looked blazing fast as always, playing a huge role in torching the Raptors defence in the first quarter. His breakaway speed was on display several times, including this end-to-end layup straight through Toronto's defence.
𝑩𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒌𝒐𝒖𝒕 🦊 pic.twitter.com/4PQgqzxVes- Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) January 9, 2021
Fox would finish the game with a team-high 23 points while shooting 9-for-11 from the field with three assists and two steals.
7. Chris Boucher breakout game
Earlier this week after the Raptors' loss to the Phoenix Suns, Nurse mentioned he wanted to use Chris Boucher more. It was a slight shock to see Alex Len get the start over Boucher, but Nurse learned quickly that the Canadian centre was the better option, electing to start Boucher to begin the second half.
That decision made a difference in the game, as Boucher turned out one of his best performances as an NBA player. Boucher made a world of difference, going off for a double-double of 23 points and 10 rebounds to go with three blocks, two assists and a steal.
PLEASE GET THAT GHABAGE OUTTA HERE pic.twitter.com/Vc9GJ247fN- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 9, 2021
It's becoming evident that Boucher is Toronto's best option at centre and him starting the second half may be the only indicator we need to see him become the starting centre moving forward.
8. Don't forget about Fred VanVleet
Filling in as the team's leader and point guard without Kyle Lowry in the lineup, Fred VanVleet did what he does best - keep things steady.
VanVleet single-handedly kept the Raptors' offence in it during the first quarter when the Kings came out gunning. He never cooled off throughout the entire game, going off for a game-high 34 points, just two shy of his career-high. VanVleet shot an efficient 13-for-22 (59.1%) from the field and 5-for-9 (55.6%) from beyond the arc to keep Toronto's foot on the gas, adding seven assists to help out his teammates.
Games like this showcase exactly why VanVleet's re-signing was such a big deal this offseason, always ready to hold things down when the Raptors need more from him.
9. Tyrese Haliburton continues to impress
Prior to tonight's game, I had Haliburton ranked No. 1 on my Rookie Ladder for his impactful start to the season. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft continued to make outsiders question how he fell so far in the draft, giving the Kings valuable minutes where he showed poise well beyond his experience.
He had a handful of highlight plays like this savvy lob to centre Richaun Holmes.
𝐇𝐚𝐥𝐢-𝐎𝐨𝐩 💥 pic.twitter.com/bXhdQsxR44- Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) January 9, 2021
Haliburton finished the contest with 15 points (5-10 FG, 5-7 3PT), eight assists, two rebounds, two steals and a block.
10. What's next?
The Raptors will be back in action on Sunday when they face off against the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco. The Kings will play the second half of a back-to-back tomorrow against the Portland Trail Blazers.
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