The climb towards .500 continues as the Toronto Raptors move to 11-13 on the 2020-21 season with a 128-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, who have now dropped four in a row.
Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet led the way for the Raptors with 32 points apiece while Norman Powell finished with 29 points to help pace Toronto's offence. It was on defence where the game was won, as the Raptors made life difficult for the Grizzlies late in the third quarter and throughout the fourth.
For more on how it all went down, here are some thoughts from the game…
1. Lowry exits early with back spasms
Kyle Lowry saw just 7:42 of action in this one as he initially exited the game to stretch his back.
In the second quarter, the team announced that Lowry would miss the remainder of the game due to back spasms.
UPDATE - Kyle LOWRY (back spasm) will not return.- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 9, 2021
The 34-year-old has missed three games this season - two with an infected toe and one for personal reasons - and it is unknown if his back will hold him out of any games. More updates on his status to come as they are made available.
2. Nurse's ejection seems to spark the defence
Late in the third quarter, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was ejected as his team trailed 94-85.
It appeared to be just what his team needed.
After Grayson Allen knocked down the technical free throw to give Memphis a 95-85 lead, it became all Toronto, as the Raptors outscored the Grizzlies 43-18, going from trailing by 10 to winning the game by 15 points.
According to The Athletic's Blake Murphy, the Raptors are the league's leader in technical fouls by a long shot.
The Raptors are now up to 27 techs on the year. No other team has more than 20.- Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) February 9, 2021
While Nurse was under the impression that his late-third quarter technical was his first of the game, it ultimately appeared to have a positive impact on his team.
3. The trio impresses and delivers
Norman Powell. Fred VanVleet. Pascal Siakam.
Each individual will get his just due but the trio combined to finish with 93 points on 29-for-49 (59.2%) shooting, including 15-for-24 (62.5%) from beyond the arc.
In the absence of Lowry and OG Anunoby, their contributions were paramount to a Toronto victory.
4. Another rough shooting night for Morant
21-year-old Ja Morant, last season's Rookie of the Year, has seen a dip in his efficiency during the Grizzlies' four-game skid.
While he had his fair share of impressive moments throughout, Morant finished the game with 18 points on 5-for-17 shooting but also dished out a game-high-tying nine assists.
Over the last four games, Morant is now shooting 18-for-56 (32.1%) from the field, which is largely uncharacteristic as he is shooting a shade under 50.0% from the field for the season
5. What can't Fred do?
It might not have been 54 but Fred VanVleet put forth yet another impressive performance for the Raptors.
In addition to his game-high 32 points (on 8-for-14 shooting), VanVleet dished out a game-high nine assists and again played excellent defence to finish with three steals. If anyone would be Toronto's All-Star this season, it would appear that it would be Mr. Bet on Yourself.
As uncertainty will loom surrounding Lowry's availability moving forward, VanVleet will continue to be depended on in a similar manner.
6. Siakam finds the 3-point stroke
Entering Monday night, Pascal Siakam had scored 30 or more points in three of the Raptors' last five games. Over that span, Siakam dominated in the paint but shot just 1-for-10 (10.0%) from beyond the arc.
It begged the question: How would Siakam's game open up if he continued to thrive in the paint while getting his 3-point shooting stroke back?
Feelin' it 🌶️@pskills43 | #NBAAllStar- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 9, 2021
⭐️ 1 RT = 1 Vote ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/3Pt3lMTvZT
Siakam provided a resounding answer, shooting 5-for-8 (62.5%) from beyond the arc en route to finishing with 32 points to go along with six assists and five rebounds. Siakam has now scored 30 or more in four of Toronto's last six and his shooting can do wonders in opening up the team's offence.
It helps to have a little luck on your side, too.
🤷🏽♂️🤷🏽♂️🤷🏽♂️🤷🏽♂️🤷🏽♂️@pskills43 #NBAAllStar- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 9, 2021
⭐️ 1 RT = 1 Vote ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/Ly6sJv0WS2
7. Sustained excellence from Norm
By now, we know the types of performances to expect from Norman Powell when he's in a starting role.
Entering Monday night, Powell had been averaging 22.0 points (on .486/.417/.839 shooting splits) over the last seven games he's played in (all starts). That trend continued in Memphis.
Norm's confidence is on another level pic.twitter.com/BAuqfVwfng- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 9, 2021
Powell would turn in another efficient night, tying a season-high with six triples as he finished with 29 points (on 10-for-17 shooting) while starting in place of OG Anunoby.
8. A dominant night from JV
Jonas Valanciunas did a game's worth of work in the first half, putting up 18 points and pulling down 14 boards (eight offensive) in his first 17 minutes of action.
His performance tapered off in the second half but the big fella still finished with a team-high 27 points and a game-high 20 rebounds, with 10 coming on the offensive end and 10 coming on the defensive end. It's JV's first 20-20 game since Mar. 30, 2019.
It's always good to see a familiar face but I'm sure the Raptors are glad they only have to deal with their old friend two times a year.
9. What's next?
The road trip continues as the Raptors travel to Washington, D.C. to take on a struggling Wizards squad at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
Catch you then.
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