Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from impressive win vs Jazz

Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Norman Powell (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors were able to come away with an impressive victory against the Utah Jazz, thanks in large part to two career-nights. What did we learn? Here are my three takeaways.

When you’re dealing with a rash of injuries, you need individuals to step up. With Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry out, the Toronto Raptors had two players step up in a big way. Pascal Siakam and Kawhi Leonard had career-high scoring performances as the Raptors were able to edge out the Utah Jazz, 122-116.

It was a picture perfect start for Toronto. The Raptors offense was humming to start the first as they jumped out to an early seven-point lead. Every starter scored within the first five minutes of the game as Toronto shot 75-percent in the early going.

Utah fought back and took the lead early in the second quarter. The Raptors bench continues to be a liability.  However, a monstrous third quarter from Kawhi Leonard gave the Raptors the lead and allowed them to control the game throughout the second half.

What did we learn from an impressive Raptors win? Here are my three takeaways.

1. Kawhi’s assault of the rim

Scoring 45 points in an NBA game is impressive no matter how it is accomplished. When you put up 45 as Kawhi Leonard did against the Jazz, it’s truly special.

Kawhi scored 45 points on 22 attempts. He didn’t hit shots from outside, missing all three of his three-point attempts. Instead, he scored his points by attacking the rim over and over again. He finished the night shooting 16-19 from two-point range and 12-13 from 14 feet or less (84% & 92%).

And did I forget to mention that he did all of that against the league’s returning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert? Kawhi’s never had a better scoring performance, and quite possibly never will.

2. Destroyed by the four

Pascal Siakam played spectacularly on the offensive end. He finished with a career-high 28 points and scored his 28 very efficiently. He drained 3-4 three-point shots, a key factor in developing his game towards the playoffs.

He didn’t have quite the same game defensively. Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder put up a combined 51 points on 17-27 shooting. Some of Favors work was done as a backup center against Greg Monroe, but he was efficient against Siakam as well.

Siakam’s defense has slipped a little this season as he is given more offensive responsibilities. That’s natural, a player can only do so much. However, it is something to watch going forward as Pascal was giving up nearly as much as he was scoring tonight.

3. Rebounding, free-throws, and turnovers

The Utah Jazz were able to put up an offensive rating of 114.9 — a number which would easily be the best in the NBA — despite shooting 43-percent from the field and 28-percent from three-point range.

How were they able to accomplish such a feat? Because Toronto failed to focus on the little things defensively. The Raptors forced only four turnovers, allowed 22 second-chance points, and put Utah on the line 29 times. Utah has the fourth highest TOV% and ranks in the bottom half of the league in OREB%. They’re good at drawing fouls. However, many of their charity chances were due to carless Toronto close-outs (Never foul a jump-shooter).

The Raptors were able to overcome these factors thanks to Kawhi and Pascal’s career nights. They can’t count on that every night.

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