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Toronto Raptors

Five takeaways as Leonard and Siakam record career highs in Toronto's six-point win over Utah

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30 of Kawhi Leonard's career-high 45 points came in the second half (NBA Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors improved to 28-11 on the season with an impressive six-point win over the Utah Jazz, who saw five different players score in double figures.

Toronto begins the new year on a good note, using big second-half performances from its stars to win its second-consecutive game.

For more on how it all went down, here are five takeaways from the game…

A career high for Kawhi

It's a big week for Kawhi Leonard.

With his return to San Antonio Thursday night being the date marked on everyone's calendar, Tuesday's game against the Jazz could be easily overlooked, right? Wrong.

Leonard, who entered the night with a career-high of 41 points, came out of the gates firing as he scored 10 points in the first quarter but his best was yet to come.

The 2014 Finals MVP did not miss from the field in the third quarter, scoring 19 points on 7-for-7 shooting from the field. He continued in the fourth, scoring 11 more points on 3-for-5 shooting to bring his total to 30 points in the second half and a career-best 45 points for the game.

Just take a look at his shot chart from that second half:

Most impressive about Kawhi's night? He did it all without making a single 3-pointer. Kawhi was 16-for-19 from 2-point range and 0-for-3 from deep.

Utah's defence

As Utah boasts a top-five defensive rating as well as a top-five scoring defence, the results on the defensive end were somewhat uncharacteristic for the Jazz.

Toronto finished the night scoring 122 points on 45-for-82 shooting (54.8 percent) from the field and saw two of its players record new career highs in scoring. On one hand, Utah had a number of defensive lapses that allowed Toronto to get to good spots and get comfortable. On the other hand, the Raptors were able to connect on some pretty difficult shots throughout the night.

It's been nearly a month since the Jazz (18-20) have been at .500, and the team will need to hang its hat on consistent defensive efforts in order to emerge in the playoff race in a conference that is very much unforgiving.

Pascal joins the career-high fun

Pascal Siakam entered the 2018-19 season with a career-high of 20 points.

He eclipsed that mark on Nov. 7 with 21 points. He then eclipsed that mark of 21 points on Nov. 10 with 23 points, a mark he eclipsed on Nov. 29 with 26 points.

Tuesday night, just over a month after scoring 26 points for the first time, Siakam set a new career-high with a very efficient 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field and 3-for-4 shooting from deep.

13 of Siakam's 28 points came in the Raptors big fourth quarter in which the team outscored the Jazz 44-32 to take a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter. If history is any indicator, it won't be long before Pascal Siakam is setting a new career high by eclipsing the 30-point mark in another big win.

Reserves come up big

The Jazz bench outscored the Raptors 44-31, but that outcome is slightly skewed.

Utah reserve Jae Crowder scored 30 of the team's 44 bench points and did so by shooting 9-for-15 from the field, 5-for-7 from 3-point range and 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Crowder's performance was pivotal in keeping the Jazz in the game as Joe Ingles shooting woes continued - he finished the night with two points and failed to hit any of his five field goal attempts on the night.

The Raptors' bench saw Greg Monroe (seven points), Delon Wright (eight points) and Norman Powell (14 points) each come in and make important contributions at different junctures of the game. Powell made his mark early on with a flurry of points, Wright made some impressive finishes early on in the fourth and Greg Monroe held serve on the inside as a scoring threat and maintained the flow of the game by being active.

Toronto has prided itself on depth for the past two seasons now, and with the team continuously dealing with injuries, the play of Monroe, Powell and Wright is encouraging with a few difficult tests ahead.

The road gets tougher

For the Raptors, this win over the Jazz was the first game of a difficult four-game stretch - all of which will be broadcast to a national audience in the States. Toronto will travel to San Antonio in a highly-anticipated meeting with DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs Thursday before travelling to take on the East's current No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Things get interesting after Toronto plays in Milwaukee, as it returns home Sunday to host Indiana in what could be the first back-to-back star forward Kawhi Leonard plays in this season.

With four teams with playoff hopes in four games, it was imperative for the Raptors to get off on a good start.

Just as it was an important beginning for the Raptors, the Jazz began their four-game Eastern Conference trip Tuesday night and did so with a loss. As the team continues to try and scrape its way back to .500, it travels to Cleveland Friday, Detroit Sunday and closes in Milwaukee Monday.

Utah can find solace in the fact that it will play 25 of its last 41 games at home this season, but it will need to get the momentum going sooner rather than later to remain in the Western Conference's playoff picture.

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