The Toronto Raptors won a thriller on Thursday night, beating the Phoenix Suns by a final score of 111-109.
It was a balanced effort for the Raptors with six players scoring in double figures. Kawhi Leonard sat the game out due to rest and OG Anunoby missed it for personal reasons. Kyle Lowry was originally expected to join Leonard on the sideline, but he was a late addition to the starting lineup.
From a strong start to some signs of life from the bench, here are five takeaways from the game.
A dominant first half for the Raptors
You wouldn't know that the Raptors were on the second night of a back-to-back based on how they started this game, as they jumped out to a 32-20 lead after one quarter.
The Raptors made 13 of their 20 shot attempts as a team - nine of which were assisted - including 4-for-9 from 3-point range. Fred VanVleet and C.J. Miles led the Raptors in scoring with seven points each, and Pascal Siakam put himself on early triple-double watch with four points, four rebounds and four assists.
The Suns, meanwhile, came out of the gates slow. Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton were both productive, but the rest of the roster combined for five points on 1-for-10 shooting from the field.
While the Suns got their offence back on track in the second, the Raptors held a 57-49 going into the half.
A weird second half for the Raptors
The third quarter was a different story.
Whereas the Suns scored 29 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field, the Raptors put up only 20 points on 7-for-22 shooting. They missed all seven of their 3-point attempts and turned the ball over four times, with Greg Monroe accounting for two of them.
It set up a back-and-forth affair in the fourth quarter that saw a total of nine lead changes. Booker led the charge for the Suns with 10 points and four assists, and Serge Ibaka led the way for the Raptors with eight points.
Lowry also made an impact in the fourth with five points, five assists and six rebounds, but it was Siakam who stole the show down the stretch. With the game tied at 109, Lowry handed the ball to Siakam at the top of the perimeter to go to work against Mikal Bridges in isolation, and he delivered.
PASCAL WINS IT AT THE BUZZER! #WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/z8FSEAWMgL- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) January 18, 2019
Ibaka finished the game as Toronto's leading scorer with 22 points. Lowry fell two assists and one rebound shy of a triple-double, while Siakam recorded a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Lowry makes history
With his sixth assist of the night, Lowry became only the 10th active player to have 5,000 career assists.
Some of the players he joined? Chris Paul, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook.
5,000 career assists & counting... Congrats to Kyle Lowry on reaching the milestone! 🙌- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) January 18, 2019
Toronto Raptors: 3,282 AST
Houston Rockets: 1,212 AST
Memphis Grizzlies: 506 AST pic.twitter.com/5hxQnLZnRk
Lowry is averaging a career-best 9.5 assists per game this season. The only player currently dishing out more is Westbrook.
Improved Bench Play
The Raptors' second unit has struggled for most of this season, but Delon Wright and C.J. Miles gave them a much-needed scoring punch off the bench against the Suns.
In his 18 minutes on the court, Wright scored 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field. He was at his best in the second quarter, when he recorded five of his 10 points.
Must've forgotten @delonwright's a Savage pic.twitter.com/k41hxxBe1Z- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 18, 2019
As for Miles, he tied his season-high with 13 points, doing so in only 17 minutes on 5-for-7 shooting from the field and 3-for-5 from 3-point range. He entered the game averaging 4.7 points per game shooting 27.3 percent from the perimeter, his lowest mark since he was a sophomore back in 2006-07.
If the Raptors can get more consistency out of those two the rest of the way, it would help the team solve one of the problems that has plagued them in most of their losses this season.
The Future is Bright in Phoenix
Booker put his All-Star potential on full display in this one. In his 35 minutes on the court, the 22-year-old scored a game-high 31 points on 10-for-21 shooting from the field. He also tied Lowry for game-high honours with eight assists.
The latter is a part of Booker's game that we haven't seen much of prior to this season - he's gone from averaging 4.7 assists per game to 6.9. For some perspective, Booker entered this season with 16 career games dishing out 8-plus assists. Following their loss to the Raptors, he has 13 such games this season alone.
Ayton has been huge for Booker's development in that regard. His primary pick-and-roll partner, Booker has assisted Ayton more than anyone else on the Suns this season.
Ayton had his moments against the Raptors on Thursday, as he scored 15 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, seven coming on the offensive glass.
It might not look like it based on their wins and losses, but the Suns have a bright future with Booker and Ayton.