Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from late victory vs Suns

Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Pascal Siakam (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /
Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Kyle Lowry (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After leading for the majority of the game, the Toronto Raptors needed a buzzer-beater lay-up from Pascal Siakam to earn a victory against the Phoenix Suns. What did we learn from the game?

The Toronto Raptors welcomed the bottom of the West, Phoenix Suns to the Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night. Without Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby and Jonas Valanciunas for the game, we were expectant to see plenty of minutes for rotation players and maybe even a debut for a recent acquisition, Patrick McCaw. Toronto were coming off the back of a frustrating loss to the Boston Celtics and a win against a young struggling team would at least boost the confidence of the team, if only temporarily.

The Raptors started strong in the first and an 11-0 run put them up 21-11 early, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry both knocking down triples during the scoring stretch. The first quarter ended with the Raptors up by twelve points with nine assists in thirteen made field goals, Toronto were moving the ball around with purpose. We even saw a strong first quarter from C.J. Miles, he had two strong finishes in the paint and one triple to remind us that he’s not down and out just yet.

The Suns made a game of it in the second quarter, they crashed the glass for eleven offensive rebounds and got to the line fourteen times. The next big duo in the NBA, Deandre Ayton, and Devin Booker had a combined 28 points in the first half while Kelly Oubre Jr. had 10 points off the bench, including two late free-throws after a VanVleet foul as time wound down, the Suns brought the game back to eight points.

The Raptors energy dropped significantly in the third quarter, maybe what you would expect when playing a sub .500 team on the second night of a back-to-back. The Raptors were outscored by nine points in the third and went 0-9 on three-pointers in the quarter, it was difficult to watch. Even more so when the Suns are leading heading into the fourth quarter.

Lowry and the bench forced the Raptors back ahead early in the fourth quarter, the big moment of the game was attributed to Josh Jackson whose reckless push on Chris Boucher saw himself ejected, and rightly so. That wasn’t a basketball play or anything close to it, it was just a lazy play from a bad player. In the end, it came down to the wire with both teams trading blows until Serge Ibaka fouled Mikal Bridges with 13 seconds left, Bridges tied the game with his two free throws and it was left to Pascal Siakam to score the winning bucket as time expired.

It was an ugly game at times, but there were reasons to be optimistic. Here are my three takeaways from the game.

1. Siakam triple-doubles are near

The ascension of Pascal Siakam as a futuristic point-forward has been a joy to watch. He built up strong chemistry with the bench unit last year, in particular, the departed Jakob Poeltl. Siakam could drive into the paint and find a cutting Poeltl on the baseline or hovering around the rim. His playmaking was there to see.

Siakam added another double-double rebound and points performance to his résumé, and with his assist numbers have been teetering around the mid-to-high single digits for the last few weeks so with a bit of luck we could be seeing at least one Siakam triple-double before the end of the season, it’s something cool to consider and cements his status as a do-it-all man. Oh and he had the game-winner at the buzzer, that’s Spicy.

2. Offensive rebound woes

The Toronto Raptors are currently allowing, on average, 11 rebounds per game, the sixth most in the league. Last night against the Suns they allowed another 15, with DeAndre Ayton feasting on seven offensive boards on his lonesome. The Suns dragged themselves back into the game in the second quarter, and their free run at the offensive glass was a huge reason for the surge before half-time.

Whether the Raptors are crying out for the return of Jonas Valanciunas or just more hunger to box out opponents, the rebounding needs to sure up if Toronto wants to kill off opponents a lot sooner in the day.

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3. C.J. Miles!!

Holy macaroni! A positive C.J. sighting, and boy, did it feel good.

Miles season has taken a nosedive to the point of being left out of the rotation in recent weeks, which is frustrating. Miles remains as the only high-volume shooter on the Raptors roster right now, so seeing him work his way back into the rotation is a pleasant sight. Miles had seven points by half time and was aggressive in getting to the rim and comfortable shooting from deep, a great relief.

He finished the night with 13 points on 5-7 shooting, including three triples on the evening. It was Miles finest performance of the season so far and gives this writer a lot of hope moving forward. Let’s hope this is the road back to normality for C.J., lord knows we need it.

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